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By Russ Finley on Sep 16, 2012 with 11 responses

Nuclear Energy Deniers

I was rebutting a comment I found under a CER News Desk article titled: Utility Head: Japan Can’t Afford Renewable Energy, Needs Nuclear when I realized I had generated enough material for an article.

Although not a single talking point in the comment I addressed is novel (few thoughts are), and not a single footnote to a source was proffered, the comment serves a larger purpose by providing me an opportunity to express some critical thought.

I don’t want the commenter to feel singled out and welcome him to continue to participate, but I would also like to suggest that he take the time to provide links to sources so the audience knows who the originators of the talking points are and so they can assess the quality of the sources of the information he passes along. I know of one site that does not allow unsourced comment. I don’t think this is necessarily a good idea because it has a tendency to spill over into censorship. They do this in an attempt to keep the comment field from becoming a come-one-come-all liar’s club (although most people are inadvertently passing along information they don’t realize — or care — is bunk).

Here is the link to my comments.

Also, here is a similar article titled Green energy to hit Germans’ bills.

What labels would you choose for yourself?

  1. Renewable Energy Advocate
  2. Nuclear Energy Advocate
  3. Renewable Energy Denier
  4. Nuclear Energy Denier

I would choose labels 1 and 2. I used the term “denier” in my title only to make a point. I don’t know who first applied the term “denier” to global warming skeptics but I have never used the term quite simply because it is hateful. I’ve also seen the terms “green energy denier” and “Chernobyl denier” used (see Radioactive Wolves!).

Global warming skeptics are not in any way analogous to the nut jobs who deny the Holocaust or the AIDS epidemic as the term is meant to insinuate. From Wikitionary:

Person who denies something.
Holocaust denier (see Wikipedia:Holocaust denial)
Global warming denier (see Wikipedia:Global warming denial)
AIDS denier (see Wikipedia:AIDS denial)

The renewables verses nuclear debate is disingenuous (and usually dishonest as well). The two energy sources are not mutually exclusive. Renewables should be viewed as an alternative to fossil fuels, not nuclear. Read The Nuclear Enhanced Renewable Grid (NERG) and Reframing Nuclear Power as an Ally of Renewable Energy.

As usual, environmental journalist George Monbiot is ahead of the curve on this issue. In a letter he penned to David Cameron earlier this year countering the letter sent “by four former directors of Friends of the Earth” Monbiot says:

“For nuclear and renewables, as the Climate Change Committee has rightly pointed out in numerous reports, this is not an either-or choice; we need increasing deployments of both in the UK’s energy mix in the future (see appendix 1). Thirdly, the 12 March letter focuses significantly on economics, in short, arguing that nuclear is too expensive. We would point out that even if this were true, the writers themselves would have helped make it so by devoting decades to campaigning against the technology during their tenures at Friends of the Earth. In addition, if anyone has yet invented an inexpensive low-carbon energy source, we have yet to hear about it – Friends of the Earth today campaigns vociferously in favour of the retention of the solar feed-in-tariff, which delivers perhaps the most expensive, unreliable and socially regressive electricity ever deployed anywhere. Once again, we would refer you to the Climate Change Committee, which found that nuclear was potentially the cheapest of all low-carbon options available by 2030 (appendix 2).”

  1. By notKit P on September 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I am both a nuclear and renewable energy professional since I have been paid to work on both.

     

    Since 70% of our power comes from fossil sources, there is plenty of margin for both nuclear and renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.

     

    I do have a problem with one size fits all advocates or one source should not be be considered anti-s’.

     

    An east coast nuclear advocate went on a rant against wind in the PNW. Wind in conjunction with hydroelectric is a great success in the PNW. On the other hand, you have those anti-nukes in California who think that the Southeast should not build new nukes. Wind resources are very poor in the Southeast. The choice is fossil or nukes.

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  2. By doug card on September 17, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Any comparison of fuel source cost for 2030 is almost completely worthless, since there are literally dozens of new energy source advancements already lab tested, and the potential for hundreds more by 2020 is very real.  Although these potential advancements are not close to ‘a sure thing’, some of them will surely be big advances.  There cost savings cannot be approximated, let alone be compared to other sources.  That being said, Nuclear is the more mature of the sources and the likelyhood is that it will be the same or even higher cost.  Unless we can come up with some radically new Nuclear design (Fusion), the chances are that we will have, not only a way to collect solar that is far cheaper, but also a way to store renewable energy that is far cheaper.  I think we can get a solar electricity source down to .07 per watt or even lower.  Nuclear, on the other hand, cannot avoid an increase in cost to build/run - possibly as high as .10 or even .12 per watt (including cost of disposal) without Fusion. 

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    • By Russ Finley on September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Doug,

      Nuclear is the more mature of the sources and the likelyhood is that it will be the same or even higher cost.

      The price paid by consumers for electricity generated by nuclear is very cost competitive. The goal is to get the price paid by consumers for wind and solar as low as it is for nuclear.

      Unless we can come up with some radically new Nuclear design (Fusion), the chances are that we will have, not only a way to collect solar that is far cheaper, but also a way to store renewable energy that is far cheaper.

      I suppose that depends on your definition of radical. The small modular reactors being pushed by the department of energy are not technically radical. Certainly, standardized designs from (unfortunately) other countries would also radically reduce  upfront costs to build, amortized operating costs are already competitive.

      Most of the cost of collecting solar is in the installation and grid improvements to deal with its dispersed and intermittent nature. Even if the panels were free, solar is expensive. And cheaper ways to store energy would enhance nuclear as much as it would wind and solar, but isn’t likely to arrive in a timely manner.

      I think we can get a solar electricity source down to .07 per watt or even lower.  Nuclear, on the other hand, cannot avoid an increase in cost to build/run - possibly as high as .10 or even .12 per watt (including cost of disposal) without Fusion.

      The latest report from the NREL suggests we will only get about 15% of our electric power from solar by 2050 in their 80% renewable scenario, so, apparently, they don’t see it the same way as you.  Understand that this is not about nuclear verses wind and solar. Trying to use wind and solar for baseload will be prohibitively expensive. We need both, which was the gist of this article.

       

       

       

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    • By Optimist on October 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      …get a solar electricity source down to .07 per watt or even lower.

      Sounds might expensive. You must mean $0.07/kWh…

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  3. By Robert Hargraves on September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    “Renewables” is a catch-all word for power from hydro, solar, wind, biofuels, and some bit players. It’s best to treat them independently. Except for hydro, they are too expensive, by a factor of 4. We delude ourselves by looking at costs after subsidies. A new book compares the documented true costs of coal, natural gas, hydro, wind, solar, biofuels, and nuclear power. It concludes that the only way to end energy poverty in the developing world and also check CO2 emissions is with energy cheaper than coal — dissuading nations from burning fossil fuels — in their economic self-interest. THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal is described at http://www.thoriumenergycheaperthancoal.com 

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  4. By notKit P on September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    @Doug

     

    Nuclear is used for base load power so costs are compared with coal.  Solar provides power during the day and costs should be compared the cost of making power for load following.  Nuclear and solar do not compete in the market place.    

     

    @Professor Hargraves

     

    Wind, biomass, and geothermal are in the same ballpark as coal and NG.  Just for the record, the ‘true’ cost of making power is what the PUC lets you pass on to the customers plus profit.  Unless you have not coal, and no one will sell you uranium; no one who builds and operates power plants cares about thorium. 

     

    Poverty in the third world is not caused by lack of power or energy but lack of power is a symptom of the underlying causes of poverty.  If you do not use a lot of power it does not matter if it comes from coal.  As a country emerges from poverty and replaces cooking with coal with cooking with electricity made from coal, then it may be ready for nuclear assuming the an independent and competent regulatory agency exists. 

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    • By Justin Muhly on September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      “no one who builds and operates power plants cares about thorium.  ”

      You will note that this is not, actually, a legit argument against it. It’s also missing the word “currently” between “who” and “builds”. This is like saying “no one who currently builds and operates a coal plant cares about renewables”.

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  5. By notKit P on September 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    “This is like saying “no one who currently builds and operates a coal plant cares about renewables”.”

     

    Not at all!  Duke Energy is building coal plants and a leader renewable energy too.  The newest coal plant where I live is co-fueled with biomass.

     

    Every company in the power industry that I have worked for has been a leader in some segment of the power industry.  I have worked on renewable energy and won 3 contracts by finding others at utilities that cared about renewable energy to invest in feasibility studies.  They were slightly more expensive at the time than fossil alternatives.   

     

    I can point to lots of affordable examples of renewable energy that produce electricity within the ranged of fossil generation.  What people ‘currently’ do, does matter. 

     

    My point is that existing renewable energy and uranium based nuclear are both affordable options.  There is no basis for comparing economic projections for existing commercial energy sources to options that are far from mainstream like wave power or thorium.   

     

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  6. By Ray Alfini on December 17, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Please amortize the cost of building, insuring, commissioning and operating a nuclear waste long term storage facility into the KWh cost. Then you Nuclear Advocates would have more credibility.

     

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  7. By Russ Finley on December 18, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Already taken care of:

    “The Nuclear Waste Fund receives almost $750 million in fee revenues each year and has an unspent balance of $25 billion. However (according to the Draft Report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future), actions by both Congress and the Executive Branch have made the money in the fund effectively inaccessible to serving its original purpose.”

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Waste_Policy_Act

    We can thank the anti-nuclear gang for all the waste still stored on site, like in Fukushima.

     

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  8. By notKit P on December 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    “Please amortize the cost of …”

     

    The average cost of producing power in the US is well established so I think the question is rhetorical.

    For base load power nukes have the lowest O&M cost (includes insuring, decommissioning, and spent fuel storage) at under 2 cents per kwh.

     

    Building & commissioning any kind of power plant is very expensive and then there is the delivered fuel costs. The problem is predicting the future which is easy to do as long as you have a think skin and do not mind all those who do not do anything explaining how you should have done it.

    Having said that, the levelized costs are around 6 cents per kwh. I would not expect that very many new nukes will get built next to a coal strip mine or some place with stranded natural gas.

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