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Let me start by repeating what I said in an article in the journal Energy and Environment (2004), We do not know if global warming is the real deal, or just part of a cycle, but we have discovered that gas and oil can become extremely expensive in a very short time. In these circumstances the optimal behaviour is to get friendlier with the friendly atom, and do what former Prime Minister Blair and the founder of Greenpeace suggest, which is to increase the use of nuclear energy.
What does nuclear energy have to do with the depletion of oils and gas? As emphasized in my new energy economics textbook (2007), it has almost everything to do with it, because nuclear may well be the most flexible of all energy expedients, in that it can supply the 'extra energy' required to e.g. obtain the large quantities of motor fuels that voters in the energy importing countries have no intention of doing without, regardless of what they say or believe or hope. As Len Gould noted in the important forum EnergyPulse (www.energypulse.net), those voters intend to maintain their transportation activities at close to the present level -- which in many cases is mandatory if they are to maintain the standard of living of themselves and their families -- even if they must go to war to ensure this outcome.
Germany is a country that, together with Sweden, has expressed a desire to abandon its nuclear ambitions. After the widespread distribution of my short paper 'Some Friendly Economics for the Nuclear Energy Booster Club', I received mails from several persons in that country (and elsewhere) requesting their names to be removed from the list of persons directly receiving my papers. I was especially surprised by the origin of several of these 'Dear Johns', however...
'Wir Werden Wiedermal Marschieren' (=We Will March Again), was the title of a book that gained considerable attention in Germany when I was in that country with the U.S. Army. It became a best seller, and was about the retaking by the German military of places like the Sudetenland (in Czechoslovakia) in the coming Third World War, which the author of that book and many of his readers saw as inevitable as well as essential for their peace of mind.
Early in my 'tour', the armies of Nato countries participated in perhaps the largest peacetime military manoeuvre ever held in 'West' Germany, which was called 'Apple Harvest'. Toward the conclusion of that exercise, the referees ruled that the Red Army had broken through the Fulda Gap and had almost reached Nuremberg, and it was judged that the only way that they could be stopped was with nuclear weapons. I had the opportunity to review the calculations for one of the simulated nuclear projectiles fired from a large cannon at the advancing Red Army. Had it been real instead of simulated, a portion of the eastern suburbs of Nuremberg would have been removed from the face of the earth. After that rather disturbing result came to be known, German officers, journalists, book-club members, and various decision makers lost their appetite for marching. The same kind of reversion will likely happen when the German public comes to realize that abandoning nuclear energy could wreak havoc on their personal agendas! Among other things it could mean that virtually every factory in Germany becomes a candidate for transfer to regions with an adequate and reliable supply of energy.
This is why I make a point of suggesting in my lectures that a more realistic attitude toward nuclear energy might be wise. The key issue of course is not the calculations that I make from time to time concerning the economic optimality of nuclear generating equipment, but my pension! It is also the key issue for many of academics and energy professionals in this country (Sweden) and probably elsewhere, although they have been convinced by know-nothing members of the anti-nuclear booster club and their favourite politicians that they would be doing themselves a disservice by understanding the easily understandable.
Perhaps the clearest argument for nuclear power has been presented by Rhodes and Beller (2000), which is similar to the basic contention of this contribution. They say that "Because diversity and redundancy are important for safety and security, renewable energy sources ought to retain a place in the energy economy of the century to come." The meaning here is clear, especially if you add that we probably will never possess what is known in intermediate economic theory as the optimal amount of nuclear power. But they do state that "nuclear power should be central....Nuclear power is environmentally safe, practical and affordable. It is not the problem -- it is one of the solutions." Actually, it is an indispensable component of any rational energy program.
An American President's Dilemma
During the just concluded presidential campaign in the United States (U.S.), President-Elect Obama did not express a great deal of confidence in nuclear energy. Instead he suggested that a larger involvement with renewables should be undertaken in order to create 500,000 new jobs, and remove the U.S. from the clutches of foreign sellers of energy. This sounds as if there is some kind of choice as to what kind of energy structure and strategy should be embraced in order to restore the economic health of the Republic and ensure its energy future.
Actually there is no meaningful choice at all if nuclear is excluded or reduced in scope. As is well known, nuclear energy is not popular with everybody. It certainly was not a favourite energy preference with many of the young people who voted for the new president, to include those who came under the influence of second-rate teachers of energy economics. As for France, mentioned by Presidential candidate John McCain as an energy roll-model, there are many persons who hope that someday the 80 percent of the electricity supply that originates with nuclear can be replaced by another energy source. Frankly, that yearning seems unrealistic. In countries like France and Japan, where energy independence is paramount, nuclear energy is not there to be questioned but to be exploited. 'No oil, no gas, no coal, no choice' is the way the French put it, and although the energy prospects of many other countries may appear rosier at the present time, they could find themselves in the same predicament some fine day.
Even in Russia, which would be one of the richest countries in the world if its industrial and agricultural potential were fully developed, plans are being made to greatly increase its nuclear inventory in order to provide a competitive advantage with its trading partners, and to develop the Russian economy at a maximum rate.
This does not mean however that it makes economic or political sense for any country to ignore conservation and renewables, and/or other non-conventional energy sources. The ugly fact of the matter is that the world would probably be in a very bad way if these things do not become prevalent in a few decades, or perhaps even sooner, because they might have to accommodate a very large part of the energy burden in all except a few lucky countries. But one way to make sure that they will not be available is for naive voters and decision-makers to accept the twisted hypothesis that it is already economical to accelerate the introduction of these items, in concert with nuclear stagnation or a nuclear retreat.
Statistical analysis and a simple algebraic demonstration makes it clear that in terms of reliability and cost, the Swedish nuclear sector was the most efficient in the world before the curse of (electric) deregulation arrived. It is due to an intensified concern for the economic future that the irrational nuclear 'downsizing' in this country (Sweden) has been at least temporarily halted. The key departure was upgrading the ten remaining reactors so that they could produce the same electric energy (in kilowatt-hours = kWh) as the original twelve reactors, which amounts to nearly 47 percent of the total generated energy. (Approximately the same amount is accounted for by hydro.) The logic here is straightforward, and cannot be altered by the resolute ignoring or downgrading of mainstream economic history: a high electric intensity for firms, combined with a high rate of industrial investment and the technological skill created by a modern educational system, will lead to a high productivity for large and small businesses. This in turn results in a steady increase in employment, real incomes, and the most important ingredients of social security (such as pensions and comprehensive health care).
The question for Sweden or the U.S. or anywhere else then becomes whether welfare aspirations of the kind promised by the new U.S. president can be realized if the most efficient electric generating facilities in the world are scrapped or allowed to deteriorate because they did not make the 'cut' in a half-baked popularity contest. For instance, in order to recruit voters with anti-nuclear tendencies, the former Swedish prime minister informed those members of the population who prefer opinion and feelings to evidence and logic that nuclear power was "obsolete".
Behind this crank conjecture was the allusion that the impressive prosperity of an industrial country like Sweden could be maintained even if the country's nuclear assets were liquidated. What was not mentioned was that few countries have made as great an effort to include renewables in the energy mainstream as Sweden, but even so the result in terms of energy generated is insignificant. It is true that while (technically) renewables can be substituted for nuclear, the benefit-cost ratio is economically unacceptable. The decision makers in many other countries know this too, and better today than ever, because as pointed out in a recent issue of an American news periodical, energy policy has become a part of security policy.
A Technical Consideration
As far as I can tell, wind energy is often pictured as a prominent alternative to nuclear energy where the generation is of electricity is concerned. In the United States the billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens has proposed a 'wind corridor' through the middle of the country, from the Rio Grande in the south to the Canadian border in the north, filled with wind installations generating electricity that would be inserted into new or old grids and transmitted both east and west. The aesthetics of this arrangement are not clear to this humble teacher of economics and finance, but I still remember enjoying the charm of the occasional windmill as I proceeded by train down the magnificent west coast of Sweden last summer.
The key term in the above paragraph is "occasional", because in this country, where engineering science has always received the highest respect, nobody in their right mind believes that an all-out commitment to wind energy makes the slightest engineering or economic or scientific sense, regardless of what they may say in a disco or student club, or when the television cameras are turned in their direction. I have a long survey of nuclear energy that I am revising (2008), however it contains one simple technical aspect of this topic that everyone should ponder, because it requires only a minimum of secondary school algebra. It turns on the expression Capacity Factor (CF), which has to do with the amount of energy that is actually produced over a given period as compared to the amount that could be produced if the facility had operated at maximum (or rated) output one-hundred percent of the time. This can be written CF = Actual Energy Output over a given period divided by Rated or Maximum Output. When you hear about the beauty of wind energy, make sure that you ask about the Capacity Factor.
Consider a wind turbine with a power rating of 100 kilowatts. In a month of 30 days its maximum energy output is 100 x 30 x 24 = 7,200 kilowatt-hours. However its measured output during that period would likely be lower, and perhaps much lower. Suppose it was 3,600 kilowatt hours. Then we would have CF = 3600/7200 = 0.50 = 50%. For wind a capacity factor of 15-35% appears average; and the important energy observer and commentator Jeffrey Michel confirms a stable 0.17 average for Germany before 2007, although it might have reached 0.2 in 2007. As for nuclear, 30 years ago capacity factors in the U.S. were about 55% due to the 'down-time' caused by unscheduled outages and scheduled maintenance, but now outages have decreased and average values are above 85%. Also, if capacity factors are calculated net of scheduled outages, then from time to time they have reached about 95%. which apparently applies to plants managed by e.g. Exelon.
By way of extending this theme , we can consider some information about the capacity factors of wind installations that was presented in EnergyPulse by Len Gould (2008) and Kenneth Kok (2008). Unfortunately I cannot say whether these are extreme or typical cases, but they have one thing in common that all readers of this and other papers on energy economics should observe and remember: the actual output from wind installations is often not just lower than the rated (or 'nameplate') output, but very much lower.
Gould cites an operation by an independent North American wind power company in which the actual capacity factor for 2007 was somewhere between 8.67% and 17.35%. This might be characterized as a revolution in energy technology in reverse. Even so, it was superior to a performance noted by Kok, in which a TVA facility on Buffalo Mountain (near Oliver Springs, Tennessee) registered a capacity factor considerably under the above figures. In these circumstances it should be easy to understand why it was impossible to convince the voters and decision makers in Finland to choose renewables in order to obtain the increase in electric energy that might be necessary to maintain or augment the standard of living, despite the considerable dislike of nuclear energy. Put another way, nuclear installations with very high capacity factors turned out to be preferable to windmills that did not rotate over very long periods. As I like to insist, with nuclear energy you generally have an excellent idea of what you are getting. With e.g. wind (or even solar), you often are unpleasantly surprised.
I never tire of mentioning the bizarre fairy tale that was confected by two well known energy experts, Amory Lovins and Joseph Romm, and published in Foreign Affairs (1992-93), which is the prestigious journal of the (United States) Council on Foreign Relations. It goes like this:
"For example, the Swedish State Power Board found that doubling electric efficiency, switching generators to natural gas and biomass fuels and relying upon the cleanest power plants would support a 54 per cent increase in real GNP from l987 to 2010 -- while phasing out all nuclear power. Additionally, the heat and power sector's carbon dioxide output would fall by one-third, and the costs of electrical services by nearly $1 billion per year. Sweden is already among the world's most energy-efficient countries, even though it is cold, cloudy and heavily industrialized. Other countries should be able to do better."
I called that statement completely wrong the first time I saw it, while in my new textbook (2007) I suggest that it and similar contributions are misleading bunkum. For example, there are a number of questions that must be answered in detail before biomass can unambiguously be classified a large- scale fuel-of-choice for the near future. (See e.g. Grunwald (2008),) As for renewables such as solar and wind, and probably hydrogen, they will undoubtedly increase in quality and quantity, but hopefully it will not be at the expense of nuclear.
On one occasion when I published the above, I was invited to participate in a telephone conference that featured Dr Lovins. A telephone conference no less. Better a telephone conference than fisticuffs next to the latrine at Camp Gifu (Japan), but fortunately I managed to propose a suitable alternative. He can put in an appearance in my class in energy economics the next time I teach at the Asian Institute of Technology (Bangkok), or for that matter any other institution of higher learning, where he can attempt to turn into reality some of the dreams of my students in which I am made a fool of or seriously humiliated.
As David Schlageter pointed out in EnergyPulse (2008), "Renewable energy sources only supplement the electric grid with intermittent power that rarely matches the daily electrical demand." He continues by saying that "In order for an electric system to remain stable, it needs large generators running 24/7 to create voltage stability. Wind and solar generation are not on-line when needed to meet energy demand, and therefore to help decrease system losses." In the promised land of wind energy, Denmark, voltage stability is attained by drawing on the energy resources of Sweden and Germany (and perhaps Norway). The Danes pay for the imported electricity, but not for the stability -- which they would do in the great world of economic theory.
It can be suggested though that the Danes may be unable to afford more than basics where electricity is concerned. According to NUS Consulting (of South Africa), the price of electricity in Denmark was the highest in the world in 2006 and the next highest in 2005. It can hardly be lower today. In 2005 Sweden had the next lowest price, and in 2006 the fourth lowest. Something must be drastically wrong in the Kingdom of Sweden for voters and politicians to remain passive in the face of this deterioration, particularly when NUS statistics indicate that the rise in the Swedish price is one of the most rapid in the world, and is almost certainly due to two things: a preposterous electric deregulation, and the closing of two nuclear reactors. The thing that should never be forgotten here is that for geographical and industrial reasons, Sweden is one of the most energy intensive countries in the world. As a result, a high energy consumption should be considered by the decision makers a necessity rather than a luxury, and treated accordingly.
But what about nuclear waste, which is repeatedly portrayed as a malicious and unavoidable cost of nuclear based electricity because, ostensibly, it will have to be locked up for hundreds of thousands of years? It is sometimes maintained however that the cost of disposing of nuclear waste is balanced by the benefit of no carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from reactors. For instance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has calculated that for France -- the country with the largest production of nuclear energy (as a per cent of the total output of electric power) -- the average person is responsible for 6.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (per year), which e.g. is one-third of the U.S. average.
The cost-benefit trade-off mentioned above is worth remembering, however I prefer for students to know (and be able to explain) why France intends to treat 'waste' as a potential fuel. (A similar strategy has been proposed by the UK's energy minister.) A law now exists in France stipulating that toxic waste is to be stored in such a way that it can be comparatively easily accessed and recycled if, at some point in the future, "new" technologies appear which will allow it to be classified a preferable input in the nuclear fuel cycle. This option was also referred to, indirectly, by presidential candidate John McCain, however it appears that such thinking is not acceptable to an American audience...yet.
On many occasions I have been told that my own thoughts on nuclear matters are mistaken because of the subsidies received by the nuclear industries. Everything is relative in this old world of ours however, and so I always insist that nuclear is essentially subsidy-free. Furthermore, with reference to the second paragraph in this contribution, I like to cite an observation in the Financial Times (October 6, 2006). Nuclear power has provided "an abundance of cheaply-produced electricity, made the country (France) a leader in nuclear technology worldwide and reduced its vulnerability to the fluctuations of the turbulent oil and gas markets."
Banks, Ferdinand E. (2008). 'Economics and nuclear energy: a modern survey'
______ . (2007). The Political Economy of World Energy: An Introductory
Textbook. London, Singapore and New York: World Scientific.
______. (2004). A faith based approached to global warming'. Energy and
Environment. Volume 15, Number 5: 837-852.
Gould, Len (2008). 'Comment on Banks'. EnergyPulse, (3-26-08).
Grunwald, Michael (2008). 'The clean energy scam'. Time (April 14).
Kok, Kenneth (2008). 'Comment on Banks'. EnergyPulse, (3-26-08).
Rhodes, Richard and Denis Beller (2000). 'The need for nuclear power'. Foreign
Schlageter, David (2008). 'Comment on Alan Caruba ('Congress conjures up an
energy deficit'). www.energypulse.net, Feb 6, 2008.
For information on purchasing reprints of this article, contact sales. Copyright 2013 CyberTech, Inc.
An excellent article, Fred. You've clearly convinced at least the decision-makers in Ontario, Canada who are about to accept bids for as much as 4,400 MW of new nuclear to eliminate 3,400 MW of coal generation and add another 1,000 MW to the existing 31,000 MW connected. That will bring the total share of nuclear to all connected from 1/3 to 1/2, about the maximum possible without load-following. An excellent decision all round, including regarding climate issues if that's important. I suspect the reason they haven't chosen to use wind generation instead may be found in the grid manager's dispatch records for the past year, which show that there were several days in summer when the 475 MW existing connected well-distributed wind generation was producing less than 2% of rated nameplate output during the daytime peaks. I see that today, a cold snowy midwinter day, it's putting out 411 MW from 12:00 to 13:00, or 86.5%. Quite useless in our air-conditioning-peaked system when annual peaks occur on windless sunny days in midsummer. Only thing achieved is shutting down some high-efficiency baseload generation, probably run-of-river hydro from Niagra just spilling water.
Well, actually during the 12:00 to 13:00 time period, it will be shutting down some gas-fired generation. Sorry. Problem is that today, the wind generation is likely to continue strongly throughout the off-peak night, which means some long-run baseload must be eliminated from the dispatch order to allow the wind gen. it's legislated priority access subsidy.
I also note that the most recent hourly report Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator - IESO - (Select Hourly Wind Generator Output Excel Report) indicates that on Dec 14, 2008 at 24:00 (midnite) wind generation was producing 648 MW, so a lot more must have been added since last year. That makes the above stated percentages even worse. Yet for the entire daytime peak period of 10 hrs from 8:00 am to 6:00 PM the average output was only 31.34 MW, or 4.8% capacity. Dates just quickly randomly selected, no doubt several much worse.
Len Gould 12.31.08
That date for "Yet for the entire daytime peak period of 10 hrs from 8:00 am to 6:00 PM the average ..." was August 15th, 2008
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.31.08
Thank you Len, and since it appears that we have some new commentators in this forum, I want to make it clear that I am not a nuclear fanatic nor a nuclear shill. Many people are afraid of nuclear energy, and that skepticism should be respected. But let's face it, while I am prepared to accept some wind and solar regardless of their capacity factors, many members of the anti-nuclear booster club want nuclear completely eliminated, and they are absolutely not prepared to entertain discussions about the cost of such a departure. Fortunately though, even many hard core anti-nuclearites prefer nuclear to coal, and since the energy in coal cannot be ignored in e.g. the battle for energy independence, nuclear's popularity can only increase.
The article above is very worthwhile bookmarking. It shows the disaster waiting to happen in Germany from overuse of intermittant wind energy. Why use wind if it has a monthly average of 8% of capacity and has days with less than 2% of capacity.
The following shows daily output of Germany's wind farms. As you can see the intermittancy levels are huge. http://reisi.iset.uni-kassel.de/wind/reisi_dw.html
1. Change to the English Version
2. Select Operational Results
3. Select Electrical Energy Production -> Daily Produced Power from Wind Energy
If this doesn't convince you that wind energy in particualr is hopeless, nothing will.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.1.09
Thanks Matthew. Jeff Michel, an MIT graduate living in Germany, gave me the news about early last year. He noted that the average capacity factor there might be 22% now, but obviously at times the CF is much less.
In considering the situation for Sweden, I don't see why it should be more than that, and neither do Swedish engineers - unless of course it makes personal financial sense for them to claim otherwise.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.1.09
Very well written article Fred. Of course I agree with your analysis.....but (perhaps surprisingly) I also understand peoples trepidation and genuine fear of nuclear power. Our industry has done an appalling job of informing and educating people about the industry and has essentially left the job to the left wing politicians and media who don't know much about anything except how to oppose anything they don't like (which is anything technological except their cell phones, LCD TV and their laptop).
It is not a surprise really that large numbers of people believe nuclear power plants are dangerous and a threat to their safety....when we allow the dissemination of technical knowledge to watching multiple episodes of the Simpsons why would we expect anything different.
I accept that it is a very difficult technology to explain to the average person. But that simply means a much greater effort is needed on the part of nuclear plant operators to bridge the formidable knowledge gap that exists between reality (nuclear plants are by far the safest method of generating electriciity ever devised) and the perception (that nuclear plants are ready to explode any minute).
We are our own worst enemy in many respects. Our plants have now become security fortresses: we routinely practice elaborate emergency plans for events that have a near zero probability of ever occurring and we continue to cloak our operations in secrecy and surround ourselves with jargon that even experienced nuclear engineers don't understand sometimes.What do we really expect the public is going to think? We give every indication to the public that we have something to hide and I forgive them having that impression.
Of course we are hiding many secrets.
So I have decided to reveal the ten nuclear secrets we have been hiding.
Nuclear Secret #1 - Nuclear power can easily meet all the energy demands of the entire world. No new technology or fuel source is needed.
Nuclear Secret #2 - The fuel supply to operate thousands of nuclear reactors for hundreds of years is located in Canada and Australia and readily available. Using reactors operating on Thorium and/or plutonium fuel cycles can extend the nuclear fuel source for hundreds more years.
Nuclear Secret #3 - Nuclear power is the safest method of producing electricity in the world. A proven fact.
Nuclear Secret #4 - Combined with a desaination plant nuclear power can provide all of the fresh water the world requires - indefinitely.
Nuclear Secret #5 - Combined with a hydrogen production plant, nuclear power can provide all the fuels and lubricants required to operate our present transportation system and enough electricity for the next generation of Plug in hybrids or pure electric vehicles with zero emissions if you believe global climate change is real.
Nuclear Secret #6 - Nuclear waste is recyclable.
Nuclear Secret #7 - After 100 years you could place a used nuclear fuel bundle in your living room with no adverse effects to your health. Caution: You might get arrested for having one.
Nuclear Secret #8 - Nuclear power can prevent the flooding of picturesque river valleys. Note: Had Egypt built nuclear plants all the treasures drowned by the Aswan Dam would still be available.
Nuclear Secret #9 - Nuclear plant employees do not glow in the dark.
Nuclear Secret #10 - Nuclear power plants are 100% emissions free.
So now you know what we've been hiding all these years.
Wake up world there is NO energy crisis...just lack of knowledge and political stupidity.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.2.09
Thanks Malcolm, and thanks for not mentioning that you have probably seen some of this article in my previous work, however given the subject I have decided that that repetition is not just OK but essential.
Of your nuclear secrets the one that interests me most just now is the one about the fuel supply. If the potential fuel supply is exploited the way that it should be exploited, that will greatly simplify for me the calculation about the cost of nuclear as compared to the cost of...you name it. Of course, I have already suggested that this calculation should be carried out by the new president's energy team...or as I call it his environmental team. Even if they can't wake the towns and tell the people, they should pass this information around among themselves and their friends and neighbors.
As you may or may not know, I like to claim that nuclear is the most flexible of the energy resources. A couple of your points show that, although this is not the place to go into that matter.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.2.09
Fred, There is nothing wrong with repetition. Those opposed to nuclear energy use the technique quite effectively. How many times have we seem footage of nuclear explosions preceding discussions of nuclear energy. So - the good news story needs to be repeated many times until it is understood.
Fuel supply costs are generally not large in comparison to capital costs of construction so they are often (almost) ignored in cost calculations. It is of course the very same reason why there is not much emphasis on the recycling of nuclear fuel as the new fuel is so cheap compared to the energy obtained. Transport costs for getting the fuel to the plant are also of no consequence. Other fuels (notably coal) this is larger.
But I do concede that down the road when there is a much greater demand on the Uranium mines the price (supply vs demand) will likely go up. there is also the question of energy security for countries like France and England which have limited indiginous energy supplies. France - in particular - has a very big incentive to reprocess used fuel to get the most out of it since it has no supply of Uranium of its own and therefore relies on Canada and Australia (mostly).
In Canada where there are vast untapped supplies of U3)8 fuel reprocessing makes little sense. There is no energy security issue and of course it is cheap.
Nuclear power is insensitive to the cost of fuel (much more sensitive to interest rates at the time of construction) so a doubling or tripling of fuel costs hardly has any impact on the cost of electricity produced. It could be the subject of a very useful paper on economics of nuclear power.
One of your comments in the article regarding France's perception of nuclear power -No gas, no oil, no coal no choice sparked a thought that - in the not too distant future - we will ALL be in that boat once our fossil fuel resources are used up.
Also implicit in the statement is that wind power and solar power are not considered choices for the French - perhaps the appalling CF these devices precludes them from inclusion in any rational decision making process.
I would be pleased to supply any additional information you need for your studies of nuclear power economics but sooner or later it will not be a matter of economics but of survival as our other fuel supplies diminish to zero. I would like us to be well ahead of that particular curve.
Thanks again for another lucid intelligent article. My apologies if this post has lots of spelling errors. I do not have my reading glasses and making out the small print here is impossible. So forgiveness in advance pleas.
Jack Ellis 1.2.09
My personal view is that nuclear plants are as safe as any other energy supply resource. They have some important advantages and some equally significant disadvantages. However, the opinions of those who choose to comment in this forum are largely inconsequential. It is the public-at-large that needs to be convinced that nuclear power should be a significant contributor to our energy supply mix, and making that case is a task at which the advocates of nuclear power have failed miserably over the years.
I am about to take up residence in the Lake Tahoe area where we receive our evening news from a station in Reno, Nevada. That state has just appointed a new director of the state's nuclear project, also known as the Yucca Mountain Spent Fuel Repository. The new director is a journalist with no scientific or engineering background who thinks his job is to present the overwhelming evidence that putting a nuclear waste dump next to Las Vegas is a horrible idea. Backing him, of course, is US Senator harry Reid, who is also the Senate majority leader and an unalterable opponent of Yucca Mountain. Both of them are playing to the public's fear of nuclear energy.
Nuclear proponents must successfully complete several tasks before we can expect more than a token increase in the number of operating nuclear plants in the US. First, they have to develop and carry out a public information campaign that ordinary people can understand and that will also stand up to a withering attack from nuclear opponents. As part of this information campaign, proponents have to explain the economics in a simple, truthful, convincing fashion. Second, if the technologies for safely, economically and permanently vitrifying (turning into a glass-like substance) nuclear waste is, in fact, technically feasible, then industry needs to fund a pilot plant to provide proof.
The public is still afraid of nuclear power and until the last of those who have seen and remember the China Syndrome die off, there's a powerful institutional memory that won't easily be overcome, until and unless the cost and scarcity of alternatives to nuclear power lead to a public crisis..
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.3.09
Thank you for your comment, Jack. Yes, I understand that there is a real fear of nuclear, but I wonder if it is the China Syndrome sort of fear. I think that it is a Joseph Goebbels sort of fear that features a deep seated, unthinking resentment of technological achievement, and in particular the up-market individuals responsible for it.
Of course, statements like that dont mean much, because in the long run, as you suggest, the cost and scarcity of efficient alternatives will cause the public to come around...I think.
Edward Reid, Jr. 1.3.09
A little light reading for your edification and amusement.
http://www.utilitiesproject.com/documents.asp?grID=111&d_ID=4296 http://www.utilitiesproject.com/documents.asp?grID=111&d_ID=4646 (Registration required, but free.)
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.3.09
I very much agree with what you say. Nuclear proponents have done an apallingly poor job of informing and educating the public. I was quite serious when I said we have left that all important transfer of information mainly to cartoon characters. But it is not just nuclear - the wider electricity production industry suffers from much the same blindness when it comes to public relations.
But there is hope to be drawn from the French experience. Towns and villages THERE clamour for getting on the list of selected nuclear sites. Why - because there is a huge net benefit to their community - and the people that live there. To the point where the often vocal but small opposition is effectively silenced for fear of losing an enourmous opportunity. The revers of what is seen in the US.
THAT is the way to position this in the US too. What exactly does YUCCA mountain do for the local communities....not much in the eyes of many local politicians.
But of course the US has no choice but to build nuclear unless there is to be a very large and rapid decrease in the standard of living there so I fear that public oppostion will eventually be steam rollered and that would be a veryt sad day.
Also - we are learning from past mistakes. Duncan Hawthorn - President of Bruce Power the private nuclear business in Canada is doing things the right way. If you plan to builld a nuclear plant the least you should do as VP is go and talk the the people yourself...FIRST. Not when the yelling starts.
Of course people will have concerns about a nuclear plant. I am fortunate to have worked in many of them around the world so I understand that the risks are extremely small compared to other risks in Society. Like driving my car. It is vital that the risks are placed in the right context against the benefits that a comminuity receives.
So the industry is getting better at it....but we need to do much much more. Taking a leaf out of Duncan Hawthornes book would be a great start for any would be nuclear constructor.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.3.09
Just another thought Jack. The thinking behind nuclear waste disposal needs a shake out. The concept of Yucca mountain is crazy. The great advantage of used nuclear fuels is that they can be recycled and THAT is what should be pursued. Burying the stuff in some giant well managed hole in the ground or inside a mountain is bizarre, costly and a waste of time and money. Used fuel can and is processed at many plants throughout the world and there are technologies being developed to neutralise the longer term radionuclides. In short the radioactive "waste" problem will be solved making Yucca unnecessary. Burying a problem does not make it go away and the public fully understands that.
I had the opportunity to contribute to the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation in Canada to help develop their methodology for long term storage of nuclear waste. I had the privelige of meeting some of the opponents of nuclear power as well as the aboriginal peoples of Canada.
I learnt so much from them...and hopefully they learned about the technology from me. The concept that everything must eventually return to the land really intrigued me and that is the philosophy we should be striving for for nuclear waste. Not burying it. Not vitrifying it. But processing it so that it can be safely returned to the land. It is not an easy task - but neither is splitting the atom. I am sure we can do it.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.3.09
An interesting thought Fred....there being different types of fear that is....had not looked at the problem in quite that light before. I think people fear nuclear power stations for a wide variety of different reasons. Acceptance of risk really boils down to whether our fear of being in the cold and dark trumps our fear of (for most people anyway) - the unknown.
On the other hand though many communities do not exhibit these tendencies - usually those that already host a nuclear plant and where good work has been done on the part of the nuclear operators to educate and inform the public.
In Ontario Canada both Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power have really done a great job of reaching out to their local communities and support at these locations runs in the 60 to 70 % in favour range. Darlington has won numerous environmental awards for its stewardship of the lands surrounding the plant which has some of the best and most diverse natural habitats in the area....no three headed animals there. It is these types of programs that really put an end to the scaremongering of those who simply fear technology itself.
There is also a contingent of the NIMBY folks....but you get those people with windmills too and power lines.
Since the "China Syndrome" was raised by both you and Jack Ellis it does reinforce my point that the industry has largely left public education about a very important subject to movie directors, Jane Fonda and the cartoonists. So we should not expect any other response really. If the China Syndrome is used by very well educated folks like you then guess what comes to mind when the general public thinks of nuclear energy.
If I did not know better I would probably think that too. Good movie by the way just not very accurate from a technical standpoint - like most movies - but that is what make believe is all about. Make believe - not reality. M
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.3.09
One last post to comment on the important point raised by Fred of Capacity Factor. What he says bear repeating plus I want to add my 10 cents.
CF is the magic number that drives the electricity production industry. High CF means you are making money from your assett. Low CF means you are not. For both wind and nuclear the cost of the fuel has little bearing on the cost of electricity. For wind the energy source is free...it's contribution to the cost is 0%. For nuclear the fuel is not free but it is very cheap compared to the value of the energy produced. A 1000 MW reactor will bring in 3 Billion dollars worth of revenue at 5c/Kw hour at 100% CF. The fuel cost is around 5 million - maybe a tad higher these days. So that is a nuclear fuel cost of about 0.5% - pretty much free. Even if the fuel cost was 10 times higher it still only represents 5% of revenue generated.
But...the CF is not 100%. For nuclear plants CF's of over 90% are quite do-able and many plants routinely attain these types of reliability. Not I use the term reliability because for a nucleat plant reliability of the machines and the maintenance of them is what drives CF....all under human control.
With wind the CF is just as important because it has to be high enough to repay the capital cost and land rental from farmers and maintenance. Much the same costs. We call it O,M & A...operations, maintenance and admninistration. Unfortunately CF's for wind are low...very very low. Not only do operators need to contend with the reliability of the machines - they do go wrong quite often...they also have to contend with the non-availability of the fuel source. Hence CF's for wind are optimistically 20% and frequently much less. Now bear in mind that these locations were selected for their WINDINESS. As more wind sites are built less favourable locations will be used and CF will drop still lower.
I very much doubt that with REAL CF's in the 20% or less range wind farms are not economic with out large handouts....hence the need for subsidy from the government.
But the really big problem with the capacity factor of wind generators is that the wind often does not blow in times of high demand and does blow in times of low demand. This mismatch of supply and demand cannot be overcome without large scale storage - which of course increases capital costs still further even if it was readily available and it is not.
If we are expecting wind generators to supply many megawatts of air conditioning on a still sultry summer's night......think again. We may THINK we have lots of wind energy available when we add up the nameplate ratings of the wind machines but what counts is the energy availability when it is needed.
Sadly wind energy falls far short of what is required bothe economically and practically...and I like windmills.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.4.09
Thank you Malcolm. Yes, I'm going to be in France later this year, and one of the things that I'm going to look at very carefully is this business of reprocessing. Of course, in a rational world I could spend my time in Paris sitting in cafes during the day and listening to jazz at night, while reprocessing and similar issues were examined by the new American president's energy team - or environmental team as I call it.
The truth is that I don't think for a minute that I am especially qualified to make the calculations that will show concerned persons that a somewhat larger resort to nuclear is the best thing for their health and welfare. Doctors Chu and Holdren and their colleagues should take charge of that assignment. A question is, what are they waiting for, and the answer to that question is the soon to arrive proof that wind and solar are capable of making American energy dreams come true, OPEC will collapse and thus motor fuel dreams will come true, and Russia will collapse and so the price of 1000 Btu of natural gas will sell for about the price of a cup of coffee. Ordinary, every day delusions like those about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bob Amorosi 1.5.09
It's a pleasure reading another very well written article from Fred. It’s full of common and not-so-common sense; where the lack of public education is a big problem for nuclear. But nuclear is not alone, it's also a big problem with many facets of the electricity industry.
The wind energy people are probably fuming after reading this and the comments above. Some have said on EnergyPulse in recent months that wind is not to be viewed as a "capacity" resource but as an "energy" resource, hence they tend to downplay or ignore the capacity factor (CF) arguments well made above by all.
Given wind (or solar) is not always on line, and there is no economical mass storage for large amounts of electrical energy yet, in my view it has been a large mistake for wind to compete as a source on our electricity grids. In essence wind and solar are better suited economically only for intermittent electricity needs that are discretionary.
I believe wind and solar have great potential but only on a micro scale - as widely distributed micro-generators that DON'T necessarily compete directly to supply our grids, but instead supply individual residential users.
The original wind mills of centuries ago were used only for mechanical work to do things that could wait until the wind blew. If one thinks about it, there are many electricity needs by residential consumers today that can be delayed until a lowest price electricity source is available for it. Laundry machines, dryers, ironing, dishwashers, and electric stoves, are typical significant discretionary residential loads that could in theory be planned to coincide with wind and solar availability.
My view of the perfect future is to see widespread nuclear stations supplying our public grids combined with widespread micro-generators of solar and wind owned and operated by individual consumers. These consumers would then choose to use their own cheaply produced power for discretionary loads, and access the grid's large central nuclear sources for their less discretionary needs. If this sounds much like an electricity system based around Len Gould's IMEUC market reform proposals tabled elsewhere on this website, well ... it is!
Keep up the great writing Fred, and great comments from Len, Malcolm, et al.
Kenneth Kok 1.5.09
Fred Thank you for the reminder on Buffalo Mountain. I just checked the TVA reported data for August - October, 2008. The power generated was 276,112 kwhrs for a stated generated capacity of 29 MW. This give a CF of 0.0043 or 0.43%. Still very low.
Melcom Your comment about Yucca Mountain reminded me of a comment attributed to Edward Teller during a Senate hearing on the long term security of the closed repository. I seems that some senators were worried about people digging into the repository in the future. Teller was asked how the repository should be marked to preclude this event. Teller reportedly said "If you weren't burying something valuable you wouldn't have to worry". Feel free to add the proper Gemantic accent.
Bob Amorosi 1.5.09
One of the main bellyaches of the public and other anti-nuclear camps is the huge cost to build nuclear plants. In places like Ontario, these large capital costs get forced down every consumer's throat with government approved rate increases to recover them over many years. And in our world of regulated rates, increases that take years to recover specific costs tend to never disappear from rates.
To make things worse, in the past year demand for new nuclear plant construction projects planned around the world has in part driven these costs much higher, making them tougher to predict accurately by project planners. If the nuclear power station manufacturing industries had not been starved for so many years by not building any new plants, we could have avoided this predicament now. Governments should have nurtured them like any other industry, but instead the nuclear manufacturing industry has gone through feast and famine. They now cannot quickly ramp up when the feast returns.
If capital costs could be brought lower, there would be few political barriers for nuclear to vastly outperform any other source for large central generating stations.
Michael Keller 1.6.09
As usual, Professor Banks hits the ball out of the park!
As far as capital costs, the nature of the conventional nuclear plant means they will always be expensive to build. More advanced designs (e.g. high temperature gas reactor) would be less expensive to build but their commercial viability is unproven and therefore suspect. Remains unclear how many of the proposed new conventional nuclear facilities will actually get built. My hunch is that the steep costs coupled with the credit crunch, a deep recession and a hostile democratic administration will sink most of them.
Perhaps when reality rears its ugly head and the folly of over reliance on renewable energy becomes painfully obvious, then nuclear power will become appreciated for the economic and environmental miracle that it is. Hopefully, it will not be too late to recover at that point.
Jim Beyer 1.6.09
Some comment should be made on the potential for IFR technology, if it hasn't already. Integral fast reactors both extend the usage of our nuclear fuel resources and reduce the amount of waste produced. Thank Bill Clinton and Hazel O'Leary for shutting down IFR development in the early 90s.
I also don't think enough can be said about the capital cost concerns that nuclear technology holds for the bankers of the world. Keep in mind most of them are in their 30s or early 40s, and probably have some innate fear of nuclear power, and a lack of understanding about energy issues.
Gordon Combs 1.6.09
I note the following headline in today's Energy Central compilation of news articles: "German Environmental Groups Step Up Pressure to Abandon Nuclear Power" - Jan 05 - BBC Monitoring European. This article may be accessed at http://www.energycentral.com/functional/news/news_detail.cfm?did=11759195.
I guess the German branch of Greenpeace needs to read Prof. Banks' article (fat chance - their minds are made up and they do NOT want to be confused by the facts).
Andre Basler 1.6.09
Ferdinand, what does the book "Wir werden wiedermal marschieren" and a few crazy Germans wanting to take over the Sudetenland have to do with nuclear power? This is quite a low comment and inappropriate.
Secondly, the waste. Sure, Malcom, you say it is recyclable. Partially it is. But think about this: Why do we spent billions of dollars for Yucca Mountain, which still has not even left the drawing board? Why is Yucca Mountain, should it ever come to completion, already full with all the waste currently stored at existing nuclear power plants, if there is no waste?
And lastly, how much fuel have we left for nuclear power plants. Will that last longer than coal, or oil?
shows lead time for nuclear electric power to come on-line is11 years.
Production of unranium may not meet needs for electric power generation, I have read on Internet.
It may be too late to avoid electric power shortages within several years?
The study, "Lights Out In 2009?" warns that the U.S. "faces potentially crippling electricity brownouts and blackouts beginning in the summer of 2009, which may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives." ...
The new building construction industry may have serious problems soon because of electric power limitiation?
Graham Cowan 1.6.09
how much fuel have we left for nuclear power plants. Will that last longer than coal, or oil?
Of course it will; thousands of times longer. Why would the coal, oil, and gas interests be so afraid of it if this were not so?
The IAEA publishes, every year or two, a "Red Book" report on uranium mining's progress. It is impossibly expensive, but one number that usually is abstracted and freely published is the expected reserves up to various price limits, typically 80 cents and $1.30 per thermal barrel-oil-equivalent.
Oil and gas enthusiasts often seize on each number as it comes out and say, "That's only a few decades worth! Only a few years' worth, if oil and gas and all their delightful tax revenue were replaced by it!"
OK, they don't say the last part, but it explains everything they do say.
They also don't seize on the rate of change between reports. The estimates in recent years have been increasing at ten times the rate at which all the world's existing nuclear power plants could burn the stuff.
Thank you all for another collection of thoughtful comments.
I just wanted to point to a couple of potentially useful resources.
The Anti-Nuclear Game Gordon Simms ISBN: 0776602853
Discusses the techniques used by anti-nuclear groups and commentators to twist the facts and/or side step the facts as they attempt to put their own agneda across. It saddens me to see so many of the blatant untruths repeated as commonly accepted wisdom by the news media. Currently 4 or 5 used copies available on Amazon for $15. Highly reccommended, even though it deals largely with the Canadian scene, the tactics are very similar. Many of the players are well known international anti-nuke figures.
An online book, freely available, by a retired AECL employee. Archie has assembled most of the arguments for nuclear power in a very clear and accessible format. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful in finding a publisher, so elected to put his book online for anyone to read.
I also reccommend "The Power to Save the World" by Gwyneth Cravens and Richard Rhodes. Available from Amazon in paperback for about $10.00. Us orientation. Well put together.
Richard Vesel 1.6.09
I find this article, and the comments, to be remarkably nut-free, and I hope that you will consider that to be unchanged after reading this comment...
This entire discussion takes place within a certain "assumption box". The box is sealed with "no new technologies" tape, and prevents seeing a more complete set of solutions available outside the box.
To me, the missing technologies are storage, and recovery, using non-thermal technology. First, the storage problem - conventional pumped hydro storage, or hoped-for compressed air storage, is at best mid-60's% efficient - BUT they allow for easily synchronizable recovery of the stored energy.
The efficiency of nuclear and fossil-fired boiler electricity generation is limited by thermodynamics to below 40%. You can do better by going to supercritical or ultrasupercritical temperatures and pressures, and approach 50+% thermal-to-electrical efficiency. Nuclear cannot go here, at least with a water-steam cycle. So advanced gas cooled reactors and gas-driven turbines are required, yes?
In parallel with our investments in new, cleaner capacity, we should aggressively fund programs to develop storage systems which are scalable to the multiple GWhr capacity. We would have to add/replace far less peak capacity IF we were able to run nearly ALL generation as base-loaded, and "fill" the storage during low demand, and "empty" it during high demand, in a cost-effective manner. Cost-effictiveness is given a different and more generous meaning when we look at adding nuclear or renewable capacity at $4M-$7M per megawatt of capacity, as opposed to coal-burners at less than $2M per megawatt.
Perhaps one answer lies in the solar-powered conversion of seawater to hydrogen (oxygen released locally), and that hydrogen is pumped about the land as we now distribute natural gas. Conversion back to electricity at the consumption end would be done in the best suited cogen facilities (preferably in fuel cells as opposed to thermal conversion).
Regards to all, RWVesel
PS - I liken fear of nuclear power to xenophobia, where integration and long term benign coexistence is the only real solution. I am not sure how to solve this in a meaningfully short time frame, given that the parties who must advocate, i.e. industry and government, are among those least trusted by the democratically empowered public. Perhaps a (hoped for) restoring of the public trust in the next 4-8 years will help the picture - maybe...
Also, programs to encourage "negawatt" investments (i.e. demand-side reductions through efficiency improvements), structured to be profitable for both consumers and utilities, can fundamentally reduce copious amounts of energy wasted by how we have gotten used to doing things with cheap energy.
Michael Pinca 1.6.09
Nuclear Secret No. 11 - The key sprocket in Nuclear Power Generation is "steam". One of the most used and useful tools of recent civilization is steam. A fundemental oversight in the use of the words, "Nuclear Power Generation" is that it is a short term for, Nuclear Electric Power Generation Station or Nuclear Steam Generation Station. Imagine, instead of a "no inhabit zone within a ten mile radius of a nuclear, why not faclitate and provide "steam energy taps" for industry and institution, just like the town boiler in many cities. I am a twenty year veteran of the large industry, from out of the ground to refueling and pipe replacements, operator training and development. Unless we decide to add some units to the existing fleet, later is NOW, we are doomed to relive the challenges of history all over again, and that includes the loss of many lives. I appreciate the pro logic of resuming nuclear use for energy...it is getting to a point where as if we don't pursue, more harm is to come without it. The devil in this entire issue is greed, not the sake of any planet. Business and our free enterprise system was given a tremendous opportunity to explore and they failed, and decided to go the easy way out with short term concepts and goals - the root cause of the TMI event. Had the utility organization at the time took into consideration the responsibility of training SRO's rather than buying them off the shelf, there would have been no event. Had there been no arrogance to receiving the daily revenue form having one unit on line to the grid, there would have been no TMI event, because there would have been more attention to the complex machine that they had, they lost it ...all over a single BOP PORV Valve!
My point, it is not the incapability of building such a machine, rather than the ownership and responsibiltiy of having one! I am very proud to have been in the arena with many responsible people who delivered the 102 US Nukes and performed with integrity pre and post TMI eras, lordy, that will soon be twenty years ago! All things considered, we are behind the eightball twenty years now.
An energy generating station is just that, "stationary". It does not move, it moves something to the next station, eventually to YOU the user, wherever you are stationed. Beginning with horsepower, horses had energy stations (water, rest and fuel)...horses were not driven every where, what ever the load they pulled, they were driven through corridors of the least resisitance to the animal. Relatively, energy must get from station to station, and on a crowded environmental concern that's what we have. Unless alternative forms of energy can get from station to station, they are lumped into forms of energy conservation, because at least they can reduce "load demands".
Thank you for the opportunity to make remarks.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.6.09
The discussion above from Michael Keller and Bob Amorosi refers to the often quoted high cost of installing nuclear capacity. I agree, at the moment it is high and the reason is we have singularly NOT applied the principles of mass production to nuclear facilities. So why do we expect costs to go down when we continue to build "one offs". The design and construction effort need to make the large motors and specilised components necessarily bears a large up front cost. This cost distributed over many tens or hundreds of reactors becomes smaller with each IDENTICAL unit produced.
What is required is national committments to build a series of 10 or 20 plants having exactly the same components and exactly the same design. Then industry can do what it does best - mass produce equipment at low cost.
If we continue to design one off plants then of course the cost will be high. We appear to have learnt nothing from Mr. Henry Ford.
The lowest cost electricity will be produced from mass produced nuclear generating plants using recycled fuel running at high capacity factors. All easily achievable....if we want to.
Joseph Somsel 1.6.09
I will hazard a prediction of Mr. Obama's nuclear policy on becoming president - he'll be for it.
He is, after all, a politician, and one of the Chicago school. The largest operator of nuclear power plants in the US is based in Chicago - Exelon. Obama and family members of the former chairman of the predecessor company have long standing ties (Bill Ayers) as do the mayor and Exelon and the mayor and Obama. Current Exelon employees gave heavily to Obama's campaign.
To these ties, add the behavior of Exelon prior to the election - they tried to buy the company who had submitted the first new application for a nuke in decades and who owns several operating nukes in the US - NRG Corp. While rebuffed due to the low ball bid that was supported by recent stock market aberations, Exelon claimed that they would be back and are separately considering building new nukes on their own. with a friend in the White House, they can make an offer that NRG can't refuse.
Tieing this together, I expect that the Obama Administration will provide plenty of low profile support for the continued expansion of nuclear power in the US and for export. I don't expect much slackening of verbal support for alternatives and they will continue to blow taxpayer money on showcase projects but that won't stand in the way of helping their friends building new nukes.
At least, I HOPE this is true!
Joseph Somsel 1.6.09
As to the cost of nuclear power, please remember that the costs are driven by commodities - steel, concrete, and labor. Certainly, a common design, produced in quantity, offers ways to cut costs but these will have only minor impact - maybe 10%.
The major limitation of most published, comtemporary nuclear cost estimates is in predicting the commodity costs above over a 10 year forecast. What will boilermakers earn in 2019? How much for 100 pounds of portland cement, delivered, in 2018?
Yes, the price tags appear high, but apply the same planning assumptions to the competing sources and they will look even worst.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.6.09
I agree with you that storage is the solution to intermittent sources of electricity but the great benefactor from storage is of course nuclear. With large scale storage nuclear can escape from the restrictions of base load and provide power at full capacity all the time with peaking loads provided by storage. This is in fact done in the UK with a pumped storage system (in Wales) of about 2000 MW. But those sites are hard to find (one needs a convenient mountain with a lake at the top and another at the bottom that people do not mind being drained dry twice a day). People tend to get VERY upset when their boats disappear into a big waterless hole twice a day. Really wrecks your vacation plans.
There have been numerous schemes proposed but none that really are practical. I would like to see that but in all my many years in this business none has yet been built that comes anywhere near the size necessary. lots of promising technology but as yet very few operating plants.
Not only are they difficult to build they are also very costly which of course needs to be added to the costs of the power produced. Suddenly windmills and solar plants become extraordinarily expensive when these capital costs are added to the "free" fuel and maintenance costs.
I like Michael Pinca's idea of using waste heat from a nuclear plant for industrial uses. Unfortunately if you use an industrial plant as the "condenser" to take out the latent heat of the steam (540kcal/gm) you lose in electricity production. The steam is less valuable than the electricity so the plant operator generally is in a losing proposition. Utilities are designed to sell electricity and their business model will not allow the use of the plant for process steam. Not that they could not but unless you build a very big plant that uses ALOT of process steam then the economics are really not there.
Another very big problem with this approach is matching outages in the generating plant with outages in the industrial plant. Since they are now linked together by a common element (steam production) shutting down one means shutting down the other....also not very good for business in either operation.
Combined heat and power projects have been built over the years but none has really stood the test of time. Look good on paper but practically speaking mostly non-starters. Nuclear plants that produce more steam than their generators can consume might be one way but it is the difference in cost between process steam and hot water and electricity that makes it not very viable.
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.6.09
The notion of the hydrogen economy has been well discussed in this forum Richard. It is no simple matter to move large volumes of hydrogen about. All you need to do is build a completely new hydrogen distribution system that parallels the methane system. You cannot simply put hydrogen in a natural gas pipeline.
Now what WOULD work is to convert the hydrogen to methane using any carbon source and then use the methane infrastructure to move it about. No infrastructure change is required. Using base load nuclear to do that would be cost effective I think but the economics are more in Fred's area of expertise than mine.
Don Hirschberg 1.6.09
What has happened to change the uranium supply outlook so greatly? Seems all of a sudden instead of hearing great moaning about uranium depletion I now hear there is an almost endless economic supply.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.7.09
André, I don't have to do a lot of thinking in these matters, because as usual I skip to the bottom line. The bottom line is the Swedish nuclear sector a few years ago when it was producing power at the lowest cost in the world and, apparently, was selling it at the lowest or close to the lowest price.
Of course, things have gone downhill since then, because the opinions of the nutters and liars became more valuable to the media, but such happens in the real world. As for *Wir werden...", the Germans changed their mind about marching for reasons I suggested, and they will change their mind about nuclear - or 'electricity fascism' as I once heard it called - in due course...I think.
Where this increased cost of nuclear capacity is concerned, which seems to be real, I've decided not to worry bcause that doesn't have to be. It wasn't inevitable, just as the growing shortage of engineers in e.g. Sweden wasn't inevitable, but came about anyway. I hope that I don't have to tell you why.
That's about it for me, Andre. I*ve got some opinions about a number of other things too, but it's best for all of us if you find out about those from the nuclear engineers in this formum. I'm sure that they will tell you what you need to know if you ask them.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.7.09
Jim (Beyer), I missed your comment.
Yes, the less said about Ms O'leary the better, since she referred to the energy policy in Pakistan as the best in the world. As for Bill Clinton, I decided a few years ago to blame him for the present fiasco in Irak, and the more I think about it the more certain I am that I was right.
About those lovely financial district/banking boys and girls. Unfortunately - unlike you and I - they are human, and being human they cant avoid making lots and lots of errors. Other humans in the picture here are the guys and gals in the corner offices, who haven't tuned in to this forum or compiled some relevant newspaper and magazine articles on the present subject, and pass it to those lovelies.
You know, in reading the comments above, I'm actually amazed at how little I know/knew, and how easy it is to learn important things about nuclear.
Bob Amorosi 1.7.09
"You know, in reading the comments above, I'm actually amazed at how little I know/knew, and how easy it is to learn important things about nuclear."
Me too Fred. And this website's forums are great places to learn about many other energy subjects as long as you can weed out the occasional propaganda from intelligent opinions or facts. The engineers, and professors ? that post comments here tend to write the latter, so we should try to attract more of them to comment here.
(If this were an electronics industry website forum, I could spend hours writing about new technology. And in spite of technology driving advanced metering and Smart Grid initiatives, it appears to me the majority of the audiences of this website tend not to be involved electronics industries.)
I think Obama is progressive enough and in touch with voters enough that he will do whatever it takes, read spend as much money and change regulations and policies as is necessary, to get America’s electricity grids and the American economy back to respectable health again. His only frustration will be it wont and can’t happen overnight. Building many new nuclear plants will part of his agenda soon, especially when the lights start to go out with rotating power outages in some parts of the US reportedly beginning as early as this summer when supply cannot keep pace with growing peak demand.
Len Gould 1.7.09
Richard Vessel: "The efficiency of nuclear and fossil-fired boiler electricity generation is limited by thermodynamics to below 40%. You can do better by going to supercritical or ultrasupercritical temperatures and pressures, and approach 50+% thermal-to-electrical efficiency. Nuclear cannot go here, at least with a water-steam cycle. So advanced gas cooled reactors and gas-driven turbines are required, yes?"
It LOOKS like Atomic Energy Canada is developing a super-critical design beyond the Gen III ACR.
"The paper will show how the ongoing expansion of the CANDU knowledge base has led to the development of the Advanced CANDU Reactor. The ACR is a Generation III+ reactor with substantially reduced costs, faster construction, and enhanced passive safety and operating margins. The ACR is also the basis for the Generation IV Super Critical Water Reactor, which extends operation to higher temperatures and pressures."
Don, the outlook for Uranium hasn't changed in the last 30 years. What has changed is that media outlets are suddenly aware of fuel reprocessing, which is being done in different countries around the world (France, Japan, Russia).
The anti-nuclear crowd has been passing around the stories that there is only 30/40/50/60 years worth of uranium available based on current (circa 1970's) use rates, current technology, no reprocessing, current reserves, and low costs for the fuel. Kind of like saying there is only 15 years worth of oikl left, assuming $10 a barrel, no unconventional field extraction, no new exporation, no off-shore drilling and no resort to tar sands.
Reprocessing all by itself will extend the supply by hundreds of years, even allowing for expansion of nuclear power generation. At 20 times it's current price (still economical considering the energy density) it is worthwhile to extract it from seawater. That extends the supply out several hundreds of years further.
Richard Vesel 1.7.09
"Now you're cooking with gas!" A great out-of-the-box idea...
I absolutely love the concept of moving hydrogen around as methane, relieving us of having to build a separate infrastructure. IF we used "bio-coal" or "eCoal" as the carbon part of the input for syngas, along with desalinated seawater steam, we would be in business. Energy for the methane creation could come direclty from nuclear, solar or wind energy sources, appropriately located. There is sufficient carbon in our agricultural, municipal and industrial waste streams to displace a lot of coal. The same energy sources would, of course, be producing electricity as well, displacing the rest of the coal. Would have to do the numbers to figure out the waste carbon gigatons available - yes we burn gigatons of coal every year just to produce electricity.
Production of syngas is an almost 200 year old technology which can be updated for our 21st century needs... Chemical storage of energy is certainly the densest known to date, especially if you liquify the methane for temporary storage. We know very well how to turn gas back into electricy, at almost 60% efficiency and <2ppm NOx with the latest gas turbine technologies (shown at Power Gen International last month). If cogeneration is used, the recovered energy can exceed 85%.
As for pumped storage, man made versions are also available (Ameren's Taum Sauk for example), but it would take a lot of those to provide the requisite storage. If they would be built along the coastlines, one would only have to build the upper reservoir, and never have to worry about problems of evaporation. Not sure if timing pump-ups with high tide and draw-downs at low tide would gain a few percent more efficiency, but it might be worthy of a graduate student project somewhere...
As for building the nuclear "one-offs" v. "standard plants" - I was on a standards committie of the American Nuclear Society about twenty five years ago, working with a group to develop environmental qualification standards, such that you COULD build a standard plant qualified for multiple site locations. The idea was to not have to meet site-specific seismic, wind, and other environmental factors, if you qualified the standard plant to a well specified environmental envelope. Any site that fit within the envelope would be covered by the documentation and equipment testing that came with the plant. Believe it or not, environmental qualification was a major contributor to plant costs - far more than the 10% suggested above - as EVERY structure and EVERY piece of equipment had to demonstrate that it would operate in the site-specific environmental envelope...
Regards to all, RWVesel
Michael Keller 1.7.09
When we account for the use of thorium (which has been used at a number of the early reactors), our supply of nuclear fuel is hundreds of years without even considering breeder reactors and/or reprocessing fuel from the existing or future fleet of nuclear plants.
Specifics can be found in a DOE document DOE/EIS -0396, "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement" available off the Department of Energy's website.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.8.09
I've read the comments above several times, and taken notes from them. They will be invaluable for me the next time I teach a course in energy economics - if such courses are still given in the real world rather than in my daydreams. They are also valuable for some of the people associated with this forum, in fact, more valuable than my article. For instance, Malcolm's truths about nuclear - I plan to expand on these, and they go on the blackboard at the beginning of my first lecture on this topic, because there are several things about nuclear that the unlearned should be given an opportunity to understand, and I am going to do my part in drumming it into their heads.
BUT, in addition to these comments I have received a lot of mail about this article, and there seems to be a general annoyance and/or disgust with the opposition to nuclear. I don't see why. Without that opposition I wonder if it would be possible to trust our friends and neighbors to build and operate safe plants. Living in Sweden I'm tempted to say that the nuclear sector here is the safest and most reliable in the world, but this country is changing, and I suspect that the same is true of many other countries. I remember once using the expression 'a psycopathic hatred of technical excellence' which applied to some party animals I once taught or encountered socially, but when a reasonably intelligent politician like the former boss of the Swedish government calls nuclear "obsolete", I think that there is a serious problem among the rank and file that must be addressed, because that gentleman would never have employed that terminology if he believed that it would be held against him.
Of course, if this macroeconomic and financial mess had not taken place, and the talk about a possible oil price of $200/b increased in volume, our political masters would have been more aggressive in informing their supporters of the advantages of nuclear.
Joseph Somsel 1.8.09
Since little oil is typically consumed in making electricity, the price per barrel would not be a driver for more nukes EXCEPT that natural gas prices tend to follow oil. Natural gas is a major alternative to nuclear so oil prices indirectly affect investment decisions for new generation. The price of oil does send clear signals to voters about the state of the energy business though.
Besides price issues, the Russian gas cutoff to Europe can not be ignored: not in Washington, not in Bressels, not in Sacramento. He who controls your energy supply controls your people. Politicians who make bad decisions in democracies need to be removed.
Jim Beyer 1.8.09
At the end of the day, nuclear power is mostly a climate change play and a compete with coal. Even without climate change, coal is problematic in its output and mining practices used, but truth be told, if coal had no CO2 emission concerns, nuclear would remain dead, at least for those countries that have coal.
Joseph Somsel 1.9.09
That's a bit broadbrushed. Within a LARGE country like the US or China, transportation costs for coal and easily make nuclear competitive (barring government intervention) with coal.
Even a medium sized country like the Republic of South Africa sees this effect - that's why the Koeberg nuclear plant is located near Capetown even though there is plenty of coal on the other corner of the country.
Other factors are transport bottlenecks and labor unions. A large coal plant needs a 100 car unit train every weekday. Some railroad lines can't handle that plus other traffic.
At the landed price of LNG, nuclear is competitive too - I did an earlier article on EP showing the details.
Don Hirschberg 1.9.09
Perhaps I'm a bit off topic but I read today that China, already the biggest user of coal, has announced plans to increase coal production by 30%.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.10.09
If I find myself with some extra energy someday, I would be tempted to study nuclear vs coal. I would NOT study nuclear vs gas, because for me the answer is clear: unless they find a LOT more gas, gas cannot compete with nuclear.
Graham Cowan 1.10.09
Uranium is recently costing US$140,000 per tonne, natural gas US$3,000,000 per tonne-U-equivalent -- inclusive of royalties, not inclusive of retail tax. Those two last things are the only things on the mind of, scientists estimate, 99.84 percent of self-described renewable energy advocates. Except for publically funded scientists, of course. They're likely not to understand the question. What could one's funding sources possibly have to do with one's opinions?
I guess I said that to stir things up a bit, but it's largely true. A 1500 MW coal plant costs what? 2-3 Billion to build? Versus 8-10 Billion for a similar sized nuclear plant? True, over the long term, the fuel costs may make coal more expensive, but no one seems to want to think about the long term. The hard reality is that you still need to scrape together 2 or 3 times the capital to get a nuclear plant built and running versus a coal plant.
Agreed that natural gas for power generation makes little sense except maybe for small scale CHP, which is really an offshoot for home heating, for which it is great.
But with the economic slowdown, building new power plants seems academic anyway. At least for the time being.
Don Hirschberg 1.10.09
I must sheepishly admit that until today I had never heard of the Sabatier Reaction that is, making methane from CO2 and hydrogen. CO2 + 4H2 (catalyst and high temp and pressure) goes to CH4 + 2H2O. Considering only the paper reaction, the calorific value of the methane produced is about 59 percent of that of the hydrogen consumed. (After all half goes to water, about the ultimate energy sink. When you make water there is no reverse arrow.) And since this is a high temperature and pressure process the, energy recovery would be less (far less?) than 59%. Considering the huge energy degradation already paid in producing hydrogen (by any process) I wonder if the Sabatier reaction can be considered viable under any situation? I don’t know, but I am skeptical. Maybe a better chemical thermodynamisist can comment?
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.11.09
Jim, 8-10 billion for 1500 MW of nuclear.
I can't handle those numbers. They make my head spin. A nuclear plant that goes from ground break to grid power (using Len Gould's terminology) in 4 years, and has at least a 70 year life, and probably most important is constructed by people who know what they are doing - rather than people like myself - has got to cost less than 8-10 billion. I mean, it took the Japanese 4 years to construct a plant 30 years ago, and so if push came to shove they have got to be able to construct the same plant in less time today. Even the Wall Streeters must understand that.
Yes, the plant in Finland will probably end up costing that much, but the Finns probably know how to think about the long run - or at least they did, But I don't live in Finland and so my conclusion here is that if they cant do something about that cost, I'll just have to buy myself a shovel and prepare to do the same thing I did when I was a boy in Chicago confronting a pile of coal at the beginning of the coal burning season.
Don Hirschberg 1.11.09
Prof Banks, I know about stoking both ours and a neighbor's furnace with coal during frequent sub-zero fahrenheit winters in the 30's. I thought it was normal.
Don Hirschberg 1.11.09
There is an error in my post above about the Sabatier reaction. Where I wrote "about 59%" I should have written "about 78%" Sorry.
Jim Beyer 1.11.09
The Sabatier reaction is fairly efficient. About 80% of the hydrogen bond energy remains with the methane as C-H bonds. The rest is emitted as heat. You are trading 4 H-H bonds for 4 C-H bonds, which have about 80% of the energy of the H-H bonds. You are also trading 4 molecules to store for 1.
Since the reaction is exothermic, one only needs to heat the reactor once to get it started, and then it is self-sustaining.
If you want to evaluate the economics, you are paying a 20% overhead to be able to store your energy as methane instead of hydrogen. (Compare this to the 30% overhead (70% efficiency) of storing energy as hydrogen vs. electricity.)
Based on a study I did, the question really is: How long after the energy was harvested (from wind or solar, etc.) are you going to use it? If you are going to use it in a day or so, it makes sense to just store it in batteries or ultra-caps. If you need it in the next 1-2 weeks, hydrogen makes sense, after that, methane is the best choice. (One could carry the notion further to synthesizing, propane, butane, etc. but the economics are not so great in practice given our extant NG infrastructure.)
Jim Beyer 1.11.09
Not wishing nuclear reactors to cost that much does not make it so. DTE Energy's estimate on Fermi III was $10 Billion, providing 1500 MW or thereabouts. And Fermi II is up for license renewal after 40 years (2025). At the least, it will need a rework then.
I really think they are building them wrong. They need to agree on a design, and build many of them. Average cost would go down. The anti-nuke advocates would cite high prices due in part to nuclear plants that were partially built and canceled. Not really appropriate, I think.
I wish I knew what the price of nuclear power really should be, but I don't.
What would $10 Billion for a 40 year 1500 MW plant mean to us? Given 8000 working hours per year, that equals about 2 cents per kilowatt hour. If you add the interest, it might be close to 3-4 cents. I don't know if that's bad or not. With operating expenses, this makes nuclear power cost about 7-8 cents per kW-hr, a number that keeps popping up with respect to nuclear power costs.
Don Hirschberg 1.11.09
Jim, thank you for the education. (Now if we only had some hydrogen.) Curiously, sixty years ago, as an engineering co-op student, I worked on developing almost the reverse of Sabatier. Ni-Cu (Monel sinter) oxides filled a long vertical Inconel reactor, hot enough to glow. Methane was fed into the bottom, countercurrent to the descending sinter which near the bottom had been reduced to metallic Ni – Cu, becoming the catalyst to make the hydrogen.
barry hanson 1.11.09
The Severance study on the cost of nuclear energy is now available at www.climateprogress.com along with rebuttals by the Heritage Foundation and responses by Craig Severance.
The Severance study concludes that the levelized cost of nuclear power is between 25-30 cents per kWh.
James Carson 1.11.09
Citing ClimateProgress.com is tantamount to citing CommonDreams for non-partisan political commentary. If you want to discuss the Severance study, perhaps you should ... you know, discuss it.
Don Hirschberg 1.12.09
Something is badly out of kilter. Nuclear electricity cannot cost both 7-8 and 25-30 cents per Kwh. Dare I naively say it? Seems either somebody has got to be incompetent or venal.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.12.09
Don, nothing at all is out of kilter. Before the ignoramuses got into the act, the cost of power in Sweden was at or close to the most inexpensive in the world, and the price was almost the lowest. That's what they/I call the bottom line. Denmark has wind, coal and good engineers, but the price of electricity in that country is among the most expensive in the world.
That's good enough for me - for the time being that is.
Jim Beyer 1.12.09
I stole this comment from Grist concerning the study. It was in reply to a article posted by Joe Romm:
Study Author Severance Responds
On Climate Progress. He (Severance) explains that his kwh cost numbers were so much higher than the $KW capacity numbers would suggest because he is referring to future nominal (and so inflated) dollars. Even if it was mentioned in the report, the only reason to refer to relatively far out future costs in nominal as opposed to real terms is to be disingenuous. Its hard to even give him the benefit of the doubt and just call it foolishness. Apparently he forgot to tell Romm, who compares the $kwh number to current electricity rates in the headline above. I have to think even Romm wouldn't do that if he knew it was future nominal, not real dollars.
After this, it hardly seems worth even bothering to go into all the other issues with the report. Keep up the good work Joe.
Don Giegler 1.12.09
Here are two attempts to throw a little "bensin" on the fire:
1. The 12/2008 edition of the "Electrical Power Annual" with the 2007 actuals for the U.S., including that wonderful Table 8.2, should be available in the next two weeks. This was volunteered yesterday by Mr. Schnapp at .
2. As a service from CSPAN, that redoubtable cable television station, Jed Babbin interviewed one Christopher C. Horner yesterday. Horner has authored a new tome, "Red Hot Lies", directed at all "believers" and "deniers".
Of course, for less incendiary material, there is always www.nrc.gov/reactors.
Don Giegler 1.12.09
By George, brackets of the e-mail address nature seem to delete text in this comment stream! Should any be interested, Mr. Schnapp is at Robert.Schnapp@eia.doe.gov .
Michael Pinca 1.14.09
All so very good discussions about nuclear ...hoping soon, the facts will turn the key to "begin". We live in a time when it is vital to "listen" and to "act". The visionary statement can be summed up in three words, "Later, IS now!"
KENNY MAGERS 1.16.09
For those that know about thermals & wind, solar Know that there is a better way to spend money to get the job done! BUT WHICH. The system that has the power combinations from natures furry naturaly is RENEWABLE ( THERMAL )= WIND POWER the energy power source
REPOWERING CLOSED STEAM PLANTS FROM NATURE. The facts of 5 size structures alows it to be built where needed not just where the wind blows, This systems do not requeir the wind to blow. Get the facts, Informational disc are from it's creator, 40 years of energy researcher from around the worlds top PHD's in this combinations proven by their self and now combined from natures best. Kenny Magers Energy Researcher AIRKEN Entreperneur inventor
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.19.09
Yes I agree with you Michael - we need to do a lot less talking and a great deal more building. Judging by the two feet of snow dumped on us yesterday and the well below average temperatures I can't help wondering if the wonder boys and girls of the climate change fraternity haven't got their numbers all wrong. If they do we may well be headed for another ice age...we'll need all the nuclear power we can get just to keep warm.
But we in the nuclear business are not sitting idle. A huge amount of work is going on in Canada to refurbish our fleet of nuclear plants for another 35 - 40 years of operation making them the best value for money around. Plus we are in the advanced planning stages for 2 new reactors in Southern Ontario. Bruce Power (the private nuclear operator in Canada) is also planning for 2 new reactors in Saskatchewan, 2 in Alberta and 2 at an existing coal plant in southern Ontario.
Add to that our efforts to increase the reliability of our plants and train a younger work force and I think you will see an industry that is very much alive and well and waiting for the opportunity to demonstrate the enormous potential of nuclear energy.
As far as I am concerned we haven't scratched the surface yet.
As I said earlier in my 10 nuclear secrets, nuclear is the only energy source that can provide ALL of the energy required today and meet the growth demands of tomorrow without destroying our environment. As far as I am concerned millions of windmill towers all over the place is about as bad as the concrete jungle gets. Don't know how any one with even a miniscule concern for the environment could support such a technology when one or two inconspicuous nuclear plants could replace all of them many times over.
But as far as Obama is concerned. We'll see. If he is as smart as people say we will see dozens of new nuclear plants started during his Presidency and a resurgence of real (not paper) prosperity. If he is not as smart as we think then the US will rapidly degenerate into a third world country.
After tomorrow the talking stops and the doing starts.
We will see how he does.
Ferdinand E. Banks 1.20.09
Well Malcolm, then it might turn out that Canada will be the country to show the world how to play the nuclear construction game in an optimal manner. As for the US, since today is the big day, I think that I will offer the new president some free advice, and I hope that I am not misunderstood.
GET RID OF YOUR ENERGY TEAM - WHICH IS ACTUALLY AN ENVIRONMENTAL TEAM - AND REPLACE IT BY PEOPLE FROM INDUSTRY! People like Mitt Romney and Jack Welch.
Everywhere I turn these days I hear about how difficult it is to constuct nuclear plants because of this or that shortage. I'm surprised, but not really surprised, because I want to believe something else. Eventually I hope to look into this matter more closely, but today is tuesday, and paraphraseing the words of a great American song, TUESDAY MIGHT BE OUR GOOD NEWS DAY.
Len Gould 1.20.09
Malcolm: You forgot the project discussions to add a second unit to the Point LePreau station in New Brunswick as well. We should be more careful though. If we make them (AECL) sound at all valuable this stupid neo-con federal government we have will have them sold off to AREVA or someone else in a minute. Or shut down, like the Avero Arrow / deHaviland anti-technology idiotic/ideologic fiasco. 'Course that was religious conservatives, not neo-cons. Different mantra, same result.
Fred: Re the "environmental team", I wouldn't worry too much. Experience is that the Jack Welches et all. will get all the input opportunities they need.
Bob Amorosi 1.20.09
In President Obama's inauguration speech today he said "We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together." and "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."
Ambitious - certainly, and it clearly indicates the Obama administration will play a big if not central role in doing it. Support for renewable sources of solar and wind, and mined energy resources, supposedly nuclear and / or coal, are clearly on his radar screen.
It is also clear that the political nature of the electricity system is not going to disappear anytime soon. Much to the disliking of other authors on this website like Warren Causey et al, I wouldn't bet for a minute that free markets will prevail in our electricity industries. On the contrary, Obama promises strong government interventionism, and he calls for efforts from all Americans on a scale not seen perhaps since WWII. It eerily reminds one of the call to Americans to pull together after Pearl Harbor, and the Japanese fleet command who feared they had awakened a sleeping giant.
Time will tell. - Bob
Michael Pinca 1.20.09
Good day Gentlemen, I am happy to see this active discussion continue. I would like to thank Mr. Banks for getting this discussion going, maybe long overdue, but what is important is that it began. Next, every one knows there's nothing bigger than the Nuclear path right now. God bless us we discuss it's usefulness vs God help us we discuss it's destruction capability or it be more in the wrong hands or mindset. If any of you gentlemen are abreast with the NRC Newsletters and Public Information system, they are all over this ..big time. They will have there job ahead implemented and on time.
With that being said, I ask myself "how do we get there (to the solutions) from here?" (one trillion in debt). We have successfully downsized to micro and nano, time to swing back the other way, just slightly, get 35 to 50 new units available and/or on line, NOW, simultaneously. Our fathers and mothers did something very similar to win W W II, when America knew you can't build one battleship, sub or destroyer or aircraft at a time. Example, one US Battleship took three and a half years. If we won WW II in four years (1941-1945), we would have never won anything, one at a time. So you see, part of a solution is to launch construction, very soon, simultaneously. Cost? what concern should that be now? or later? we're reportedly 1-3 Trillion dollars in debt! One way to make money is to spend it wisely, something we haven't done so well in twenty years, while not thinking ahead clearly. Governance is only a part of solution. Overall, we are a sleeping giant now, and we were then in 1941 because we tire, we're human we just came through the Great Depression. In the future PJM (grid operators) will tire also, the grid is closer to fatigue than ever. So, I simply wish to encourage decision makers to get on the same team, freedom hasn't been free, hello? energy is not either. If electric deregulation diluted the responsibility and accountability to our nations energy sources, then maybe it would be best behavior to re-regulate. It is of grave concern, when the military hiring age limit is 42 for God's sake and an industry can't afford to hire someone 50 or over, because of what the health care industry claims. The jobless rate is like a Mt St Helens! Must we buy so much stuff 24/7 when we manufacture less and less? You know that impacts energy system development! No manufacturing, No major capital investment projects in energy generation , transmission or distribution equals no energy investors. I only hope, with every new transmission line, every energy company, goes 24/7. Just because, we've gone from analog to digital doesn't mean that it must equate to less jobs. Many of the youth of today is starving for direction, something important to be doing, education is not a goal, it's part of a career pathway, applied education must and will succeed outside the classroom. We need the knowledge of PHD people. But their value is less when we do not make anything. We need both manufacturing and educators to succeed. That comes from an article written by an industrial electrician. Industry needs both, skilled trades and PHD types. Not one without the other. Solid collaborations, and communication with legislators all the way up the line to the White House, we will solve much, together. Those people in Washington don't have all the answers, the best ones will tell you they don't. They are in dire need to hear from us, collectively and intelligently. If everyone is talking, no one is listening, how can we decide? Don't get me wrong here, I know, I've been back to the tools three times now in my career and currently, I am involved with community and economic development. And for three years now, speaking one on one with owners and presidents of global, national, regional and local businesses (not retail) they are doing the best they can to hold the current fabric of the economy together, and it is major challenge. Investing in energy will cause energy, and will cause wealth from infrastructure projects to energy plants, then we can make stuff, rather than just buy stuff all the time. Oh I don't believe no one is doing nothing in the area of work force development, we are, but skilled trades are scarce, because they have to survive and feed their families doing so many other things. And or the numbers of them simply have not been grown from generations prior. Thank you for reading, I hope it makes some sense, I appreciate this entire active discussion, I hope it continues, I don't mean to sound like a blogger, but maybe the new President elect should be in the loop, what do you think? Or is he in it already and we are all in anticipation of the results of his yet to be implemented action plan? I suppose. Michael Pinca "Blest is that nation whose silent course of happiness furnishes nothing for history to say." Thomas Jefferson
Malcolm Rawlingson 1.21.09
Sorry Len...I did forget about Point Lepreau. Yes New Brunswick power is considering another plant there and they are in the middle of a 1.4 billion refurbishment of the existing plant. I have no doubt that this idiotic government like the Liberals before them will throw out AECL for a few cents on the public dollars invested. No doubt AREVA or a Japanese Company will buy it. But that is why we will continue to chop down trees and drill for oil... Canadian politicians understand that - well almost. They haven't a clue when it comes to nuclear energy. We expect far too much of the dimwits we elect to govern us. Malcolm
Don Hirschberg 1.21.09
Candidate Oboma said that if we can send men to the moon annd back then we can surely use clean coal, This statement alone suggests that neither he nor his many advisors have the least understanding of the problem.
Michael Pinca 1.22.09
Hello all - First, I wish to aplogoze profusely for just jumping right in with remarks. Today, I would like to say, it's obvious. There are many frustrations that plague what we do best. At time when there is so much information, founded upon facts (history) there seems to be a ceiling we "hit" every single time. The ceiling is the our own inability to become one, common team, to solve the energy needs of generations to come.
It's so true Malcolm, we expect far too much from legislators. It's the non-government entities that run the free enterprise system. Our government is interested in one thing - tax dollars.
I feel that most Americans will continue to pay taxes, if they can. Not so easy if you are not working.
I just read an article about a new comany start up, in the first sentence, the words..."knowledge is currency"... hmmm, I believe "energy is currency".
Then I think, there never was a goose that laid a golden egg, what a fable... The geese are being cooked, one by one, in very move we make to satisfy the numbers game.
I get so frustrated, I admit, because I don't understand why an enterprise like the oil companies, do not invest in nuclear energy. Why aren't they interested in helping the auto manufacturer's?
Wait - there's a FLAG! Too many players on the field, the opponents of nuclear power are challenging the call (made twenty years ago!)
Michael Pinca 1.23.09
Hello Don, now I know you know, there is no "candidate" anymore, it is President Elected. Don't get me wrong, I'm not typing a slam here, but you notice? The first thing the office does, is de-commision the prison in Gitmo. Scary to me. I suppose the state's governors are to be influenced by that as well? America is the prisoner in so many ways!
I would think, maybe there are at least a 100 other priorities? With all due respect Professor Banks did accomplish one major thing here. And it comes to me relative to many good, correct things we do...and that is to "begin". From the first notion to climb Mt Everest, to the Umpire in a baseball game saying, "playball!" The key word is "begin".
I thank all of you for "engaging" in this active discussion, let us keep it going, What do you say? I will try my best as well, to minimize opinion, refer to facts, and if we think about about it, there's a great deal we can accomplish, to help educators like Mr. Banks, to teach, and to implant, instill in the minds of young folks, how to get where we are going, and to free our independance from the grasp of those who would like to take us down.