Groups fighting nuclear energy and advocating industrial wind and solar are not environmentalists!

Another Environmentalist for Nuclear energy

Another Environmentalist for Nuclear energy

I’m mad as hell and I don’t want to take it any more. Groups that fight any and all use of nuclear energy and also spend time advocating for the increased use of massive, industrial scale energy collectors on undeveloped, virgin land should NEVER be called “environmental groups”. I am not saying that the groups are full of bad people, I am saying that the “environmental” label is contradicted by the facts.

People who care about the natural environment should seek ways of living that use less material and create less of a footprint on that environment. If they still love humanity and love his creations, they should also want to provide sufficient energy to do the work that allows more people to live with a light footprint.

Uranium and thorium are roughly two million times more energy dense than the nearest competitor; they provide the capability of producing a massive quantity of power per unit of material input. Even using our rather primitive 1950s vintage design concepts, a complete nuclear power plant will require between 1/6th and 1/10th as much construction material as a wind installation that can produce the same amount of energy. The routine need for more fuel is limited to a few truckloads every 18-24 months.

Building and operating wind and solar collectors that are far from any human habitation – industrial scale versions of those energy sources are often located in deserts, on mountain tops or in oceans – requires lengthy transmission paths and a continuing transportation burden associated with maintenance and repair.

Nuclear plants can be located wherever they are needed; the traditional requirements for low population zones near the plant are a legacy from a time when we did not know how safe they could be. Even under that obsolete thinking, 55 years worth of operating nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers has proven that it is pretty darned safe to live within a few hundred feet of an operating nuclear power plant.

Bottom line; if you like clean air, clean water, and open spaces that are not filled with intrusive, enormous, man-made devices like square miles full of solar panels or wind turbines on 100 meter tall towers on deep, massive foundations with blades that sweep through the air at several hundred miles per hour at the blade tip, you should fight FOR nuclear energy and against industrial scale wind and solar. Stop campaigning on the silly notion that carefully engineered, constructed and maintained buildings and equipment that are even younger than I am are “too old” to be considered for the important environmental concepts of recycle, repair, restore and reuse. If you don’t follow this advice and decide not to do everything in your power to protect the natural environment for whatever reasons you might have, at least be honest and stop calling yourself an environmentalist.

Actually, I suppose my real targets for this post are other writers. No matter what other people label themselves, you have the ability to apply the truth. Stop calling groups that continue to do everything in their power to both obstruct the construction of new nuclear power plants AND hasten the abandonment of already completed and operating nuclear plants “environmental groups”, especially if they also reveal their true colors by actively promoting ridge line development and desert destruction so they can build their ugly, intrusive collection systems.

My preferred terms are anti nuclear and/or wind advocacy groups. (Actually, I sometimes like to get under their skin and accurately tag their preferred power sources as “unreliables”.)

About Rod Adams

103 Responses to “Groups fighting nuclear energy and advocating industrial wind and solar are not environmentalists!”

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  1. Josh says:

    The people who label themselves environmentalists are doomed by their own folly. Its time for an overview of what green should mean and Rod has nailed it. The most environmental source should be the one with the highest flux density and hence the least resource intensive. Germany’s decision to do away with its nuclear capability will amount to environmental vandalism and threatens its productivity with deindustrialisation.

    • donb says:

      Josh wrote:
      Germany’s decision to do away with its nuclear capability will amount to environmental vandalism and threatens its productivity with deindustrialisation.

      Morgenthau must be spinning in his grave. His plan to deindustrialize Germany after WWII was not put into action. But now nearly 70 years later, the Germans themselves seem determined to implement it.

      • George Carty says:

        And Erich Honecker must be laughing in Hell, as Germany turns itself into a gas-powered puppet state of Russia…

        • Bas says:

          Germany ‘s peak consumption of electricity is ~60GW.
          Germany ‘s windmill + solar peak capacity now is:~60GW
          Germany ‘s other endurable (biomass, geothermic, hydro) now: ~10GW
          Expansion of solar and wind >10GW/year…

          Nuclear to be phased out totally at 2022.
          Discussed target to phase out all conventional (coal, gas, oil) power plants ~2050.
          Broad support of the population (~85%) for this energy revolution!
          Germany exports electricity…

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Bas

            Of course Germany “exports electricity”. There are times when its huge capacity of uncontrollable power sources are all producing more than the demand and the power has to go somewhere. Not surprisingly, there are some neighboring countries that are installing circuit breakers to protect themselves from the unwanted power that is dumped on them and destabilizing their grids.

            http://www.icis.com/heren/articles/2012/01/10/9522379/czech-tso-warns-electricity-grid-overloads-spiked-in.html

            Not surprisingly, Germany also imports electricity, often at times when its neighbors’s demands are also elevated, leading to a situation where Germany has to pay higher than average market prices. Since its exports often come at times of low demand, I would love to see some honest accounting to show what the revenue balance is, not just the energy balance.

            I suspect German ratepayer and taxpayer support is fragile and will turn as the truth about the situation overcomes the propaganda that has been supplies so far.

          • Cyril R. says:

            Germany ‘s peak consumption of electricity is ~60GW.
            Germany ‘s windmill + solar peak capacity now is:~60GW

            Wrong. Germany’s average consumption is near 60 GWe.

            Germany’s peak wind and solar is near 60 GWe.

            Yet it delivers only a fraction of Germany’s electricity.

            Why doesn’t this raise a major red flag to Bas? It should.

            Renewables enthusiasts need to stop inflate the debate with their peak solar and wind watts. Solar watts produce at 9% capacity in Germany. Wind watts produce at maybe 16%.

            Directly comparing solar and nuclear is not fair. It is overstating the solar side by almost a factor of 10. That’s such a large factor, it inflates the debate about solar versus nuclear by many “experts” on “renewable energy” and “energy policy”. (end of sarcasm).

            End of rant.

          • Cyril R. says:

            As a reference case to what dishonesty and propaganda are being spread by Bas here, let’s take a closer look at Germany’s solar panels. There’s a nice site that keeps track of the total PV production in Germany.

            http://www.sma.de/en/company/pv-electricity-produced-in-germany.html

            Currently there are 32 GWe peak solar PV installed. At noon it produced a peak of 0.7 GWe. About 2% of total installed capacity.

            In a few hours this output will drop to zero, even though it is still mid day. The output is already declining at 2 pm, in the middle of the day!

            I’m having trouble describing this sort of performance, or actually nonexistent performance. It’s abysmal. This energy source is faux. Fake. A dud. Pretty shiny panels doing next to nothing. It’s just not there 99% of the time when it’s needed most (in winter when its cold and dark and Germany’s electricity demand peaks).

          • H. P. Horeis says:

            For the large actual contribution of wind and solar to Germany’s electric power consumption, see here:

            http://www.transparency.eex.com/en/Statutory%20Publication%20Requirements%20of%20the%20Transmission%20System%20Operators

            The tiny green spot on the tip of the bars is wind’s contribution. No solar. This has been going like this for almost two weeks now. If we had to rely on the 50 GW wind and solar capacity, the country would be in shambles by now. Thanks to coal and nuclear, we still exist. I am not so confident whether this will be the case in 2050.

    • EL says:

      Deindustralization? Perhaps you should consider the impact of renewables, built environment, and Energiewende on one of Germany’s largest industrial cities, Hamburg.

      A trip across Hamburg is like visiting the launch pad of Germany’s renewable energy revolution, or Energiewende. Planners call it the “built environment,” a term that includes buildings, parks and the transportation system that connects them. How a city handles these ho-hum elements determines everything from energy usage to greenhouse gas emissions to the quality of life enjoyed by residents.

      Ninety-nine percent of Hamburg residents live within 300 meters (328 yards) of a rail or bus stop … Germans use public transport at nearly six times the rate of Americans … [HafenCity] Europe’s largest—and greenest—inner-city development [creating 45,000 permanent jobs, doubling city's urban-core area, headquarters to Unilever] … [Germany ranks three in infrastructure quality] … the city’s green spaces bring nature within reach of just about everyone, every day. Nearly 90 percent of Hamburgers live within 328 yards of one of the city’s 1,460 small-to medium-size parks, a system that attracts a million visits a week.

      German industry is exempt from clean energy surcharges. As a result of renewables, they have seen some 18% decrease in electricity costs.. Germany is a net-electricity exporter (and will likely remain so), has one of the most reliable grids in Europe, and recently announced a massive expansion of transmission infrastructure (intended to minimize electricity imports, and maximize renewable development, particularly offshore wind capacity to replace lost capacity from nuclear phase-out). And contrary to some reports, over the long run, Germany is not expanding coal but replacing older plants with newer and more efficient plants. The new BoA coal plant near Cologne is 43% efficient, and “can raise or lower output by 500 megawatts per unit within 15 minutes.” They are already on target to meet their carbon reduction goals, and even raised them recently. Perhaps over the long run, they also envision replacing natural gas with energy storage (minimizing imports from Russia and maximizing research and development of German energy storage technologies and patents).

      Energy investments always involve risk, there are many pros and cons (and no perfect solution), but I don’t count deindustrialization as a credible risk for German energy investments. In fact, the opposite appears to be taking place (and a re-industrialization around dominant public goals of jobs, technology advancement, global competitiveness, green space, livable cities, convenience, renewables, carbon reduction goals and targets, energy efficiency and conservation, and sharing costs between industry and consumers).

      • Joris van Dorp says:

        “German industry is exempt from clean energy surcharges. As a result of renewables, they have seen some 18% decrease in electricity costs.”

        That is because the costs of renewables are born by German citizens. If they continue this policy, electricity costs will reach 1 €/kWh for German households. Obviously, this is not politically feasible. Therefore, sooner or later German Industry will have to start paying their share. German industry is anticipating this, which is why large firms are already starting to move heavy industry to neighbouring countries, but also to the USA.

        “They are already on target to meet their carbon reduction goals, and even raised them recently.”

        They have a long way to go to reach France’s performance in terms of CO2/GDP. Carbon reduction goals are relative goals. In absolute terms, they (still) have a poor CO2 performance. Closing their nuclear plants doesn’t help. De-industrialisation does help, since importing embedded CO2 emissions allows them to achieve so-called co2 reduction targets. Of course, it doesn’t help the planet. The planet is not impressed by politically motivated co2 accounting tricks such as the Kyoto protocol. The planet is governed by physics, not politics.

        “I don’t count deindustrialization as a credible risk for German energy investments.”

        Then you have a different opinion than Gunther Oettinger, EU Energy Commissioner, who stated last year that Germany *is* in fact de-industrialising due to its energy policy. This de-industrialisation causes capital destruction and the movement of productive capacity to countries with (even) more polluting energy systems than the German system. Any country that is serious about protecting the planet should be reducing co2 emissions *and* increasing industrialisation. Germany is not doing that. It is just performing accounting tricks.

        Note that Angela Merkel actually stated that European CO2 emissions will not be worsened by the nuclear phaseout of Germany *because* the ETS system puts a cap on total European CO2 emissions. In other words: while Germany’s CO2 production most certainly will increase due to the phaseout, as compared to maintaining nuclear capacity, other European countries will (be forced to) reduce their emissions within the framework of the ETS.

        It is all nothing but accounting tricks.

        • EL says:

          Joris van Dorp wrote: “Then you have a different opinion than Gunther Oettinger, EU Energy Commissioner, who stated last year that Germany *is* in fact de-industrialising due to its energy policy.”

          Do you have a source for this?

          Oettinger doesn’t want a EU target above 20% (to prevent movement of heavy industry to Asia), and argues for a “strategy for the re-industrialization of Europe.” Anything above this level, he argues, would require international agreements. After the hottest year on record, rising hurricane incidence, multi year droughts in important agricultural regions, etc., you seem to think such agreements are unlikely or impossible by 2030 (or less optimistically by 2050).

          http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/16/us-europe-oettinger-industry-idUSBRE86F06S20120716

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/feb/10/hopes-greenhouse-emissions-cuts-dashed

          Joris van Dorp wrote: “That is because the costs of renewables are born by German citizens.”

          Public polling is still very high on nuclear phase out (72%), shift to renewables (as high as 93% in some polls), and higher costs (79% approval in some polls). Some even believe the costs are too low. High costs are also mitigated by lower electricity use (and broader efficiency and conservation efforts).

          http://www.unendlich-viel-energie.de/de/panorama/akzeptanz-erneuerbarer-energien.html

          http://phys.org/news/2012-10-poll-germans-nuke-exit-bill.html

          Joris van Dorp wrote: “In absolute terms, they (still) have a poor CO2 performance.”

          That’s true. But don’t they have a plan to address this, and haven’t they already achieved measurable results, and maintained strong economic position and global competitiveness in the process? 40% of 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050 will bring carbon emissions well below French levels. Is there a reason why you want to take current levels and assume these will be normative in the future (or that German’s don’t have a track record in meeting their targets).

          Cyril R. wrote: “You can’t power a modern industrialized country at 50 degrees from the equator with solar panels”

          I wasn’t aware they were trying to power a modern industrialized economy with 100% solar panels?

          Cyril R. wrote: “You can of course obscure truth and conflate facts and science and religion as much as you can, and EL has done this, and Germany at large has bought into the scam”

          What does religion have to do with anything?

          • Josh says:

            “What does religion have to do with anything?”

            Why everything! Environmentalism has become a religion in its own right, not something based on facts.

            Generalised feel-good arguments about so-called renewable energy (which are in fact not renewable and have a highly questionable environmental footprint) do notamount to a solution.

            Germany is not well placed, geographically, in regard to either solar or wind power and don’t contribute to steady base power supply. Just the opposite is true.

            “Germany is a net electricity exporter (and will likely remain so”

            The usual cherry picking. That Germany is exporting power is now rarely the case, as an honest assessment of the situation reveals. In recent years they have imported record amounts of electrici4y from most neighbouring countries and will increase imports of Russian gas (hardly an invitng prospect).

            Re: Hamburg
            Last February, Hamburg was on the verge of a blackout and had to order factories to power down in order thst citizens would have sufficient power supplies. Incidents like these coupled with an ever increasing incidence of voltage fluctuations are challenging the basis of these companies operating in Germany.

          • EL says:

            Josh wrote: “Why everything! Environmentalism has become a religion in its own right, not something based on facts.”

            So you don’t think there are engineers and scientists (as well as economists and private sector business investors) who have done their fair due diligence on this, and aren’t involved in resource planning, scientific modeling, and technical analysis of the German energy system (in short and long term perspectives)?

            How then do you explain the reputation that Germans have for scientific and technological excellence (in academic, applied, and advanced engineering fields). Are you suggesting that some coup has taken place at the highest levels of government (unbeknownst to the German people), and Germans have left their scientific and technological experience behind the door? Or maybe corruption is ruling the roost (and secret deals with Russia, who the Germans have no fondness for) are taking place, and all that is left is for Merkel to abscond with her billions to some secrete mountain hideaway in Argentina? I don’t get it, conspiracy theories (many involving religious underpinnings) are a funny thing (aren’t they)?

            Josh wrote: “Last February, Hamburg was on the verge of a blackout and had to order factories to power down in order thst citizens would have sufficient power supplies.”

            [url=http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/instability-in-power-grid-comes-at-high-cost-for-german-industry-a-850419.html][color=#0000FF]Not really[/color][/url]. But renewables have expanded rapidly, and T&D expansion (overdue by decades due to permitting delays) have not kept up the pace. Which is why German engineering and technical specialists have carefully examined the engineering and scientific basis for continued grid operation and reliability, and have proposed a massive 10 year expansion plan.

            “I don’t expect we will see widespread power outages,” said Loeschel, who also chairs the government’s energy commission. “Doubts about supply security, however, are enough to damage the acceptance of the energy switch.”

            Comparable to Loeschel, all I (and perhaps others) see is FUD ruling the roost (and a lot of technical and engineering specialists working on big and complicated problems and solutions).

          • Cyril R. says:

            EL wrote:

            I wasn’t aware they were trying to power a modern industrialized economy with 100% solar panels?

            This is exactly the kind of pedantic deconstructive answer I have become used to receiving from renewables enthusiasts.

            In stead of coming up with a detailed numbers based plan that works, both technically and economically, EL comes up with a snide and unintelligent remark that Germany isn’t trying to power the country on solar panels.

            OH REALLY?

            Pay attention, EL. They are planning on powering their country with fossil fuel indefinately. That’s what we’re all worried about. And it’s why they have to come up with a plan close to 100% of power needs. Nuclear can easily get close to 100%, proven by France. Any contender would have to be able to do the same, or it’s a steel plasma-cutter to butterknife comparison.

            Currently they have no such plan. They have a plan for new coal plants and lots more natural gas from Russia and Libya. Great plan.

            Pro renewables enthusiasts like EL are a very positive bunch, at least about their pet peeve technologies wind and solar. That’s good. But they have to stop dreaming and start with a plan that adds up, both technicall and economically. Yes, we can power cars on 40 year old Scotch whiskey, but it won’t be economical. Yes, we can fill every basement with batteries to store otherwise unreliable power, but the cost is so great we simply won’t do that.

            Come up with a plan that works. I challenge you EL.

          • EL says:

            Cyril R. wrote: “Come up with a plan that works. I challenge you EL.

            The Technology Path to Deep Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts by 2050: The Pivotal Role of Electricity,” Science, 335 (6064):53-59.

            And for many smaller jurisdictions and municipalities, many have already made significant gains.

            “A network of 100% RE regions in Germany has 74 regions and municipalities that have already reached 100% renewable energy.”

            Studies by the scientific advisory board to German Government (the Sachverständigenrat für Umweltfragen, SRU), Kombikraftwerk, and others, I think you are familiar with (meeting all regulatory standards for reliability, and with little or no use of baseload).

            You seem to have an unshakable faith in engineering to solve all problems having to do with nuclear, advanced reactor concepts, risk management, waste recycling (on a cost effective basis), and more … but lose your scientific, technological, and engineering imagination and creative problem solving when it comes to other energy technologies?

            Nobody said additional research and development aren’t going to be needed to meet long term resource planning and carbon reduction goals without the convenience of very low cost (at the moment) fossil fuels. The question is whether you think this is a permanent technological or market condition, or whether something like energy storage (on a cost effective basis), market design, and the rising cost of fossil fuels (and low public acceptance of nuclear) are going to make a substantive difference. If so, why not act sooner rather than later. Private markets and investors have shown a willingness to invest in the stuff (and build it very quickly). So let’s get busy … and let’s start hiring lots of engineers and technology specialists (and policy experts and educators, no less) and get out ahead of the curve.

            Alternatively, we can wait long enough for fossil fuel prices to rise so that most of the work gets done for us … but this is pretty cynical, and suggests we can’t agree on what is good for our communities, markets, environment, and our infrastructure needs for sustainable, cost effective, and long term economic growth (including meeting many of the needs of energy poverty, resource conservation, and balanced growth in the developing world … where advanced technological solutions such as nuclear are unlikely or impractical in the short run, and for a variety of very important reasons).

          • Rod Adams says:

            Nobody said additional research and development aren’t going to be needed to meet long term resource planning and carbon reduction goals without the convenience of very low cost (at the moment) fossil fuels.

            That exposes a huge difference between you and me. I think that current fossil fuels are quite expensive – with the momentary exception of the artificially low priced natural gas that is available in North America. Even that is at least 4 times as expensive per unit of energy released than commercial nuclear fuel.

            There are billions of people on this planent who do not have access to enough energy. We are not going to solve that problem by making energy that is more expensive. Conservation will not help someone who already does not use any energy to speak of.

          • EL says:

            Rod Adams wrote: “I think that current fossil fuels are quite expensive – with the momentary exception of the artificially low priced natural gas that is available in North America. Even that is at least 4 times as expensive per unit of energy released than commercial nuclear fuel.”

            MIT has the [url=http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/pdf/nuclearpower-update2009.pdf][color=#0000FF]cost of nuclear around 8.4 c/kWh[/color][/url]. And what happens to this cost structure if we operate plants on anything less than a baseload basis (as moderately flexible power pants). I know you would like to see NPPs at very long operating lifetimes (60 years or more). Engineers may get excited about this, but operators, general public, and regulators (not so much). And many advanced reactor models have much shorter operating lifetimes, and additional concerns with the cost effectiveness of fuel recycling, start-up inventories, O&M requirements, and more. I would be interested to hear more about how this cost advantage of nuclear will improve over time? Because all I see are rising costs (pushing the level of $6,000/kWe).

            I know, I know, many people think regulation is entirely to blame. So too with fossil fuels, and so too with coal plants, unconventional natural gas, arctic exploration, auto manufacturing (mileage and emissions standards), and a great deal more. They all have inherent safety concerns, industry developed best practices (which are very costly to implement), and public relations and public liability concerns … and none of these typically improve with less regulation or a less active regulator (to my mind at least). So while cost curves are increasing for nuclear and fossil fuels, they are decreasing for other competitive low carbon technologies. While I understand that no generation technology is perfect, I do believe it’s pretty easy to see the costs/benefits written on the wall (in the short and long term). At least as concerns the next 15 to 30 years. All that remains is for people to make their bets, seek out new opportunities (when they can), do our best to advance the cause of evidence and interest based public policy and international agreements, and see how it all shakes out (with some maintaining their competitive advantage going forward, and others falling behind because of resistance to change, vested interests writing the rules, and adherence to the status quo).

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            EL (who still hasn’t clued to the HTML at the bottom of the comment box and tries to enter BBcode) wrote:

            You seem to have an unshakable faith in engineering to solve all problems

            It’s no leap of faith to assume that problems already solved will remain so.  Did you even read the Science paper you linked?  Let me give you a quote from page 4:

            Not only must these technologies and systems be commercially ready, they must also be deployed in a coordinated fashion to achieve their hoped-for emission reduction benefits at acceptable cost. For example, switching from fuels to electricity before the grid is substantially decarbonized negates the emissions benefits of electrification; large-scale deployment of electric vehicles without smart charging will reduce utility load factors and increase electricity costs;

            The only one of these technologies which has been commercially ready (albeit politically hamstrung) for the last 40 years is nuclear; none of the others have the full suite of technological advances required to meet base load.

            The paper specifically mentions nuclear power on the right side of that page.  There are many opportunities for nuclear power costs to be cut, starting with a re-write of limits, regulations and procedures and a whole lot of work on technologies quashed by politics, including molten-salt reactors and metal-fuelled LMFBRs.

            “A network of 100% RE regions in Germany has 74 regions and municipalities that have already reached 100% renewable energy.”

            Things that I didn’t find near that claim are anything to indicate if (a) those regions meet all need for generation, not just net zero or positive electric generation, and (b) if the sites, population densities, etc. can be generalized to even one whole EU country, let alone the world.  After all, if you pick one Iowa cattle-farming operation which digests its manure for biogas, you can show an amazing positive electrical energy balance while it is still massively dependent upon fossil inputs (as remote as ammonia from Qatari natural gas).  This is a fair but skeptical audience; you’ll have to provide evidence, not preaching.

            The question is whether you think this is a permanent technological or market condition, or whether something like energy storage (on a cost effective basis), market design, and the rising cost of fossil fuels (and low public acceptance of nuclear) are going to make a substantive difference. If so, why not act sooner rather than later.

            You do know what Rod’s day job is, don’t you?  He’s walking the walk, what are YOU doing?

      • jmdesp says:

        Coal and Lignite plants should be closed, not replaced by newer more efficient one.
        Building a new coal plant means that either you will run it for the next *40* *years*, or you have just done something economically stupid. How will what is more or less decent today look 40 years from now ?

        Even at 43% efficiency, BoA still both is much lower than the 60% combined cycle can reach, and foremost uses a raw material that releases a lot more carbon and pollutants per ton. It’s exploitation in huge scale open pit mining causes massive environment and water table destruction. The ability to vary fast means that Germans have no intent to later switch to significantly better, but a lot more expensive to import, gas later. The CO2 balance sheet of wind turbine power production balanced by this kind of plant is awful.

        The path things are going in Germany demonstrates the purpose is to lower the import of raw energy materials, and to focus on locally produced lignite and wind power, but certainly not to actually reduce the CO2 emissions. The level of CO2 reduction in the electric sector will therefore be little more than hand waving.

        You should realize that France that already has very little coal is going to close 4.9 GW in the next 4 years, leaving only 2GW of coal capacity for the whole country (see http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lemonde.fr%2Feconomie%2Farticle%2F2012%2F10%2F16%2Fl-avenir-noir-des-centrales-au-charbon_1775839_3234.html ). This past December, coal plants have been *closed* for most of the month just right in the middle of winter, temperature was higher than usual, wind had unusually high production, we just didn’t need them.
        Since we are late at building new nuclear plant, it means tha a significant part of the missing power will very likely come from CCGT. But it’s at least better than coal on a pollution point of view, even if it’s more or more convincing it doesn’t have a lot of impact on the greenhouse effect front.

      • Cyril R. says:

        Of course Germany has a reliable grid and is a net electricity exporter – they’ve got plenty of reliable baseload and too much unreliables that are not needed at all but are forced down their throat by a regulation that all solar and wind must be bought even if there’s no demand for electricity. That’s also why Germany dumps excess PV in summer noon and excess wind power intermittently on other markets, at rates several times lower than the subsidy they’ve paid for it!!!

        This is all crazy. It is not good, like EL wants us to believe. But EL is another one of those renewables crazies that don’t face facts, just cherry pick and distort data to their liking.

      • Cyril R. says:

        Perhaps EL would come to explain to us simple folks how Germany will power its industry with solar panels in winter. When they – the solar panels that is – are not producing 99% of the time. Yet Germany’s energy demand peaks in winter.

        You can’t power a modern industrialized country at 50 degrees from the equator with solar panels. You just can’t, because the power isn’t there most of the time, and modern industrialized countries need a suprisingly steady energy flow. You can certainly try, and like Germany, end up using mostly fossil fuels for “backup” (the energy understatement of the century). You can of course obscure truth and conflate facts and science and religion as much as you can, and EL has done this, and Germany at large has bought into the scam.

    • Albert Rogers says:

      “The people who label themselves environmentalists are doomed by their own folly”
      Well, most of them. I call myself an environmentalist, have done so for years. What worries me is whether Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and others that I supported when they were anti-nuclear-weapons, have doomed both the vertebrates and the corals of this planet by their folly.

      Here’s a nice fact: TVA’s Watts Bar reactors have a design feature that enables them to supply the Defense Department with tritium to maintain our thermonuclear weapons portfolio. Yet the Clinton administration, and even then Senator Kerry, demolished the funding for the IFR on account of the fact that it produces plutonium, ignoring the fact that it consumes plutonium more effectively than PWRs.
      Is that hypocrisy?

  2. Cyril R. says:

    Fully agree with you Rod. These groups are not about environmental science or facing the hard numbers of the big picture. They are about beliefs and ideology. Wind and solar are Good, nuclear and GMO are Bad. Any facts that support this belief will be used. Any facts that don’t support it will be omitted or ridiculed, or perverted to half-truths. Anything that fits the belief will be accepted. The belief may never be questioned in any scientific way, lest one risk excummunication. This has happened with George Monbiot and Mark Lynas, among others.

    Wind and solar indeed use large areas, taking up ecosystem space, and use large amounts of mined commodities (mining of any type has a significant impact on the environment).

    Even worse, the wind and solar generators can’t power a country even if we didn’t care about the large ecosystem footprint and large mined materials usage.

    These energy sources are not there most of the time. Solar advocates state that the sun provides thousands of times more energy than we need. That may be true, but it cleverly distracts from the real issue, which is that the sun and the wind aren’t there most of the time. It’s not just how much energy is available over a year, it’s when that energy is available. Most industrialized countries have anti-correlation of energy demand to solar output.

    Solar advocates and clueless journalist report about peak-watts. X watts of PV has been installed, blah blah. They are overestimating production by a factor of 5 to 10, as PV has only 10 to 20% capacity factor. In my country it is not sunny, most installations would be happy to get 10% capacity. That means 1000 Watts of PV delivers an average of only 100 Watts.

    Few people seem to realise the consequences of this. It means you can’t power a country with these energy sources. You can force to try as Germany did, and end up with multiple kWhs of fossil fuel “backup” being necessary for every kWh of wind and solar.

    The word “backup” is an energy understatement of the century. Again a clever wording invented by the “environmentalists” meant to trivialise the problem. Backup suggests a little bit of backup and a lot of the main thing. Reality is the reverse, something like 2 to 4 kWhs of fossil fuel for every renewable kWh.

    • Matte says:

      “They are overestimating production by a factor of 5 to 10, as PV has only 10 to 20% capacity factor.”

      Hmmmmm, figures from Germany would indicate a capacity factor for PV in the region of 7-8%. You are actually overstating their usefullness!

      For baseload production windpower have a capacity factor of 6% according to the Swedish Electricity Transmission Board (Svenska kraftnät).

      All renewables are not as bad as that, hydropower and tidal power have huge potential in various places in Europe (not sure about the US) but still limited due to environmental concerns and capacity which makes them unable to supply all our energy needs.

    • jmdesp says:

      Taking the data from a recent December day in Germany (december 5 on the EEX site) I calculated than 50% of the total daily solar power had been generated over a 2.5 hours period, 80% over a 4.5 hours period.

      Thinking that solar only generates during the day *underestimates* it’s intermittency problem. Except if you truly think you will be able to concentrate 50% of all your energy consumption over only 2h30 minutes.

      • Cyril R. says:

        Exactly. The shape of the mess can be seen from the SMA website, a solar equipment manufacturer (so they are not likely to underestimate production).

        http://www.sma.de/en/company/pv-electricity-produced-in-germany.html

        Right now the output of Germany’s 31670000000 Watts of installed capacity is generating 0 Watts, all told. Has been for hours, since 16.00 today, and will still be zero for many hours to come, till 9.00 at least.

        The average capacity factor of today, if you add up each hour’s output and divide by the amount that 31.67 GWe would have generated if full throttle (x24), was about 1%.

        And that’s perfectly normal for this time of the year.

        And even at peak, it was a pathetic 1.9 GWe (out of 31.67 GWe) or 6% of total capacity. It delivered that pathetic fraction of its installed capacity for almost 1 hour, barely from 12.15 to 13.15. After which it already declined into its wintery abyss.

        Did I mention Germany’s electricity demand peaks in winter, when its cold (heating) and dark (lighting).

        Check out some more days in winter, if you’ve got a brave heart and are not easily dismayed by science.

  3. Wayne SW says:

    The need for fossil back-up capacity is the real environment-killer for large-scale wind and solar. The vulnerability of these systems to sudden changes in the primary energy source (the wind stops blowing, or it gets cloudy) means you need quick-start capability for fairly hefty amounts of baseload supply. That means gas turbines. Reliance on wind power builds in a structural requirement to burn more natural gas. Natural gas is mostly methane, and methane is a terrible, terrible greenhouse gas. These supposed “environmentalists” are typically fervent believers in the climate change mantra, and if they are, they are no friend of the environment if they propose anything that results in increased use of natural gas, which harms the biosphere much more than any kind of nuclear use ever would. Just the fugitive emissions from natural gas extraction dwarf the lifecycle carbon footprint of nuclear.

  4. Peter Geany says:

    Right on Rod. I share your outrage, and also like the word unreliables. If the “environmental” movement can change the language then so can we. Bio fuels are my pet hate as they use prime agricultural land forcing food production into the margins where it cost more. Bio ethanol would never be produced in the US or Europe if it were not for subsidies and in the case of Europe a mandating that all automotive fuel must be 5% bio fuel. Coal fired power stations are being converted to burn Biomass which they call a “renewable” but in reality will pollute more than the coal it replaces

    But all this nonsense could be avoided if we truly embraced nuclear.

    Rod I think we are making progress, the key question is, do you invest in converting the current crop of stupid people to the benefits of nuclear, or do we take a longer term view and start again with the generation just leaving school. Too many of the current establishment have their fingers in the green morass to change them. That all these schemes will fail is not in doubt. But education and a change in politics is going to be needed. This will take time and the critical question is, where do we start?

  5. John Tucker says:

    It is false advertising for those groups to even use the term “environmentalists.” Germany is not an environmentally friendly nation despite all the PR effort either.

    • Cyril R. says:

      Indeed, Germany is the world’s biggest user of brown coal. The dirtiest type of coal if you must know. Germany uses more dirty brown coal than even China.

      Hush hush. Don’t tell. See those shiny solar panels? Aren’t they beautiful and loveable? Did I mention they are shiny?

      • John Tucker says:

        And the sweet purr of endless windmills slicing up the sky. Look at them occasionally turn so happily, no no wait look at the ones the birds are not flying into.

    • John Tucker says:

      Not to say people are not making money/profiting on it somehow:

      Cumulus Hedge Fund Jumped 39% in December on German Power Wagers

      Germany seeks to generate more than a third of its electricity from renewables as the country exits nuclear energy. Utilities including EON SE and RWE AG (RWE) may prefer to pay users rather than halt fossil fuel-fed plants when turbines and solar cells push power supply above demand. ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-08/cumulus-hedge-fund-jumped-39-in-december-on-german-power-wagers.html )

      I think that would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so sad. The three or so hours on the days it occasionally works that that occurs. You couldn’t make this stuff up. There isn’t even anything close to a real market there anymore either.

      • John Tucker says:

        Everyone (myself included) automatically assumed they were powering down fossil fuel instantly as wind and solar displaced gas generation. They were obviously not. So you can add all the huge carbon investment in a infrastructure that at best only partially works even when it works. It is an environmental scandal on top of a environmental scandal all resting on a energy scandal.

        The incredibly popular 2004 – Stabilisation Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem
        for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies ( http://fire.pppl.gov/energy_socolow_081304.pdf ) that kinda poo pooed nuclear turned out to be misleading AT BEST. The dedicated are trying to recover the situation with more misinformation and calls for even more expenditure and delay IMHO ( http://summitcountyvoice.com/2013/01/08/drastic-energy-overhaul-needed-to-stop-climate-change/ ). I hope you all speak up now.

  6. Peter Geany says:

    This is a link to a demonstration of how a part of Britain has changed over the last thousand years. It illustrates that there is far more controlling our environment than CO2 which could have played no part in all this, yet it is these very changes and conditions we are ask to believe is the result of our use of hydrocarbon fuels.

    http://www.villagenet.co.uk/history/0000-romneymarsh.php

    • John Tucker says:

      yes there is a lot of stuff going on out there – but in the last 100 years we’ve some how manged to burn a significant amount of sequestered carbon.

      Independent Evidence Confirms Global Warming in Instrument Record

      In addition to their shared long-term trend, many smaller-scale features also appear in both the paleoclimate and instrument temperature records. For example, the warm interval of the 1940s in the global surface temperature record also appears in the paleoclimate record. Both records also show that the global warming in the last 15 years of the record (1980–1995) is significantly faster than that of the long-term trend (1880–1995). ( http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/independent-evidence-confirms-global-warming-instrument-record )

      There is plenty of indicators of “natural variation” however much of those are also seemingly showing a climate change signal:

      Coral Records Suggest El Nino Activity Rises Above Background

      The new coral data show that 20th century El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate cycles are significantly stronger than ENSO variations captured in the fossil corals. But the data also reveal large natural variations in past ENSO strength, making it difficult to attribute the 20th century intensification of ENSO to rising carbon dioxide levels. ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130103143106.htm )

      Regardless of what has occurred, we are left with Man-made warming to deal with now.

  7. Leslie Corrice says:

    Good stuff, Rod. The longer I know you, the more I find we have in common with respect to appropriate energy sources. On my website I call myself an “Authentic Environmentalist”. I think you qualify as the same.

    Just one nit…fossil fuels produce about 2 ev per individual oxy-reduct. reaction. Fission produces ~200 million ev. That’s a 100 million-to-one advantage. Unless, of course, I’m misinterpreting what you mean by “energy dense”.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Leslie

      Energy density is per unit mass, not per atom. Uranium is quite heavy compared to hydrocarbons.

      • Jeff S says:

        I think what you are getting at is there are a lot more atoms of carbon and hydrogen in a 1 kilogram of hyrdocarbons than there are atoms of Uranium in a kilogram of U3O8?

        Does the mass of air that is required to combust the fossil fuels get counted against the energy density? It seems like if you are going to make a very accurate comparison, you probably should, but I think when people normally talk about the energy density of fossil fuels, they normally ignore the mass of air, since that’s available everywhere on earth (well, ok, not *everywhere*, as I’m sure a former navy sub engineer can attest to)?

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Jeff S

          My calculation ignores the mass of oxygen required to combust the fossil fuels. I chose to do that for several reasons; most fuel purchasers do not have to purchase, store, or transport oxygen. It is freely available at the time that it is required. It also makes the unreasonable assumption that all of the uranium (or thorium) is eventually fissioned to produce heat.

          I have some spreadsheets somewhere in my deep archives that include provisions for purchasing, storing and transporting oxygen since I learned a great deal about energy density and its effects on design considerations as a submarine engineer officer. Sealed submarines attempting to move from one place to another rapidly need to take oxygen into account if they want to attempt to produce power without using nuclear energy. That is one of the reasons why it has been apparent to even the most casual observer and short-term money-focused budget decision maker that it would be pretty absurd to attempt to go back to diesel powered submarines for the US Navy.

          If you include O2 requirements, the energy density of uranium fission on a mass basis is about 8 million times that of oil, the most energy dense hydrocarbon. If you include storage space considerations and remember that O2 is a gas at standard temperature and pressure, you will begin to understand the even greater advantage of uranium fission.

          BTW, our submarines get substantially closer to the assumption of being able to consume all of the uranium stored on board. No further details can be provided.

      • Cyril R. says:

        Energy density is per unit mass, not per atom. Uranium is quite heavy compared to hydrocarbons.

        Energy density can be both calculated in mass and volume. Sometimes volume is more important, sometimes mass. In an aircraft, mass is more important than volume. In a submarine reactor, it needs to actually fit in a small tube, so it must have a high volumetric energy density as well as being of reasonable weight. In a power reactor, mass is not very important, but volume is. Volume determines the size of the pressure vessel, and with that the coolant volume, which in turns drives the containment size…

        If a coal power plant could buy low priced high quality coal with 50% higher volumetric energy density but 100% higher weight, they probably would.

        It’s one of the reasons why biomass plants burning straw are not very attractive; the energy density per unit weight is not too bad but the energy density per unit volume is very poor. Volume matters a lot. Some time ago I produces a number of simple images trying to convey the energy density argument:

        http://energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=2757

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Cyril R

          Good point. It is one of the reasons why natural gas has generally been considered quite inferior to oil and coal on many measures. Since it is naturally in a gaseous state, it is even less energy dense than straw.

          Pipelines overcome some of the transportation issues – as long as someone covers the capital costs of building the pipeline. It is a little known fact of US energy history, but without the huge investment in pipelines motivated by the need to avoid German U-boats during WWII, we probably would not have a national natural gas pipeline system. That system was the 1940s version of “dark fiber” that enabled relatively cheap, shorter run pipes to distribute cheap, price regulated gas from Texas and Louisiana.

      • gallopingcamel says:

        Rod is right but even after adjusting for the different atomic masses the ratio still looks impressive. A coal fired power station burns 3,000,000 tonnes of carbon to produce one GW-year of electricity while an equivalent LFTR burns only 1 tonne of Thorium.

  8. Jeff S says:

    Hey Rod, what do you make of the news going around that Warren Buffett just bought a solar power company to add to the portfolio of MidAmerican Power?

  9. Don Cox says:

    “The new BoA coal plant near Cologne is 43% efficient,”

    Even if it was twice as efficient, it is still a coal plant, and must emit CO2.

    If we want to keep global warming to a bearable level, no plant that emits either CO2 or methane should be built, anywhere.

    • Cyril R. says:

      A lot of those wonderful new efficient cool coal plants and coal steel factories are being built all over the world. They’re expected to be replacing all the old inefficient coal burners over the coming decades. Here’s what the expected effect of all these wonderful coal sipping wonders is on coal consumption:

      http://tizona.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/china-coal-consumption.jpg

      Oops! Coal consumption is exploding!

      • EL says:

        As a share of production, coal use is projected to decline from 42 to 35% on a global basis from 2011 to 2040.

        http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/pdf/0383er(2013).pdf

        Growth in electricity consumption is on the rise. We seem to be finding pretty good alternatives (cost effective, reliable, quick to build, and easy to finance) for replacing coal. And we have lots of new opportunities (advanced research, changing market structures, and declining cost curves) for building on historical gains in near and long term. But you are correct, we need to be doing a great deal more and learning from what is working today (improving cost effective investments, national policies, international agreements, aid to developing countries, public eduction, market design, subsidy structure, and the like). There is no better time than the present.

        • Rod Adams says:

          Growth in electricity consumption is on the rise. We seem to be finding pretty good alternatives (cost effective, reliable, quick to build, and easy to finance) for replacing coal.

          @EL – That sounds like you are in favor of replacing coal with natural gas. Can you not recognize the incredible absurdity of having to invest a portion of the available resources building both new coal and new natural gas to replace already existing, well-maintained, and acceptably safe nuclear power plants?

          I recognize that it is debatable whether or not voters who have been the subject of many decades worth of pro-fossil fuel, antinuclear propaganda believe that nuclear plants are acceptably safe. The available data prove otherwise; the safety record for nuclear energy production around the world and for the past 50 years has been far superior to the safety record of coal and natural gas and both of those safety records have already been accepted. If C is better than both A and B and A and B are acceptable, then C is acceptable.

          • Josh says:

            Absolutely

          • EL says:

            Natural gas is just stored energy (and not a fundamental requirement of reliable energy systems). It happens to be the most cost effective energy storage alternative for peak generation that we have at the moment. I have every confidence that there will be others that will compete with natural gas in the long run.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            The fundamental requirement of reliable energy systems is having sources that human beings or control systems can turn off and on (or ramp up and down) as needed to match the customer demand. The only sources that we have are coal, oil, natural gas, hydro in certain limited geographic areas, biofuels in very limited quantities, and nuclear fission.

            There are no others that have been proven at even a laboratory scale. Since we were talking about replacing coal, and no serious person would talk about doing that with oil, that means you must have been talking about natural gas. (Or do you think there are rivers left that should be dammed or more forests that should be cut down?)

            Of course, my view is that fission can make an enormous bite in our current hydrocarbon consumption.

          • Cyril R. says:

            Natural gas is just stored energy (and not a fundamental requirement of reliable energy systems).

            Indeed EL, if you have either coal or nuclear, you don’t need natural gas.

            If you don’t then you need it. Vitally. wind and solar need gas. Energy storage is just too expensive to matter on the scale required to power countries with unreliables without natural gas.

            Wind and solar means gas. Lots of it. Or coal, but that isn’t any more enticing now is it?

            With nuclear power, we have a way without gas. Without coal. We can do it without depending on economic breakthroughs in energy storage that are not even in laboratories today (there have in fact been virtually no economic breakthroughs in energy storage for decades).

          • EL says:

            Cyril R. wrote: “This is how renewables advocates like EL downplay and mislead.

            Coal use is expected to more than double over the next several decades. Energy use is expected to grow even faster, which is why the percentage of coal in the mix can be reduced, while at the same time we can use vastly more of the dirty stuff.”

            Huh … nobody’s hiding anything.

            Your math doesn’t add up. If the share of coal in global energy mix is declining, and overall consumption is rising, where is the new capacity coming from? Not from nuclear, because this is projected to decline too (down 2% in global energy mix between 2011 – 2040). Shouldn’t we be pursuing energy alternatives that have a proven track record in displacing coal (and are more attractive to investors, quick to build, low risk, easy to decommission, easy to insure, and cost effective for consumers)?

            As EIA describes: coal use declines in global mix due to cost-competitiveness of alternatives, greater development of renewables (that are not dependent on non-renewable scarce resources), and new rules on carbon emissions. “Retirements far outpace new additions,” and these developments are most certainly likely to continue (consumers want them, public interest is high, and shifts are rational and remain competitive in evolving energy markets).

            Cyril R. wrote: “If you are counting on gas to displace coal, I must warn you EL. There is not enough production capacity to displace 7 billion tons coal per year.”

            With all of your engineering background and experience, you really can’t imagine any other solutions besides “more natural gas”? Whether you like it or not, we’re going to be getting many changes to our energy infrastructure (in particular improvements to grid, market rules, demand response, and systems planning and management). No big headline to anyone who follows these issues. It seems like it’s a lot of fun for pro-nuclear advocates to pick on the Germans for their efforts on renewables. What has been less discussed is their equal fascination and commitment to software:

            “This is where RWE, one of Germany’s four major utilities, is working at the frontier of another crucial technology: virtual power plants, in which software intelligently controls vast numbers of small power sources (and, eventually, distributed storage sites) to coordinate their output for sale on energy markets. The goal is to transform thousands of renewable energy sources, each of which alone is unreliable, into a vast network that utilities can depend on. It’s a dazzling concept, but one in its infancy.”

            Lots of new developments on the horizon. Energy storage among them. Time to get excited about the future (or risk becoming dated and obsolete).

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            Shouldn’t we be pursuing energy alternatives that have a proven track record in displacing coal (and are more attractive to investors, quick to build, low risk, easy to decommission, easy to insure, and cost effective for consumers)?

            Disagree. We should be pursuing the best ultra-low-emission energy alternative available. Then we need to do everything we need to do to make that alternative more attractive to investors, quicker to build, lower the perceived risk, make them cost effective to eventually decommission (way into the future), easier to insure, and more affordable for consumers.

            Nukes have not even started trying to reduce costs; we have two generations of pros who have been repeatedly told that cost is no object. That is something I can help change. On the other hand, I can do nothing to make the wind blow or the sun shine.

        • Cyril R. says:

          As a share of production, coal use is projected to decline from 42 to 35% on a global basis from 2011 to 2040.

          This is how renewables advocates like EL downplay and mislead.

          Coal use is expected to more than double over the next several decades. Energy use is expected to grow even faster, which is why the percentage of coal in the mix can be reduced, while at the same time we can use vastly more of the dirty stuff.

          This is how we are being mislead by propagandistic half truths.

          If you are counting on cheap natural gas, then why use wind and solar at all? All they do is save some gas, and not much due to inefficiencies in throttling them a lot. You’re talking about 1 or 2 cents per kWh savings. Wind and solar can’t produce for that. And they can’t provide a big portion of your energy needs. You’ll be mostly burning gas. Why fool yourself? Forget the solar panels and wind turbines and just use gas and be honest about it, for Pete’s sake.

          If you are counting on gas to displace coal, I must warn you EL. There is not enough production capacity to displace 7 billion tons coal per year. It is headed towards 10 billion tons coal per year. No amount of gas production can deliver this added demand over natural gas demand already existing in other sectors. It is a geological pie in the sky.

    • Peter Geany says:

      @ Don Cox What is a bearable level? I think you are suffering a misunderstanding of how our atmosphere works. Read http://www.dinosaurtheory.com/index.html all the way through to understand why what you say does not make sense. The only way our atmosphere will warm is if the pressure rises. And as the temperature at the tropics is self-regulating all that happens to raise the “average earth temperature” is that more warmth is transferred from the tropics to the poles. CO2 plays no direct part in this process other than as a constituent of the atmosphere. The greenhouse theory is unproven and so far not been demonstrated by experiment or direct measurement.

      This does not diminish the need for nuclear power, but the least reason for nuclear power is to prevent CO2 entering the atmosphere. Given that the earth’s atmosphere started out just like that on Venus we are almost at the point geologically speaking where we don’t have enough CO2 to support life.

    • gallopingcamel says:

      Adding CO2 to the atmosphere has little power to raise the temperature of the atmosphere. Gas pressure at the surface is a primary factor in determining temperature while gas composition is not. See Peter Geany’s comments that are endorsed by many physicists.

      You probably cannot be convinced by arguments based on physics so think about what the Greenland (GISP, GRIP etc.) and Antarctic (Vostok, EPICA etc.) ice cores show. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere rises 600 to 800 years after the temperature rises. The delay is easily explained by the fact that as the oceans warm the solubility of CO2 falls, causing CO2 to be released into the atmosphere.

      Thus we have a physical mechanism that explains what is observed. While this does not in itself disprove the hypothesis that rising CO2 levels cause the temperature to rise it does mean that the effect is small. If it were not we would see “Thermal Runaway”, otherwise known as the “Venus Syndrome” as in this scary quote from James Hansen:

      “If we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there’s a substantial chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.”

      If this were possible we would not be here having this interesting debate as over the last 500 million years CO2 concentrations have been 25 times higher than today. Glaciation (Ice Ages) came and went whether the CO2 concentration was high or low.

      I put Hansen’s speculation in the same class as the suggestion that detonating a nuclear device in water would cause a thermo-nuclear reaction, vaporizing the planet. You are probably too young to remember that “Doomsday Scenario” so what about the LHC creating a mini “Black Hole” that consumes the planet?
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/large-hadron-collider-court_n_1989630.html

      Scary, yes. Physically possible, no.

  10. Robert Steinhaus says:

    New US nuclear power plants may not getting any consideration at high levels in the United States because the long term agenda being pursued by the Administration and the State Department is a
    World Without Nuclear

    I believe that very high level influential government leaders and decision makers in the United States believe their own green rhetoric and actually plan to achieve a world without nuclear.
    First on the agenda is a world without nuclear weapons, but since the existence of fissile materials, and facilities for uranium enrichment, and the existance of schools to teach nuclear knowhow and transmit nuclear engineering knowledge could, at some point, be redirected to recovery of nuclear weapons, all nuclear technology, including peaceful power generation, is considered a threat to a lasting peace.

    While the agenda might take decades to completely implement on a world scale, we may see a world without nuclear agenda accomplished in the following stages.

    Steps on the path -
    1) weapons and military fissile materials outlawed, criminalized, and systematically destroyed in the United States and worldwide
    2) nuclear power generation allowed to shrink and gradually waste away to nothing as old power plants reach end of life and a diminishing number of new plants are licensed to take their place
    3) redirecting the nation’s nuclear design labs to green renewable energy projects accompanied by the defunding and closing of nuclear engineering schools teaching the technology and the active suppression of nuclear knowledge – this could include criminal penalties for anyone teaching nuclear design skills
    4) forced retirement (but potentially also including practical elimination) of any persons having high levels of nuclear technology skills that could revive the technology and threaten the peace

    Concrete steps along the path leading to a better, greener and safer world and a lasting peace –
    A World without Nuclear

    Toward a Nuclear Free World -
    http://www.nuclearsecurityproject.org/publications/toward-a-nuclear-free-world
    The Nuclear Security Project –
    http://www.nucleartippingpoint.org/biographies/index.html
    Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and supporting infrastructure should come first -
    http://www.nuclearsecurityproject.org/
    The Nuclear Tipping Point –
    http://www.nucleartippingpoint.org/film/film_intro.html

    • Daniel says:

      @ Robert,

      Fair analysis for the US perspective. But I will remind you that some key players in the world are forging ahead with nuclear.

      The overall pic is rosy from were I stand.

  11. Rich Lentz says:

    Look at this article and the area it was to be built. The link has a map of proposed sites. http://pandorasboxofrocks.blogspot.com/2013/01/wind-company-leaves-hammond-will-pursue.html Google maps “Cape Vincent, NY” and look at the satellite view. I lived near there years ago. A great vacation getaway far from all the hassle, even though I could only stand to live there in the summer. My question is, “who would tear down these beasts once they no longer were worth any thing? Google “abandoned wind farms” and see how big the problem is already.

  12. William Vaughn says:

    @Peter
    OK, I’ll take the bait:

    “The only way our atmosphere will warm is if the pressure rises. And as the temperature at the tropics is self-regulating all that happens to raise the “average earth temperature” is that more warmth is transferred from the tropics to the poles. CO2 plays no direct part in this process other than as a constituent of the atmosphere. The greenhouse theory is unproven and so far not been demonstrated by experiment or direct measurement.”

    Just trying to see if we’re paying attention, right Peter?

    Why are you trying to perpetrate quack science? It does the nuclear cause no good. Please do that is some “climate denier” blog. All four of these sentences are either wrong or don’t make any sense.

    1) Our atmosphere warms whenever there is is more incoming solar energy than energy radiated back into space. Simple thermodynamics.

    2) This one is difficult to parse and it contradicts your first one. What does it mean for the temperature of the tropics to be self-regulating?

    3) Yes, you are right that CO2 is an atmospheric constituent. But it also absorbs and/or reflects EM radiation depending upon the frequency. It has a direct effect on the atmospheric energy balance. Methane, water vapor and N2O, among others, also have similar effects.

    4) You’ve got to be kidding me! Did you ever take a physics course?

    Please tell me that pulling our collective leg.

    • Peter Geany says:

      I have stated it earlier and will state it again. Amongst those who actually study the atmosphere as opposed to those who pontificate about it the informed debate is about whether the greenhouse effect is real or not. The reason for this is simple, in the last 100 or so years that the greenhouse effect has been hypothesized not one tiny scrap of proof has been produced. No experiment has been devised and no measurements been produced that proves its effect. On the other hand from the measurements of the actual temperature on Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and other planets and moons it has been calculated that the temperature is dependent on 2 key factors. Distance from the sun and atmospheric pressure. Read the detail here. http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/unified-theory-of-climate/

      Now if you want to get an overview of how our atmosphere has developed and evolved then read this. http://www.dinosaurtheory.com/
      You need to read it right through to the end to get the full picture. This is not, and nor does it pretend to be a definitive account, but it will give you a perspective you need before you can talk with any authority about CO2 and the effect of its concentration

      My views are far from being those of a crank and I would prefer you didn’t use the derogatory term denier if you want me to take your views seriously. For I am what you may term a seriously informed person and if you want a debate it is important that you become enamoured with both sides of the debate. The key is; what is it we can prove. All the observations about temperature, ice, polar bears etc do not demonstrate scientific proof of man-made climate change. If you want your leg pulled there are plenty of places to go, but I ‘m not in that game.

      My main reason for posting here is I want to bring to the community the view that there is a lot of public support for nuclear power, but not much real support from the public for Climate mitigation policies. By trumpeting reducing CO2 emissions as a major reason for nuclear you are risking alienating the support, because the public, especially in Europe are waking up to our political class and their wasteful vanity projects.

      • turnages says:

        The reason for this is simple, in the last 100 or so years that the greenhouse effect has been hypothesized not one tiny scrap of proof has been produced. No experiment has been devised and no measurements been produced that proves its effect.

        Absolutely false.

        CO2 absorbs infrared, like water vapor, nitrous oxide, methane etc, and is hence called a “greenhouse gas”. Nitrogen, oxygen do not absorb infrared, and are hence not classed as “greenhouse gases”.

        CO2 infrared absorption has been *measured* *repeatedly* and *studied in detail* in *many* experiments by *different* people. I refer you to one out of dozens of scientific references: The Infrared Absorption Spectrum of Carbon Dioxide

        That link is to a paper from 1932, published in Physical Review which researches the detailed structure of the absorption spectrum. It builds on earlier measurements by other researchers in 1883, 1898, 1913 etc, references given in the paper.

        Infrared absorption by gases has been mainstream physics for 100 years.

        Please stop trumpeting falsehoods.

        • Peter Geany says:

          @ turnages, where is your proof of the greenhouse effect? if you have it great because you will become an instant Nobel Laureate. The reason I say what I say is no one can measure your absorption and its effect in the real world. End of story

          The only thing the the absorption of infra red energy is likely to do is raise the height of the atmosphere and remain as potential energy. When that energy is released it stops working against gravity. But it doesn’t radiate back to earth and warm the planet. The physics is quite clear.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            @ turnages, where is your proof of the greenhouse effect? if you have it great because you will become an instant Nobel Laureate.

            It was proven in 1884, when Langley measured thermal IR being radiated from the atmosphere back to Earth’s surface.  From here:

            In the denominator, v is co-albedo of the surface, i.e., 1. -surface albedo, and I is the atmospheric emissivity. Arrhenius refers to 3 as the absorption coefficient, but it is equivalent to the emissivity because he obtains f, by weighting the fractional absorption (1. – transmission) in each sub-band with the black-body energy within each band. Since the spectral Planck function was not yet discovered, Arrhenius obtained the energy within each band from Langley’s spectral bolometric measurements.
            As pointed out by Arrhenius, Eq. 3 shows that T increases with 5 … a clear demonstration of the greenhouse effect.

            The reason nobody’s going to get a Nobel for this is that you can’t get a Nobel for work completed before you were born and even before the Nobel prizes existed.  What amazes me is that you can come here spouting such trivially debunkable nonsense and expect anyone to take it seriously.

      • gallopingcamel says:

        Peter Geany,
        Thanks for your kind words about my efforts to test Nikolov & Zeller’s “Unified Theory of Climate”. While I can’t fault their equations I am still highly skeptical about their contention that the powerful cooling trend since the Eocene was caused by the loss of more than half of this planet’s atmosphere. This should be a testable hypothesis but I have not seen any evidence to back it up.

        During my years in the Duke Free Electron Laser Laboratory there were times when I needed high powered technical help. One of the people I turned to was Robert G. Brown who has recently weighed in on climate issues. He is a better physicist than I ever was and he writes really well:
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/24/refutation-of-stable-thermal-equilibrium-lapse-rates/
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/12/earths-baseline-black-body-model-a-damn-hard-problem/

        Robert Brown mentions Rodrigo Caballero (University College, Dublin) who has written a book and papers that develop the relationship between temperature and pressure in the Earth’s atmosphere from first principles using thermodynamics. This work vindicates Carl Sagan’s calculation of the Venusian surface temperature (1967).

  13. theoldtechnite says:

    I wonder if anti-nuclear people are against smoke alarms?

    • Twominds says:

      Some are. My own partner is one. He doesn’t want any unnecessary contact with radioactive material. That is, he’ll accept a heart scan involving Technetium, but not a smoke detector with a little bit of Americium in it. He favors the types without radioactive material. Funny thing is, he’s better at logical thinking in many area’s than I am, but not in this one.

      • Cyril R. says:

        At least in the case of smoke alarms, there is a well working alternative: fully optical alarms. They work just as well… I have them in my new home. Not because I fear radiation. Just because they were the most recent tech I could get.

        In most other cases, we don’t have a well working alternative. Nuclear power versus unreliable power sources such as wind and solar being a good example. It is plasma cutters versus butter knives. No alternatives, just dangerous distractions that don’t cut the mustard.

  14. heath says:

    i used to live in south australia,wind farms account for 20% of the energy need of that state,if we were to build a number of photovoltaic solar power plants of sufficient size we could rid ourselves of coal/gas fired stations,and the need to invest in complex,expensive nuclear power plants

    • Peter Geany says:

      @heath i used to live in south australia,wind farms account for 20% of the energy need of that state,if we were to build a number of photovoltaic solar power plants of sufficient size we could rid ourselves of coal/gas fired stations,and the need to invest in complex,expensive nuclear power plants

      I don’t think so. I think you are probably quoting installed capacity rather than actual production. Also what happens when it night time and the wind is not blowing???

      Even at 20% wind and solar cause so many instability issues to the grid that the utopia of the greens will never happen. The only way to stop the use of hydrocarbon based fuel is nuclear, a position I support, and the only way nuclear will be accepted is for the truth about low dose radiation to be available. Only by resolving the idiotic regulator issues will the economics of nuclear become apparent and obvious.

    • gallopingcamel says:

      If there is a place where solar power could work it is Australia. You folks live in a country that is immense in relation to the human population. You can probably find the millions of acres needed for solar collectors without evicting any farmers. Even so there are some formidible obstacles.

      First, there is the high cost per kWh of solar electricity.
      Second there is no practical method of storing energy to cover the 16 hours out of 24 when the sun is not delivering enough energy.
      Third, the places suited for locating solar plants are far away from the places where the power is consumed, so huge investments in transmission facilities will be needed.

      Here is something I wrote for Barry Brook’s “Brave New Climate” blog:
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/15/solar-power-in-florida/

      • Albert Rogers says:

        “If there is a place where solar power could work it is Australia”.
        Just so. My son-in-law worked for a while for the company that built SunRaycer, the PV car that won the Trans-Australia race. I think it’s still in the Smithsonian, if it hasn’t become too tecnological fo the building that renamed itself the Museum of American History, in a fit of misguided 1976 patriotism. America’s science and technology are far more distinguished than its history, with the exception of what’s in the Archives.
        But even in Australia, they’re burning coal, and the Great Barrier Reef would be a lot safer if they replaced it with nuclear power.

  15. Cyril R. says:

    I asked EL to come up with a plan that works.

    What he came up with was a reference to a reliable biogas project that powered a small comunity. That is not a plan that works EL. All the biogas in the world couldn’t power even 1% of global primary energy needs.

    Then EL came up with a reference that clearly states “Some studies suggest that 100% of future electricity requirements could be met by renewable energy, but our analysis found this level of penetration to be infeasible for California (20, 21). We found a maximum of 74% renewable energy penetration despite California’’s high renewable resource endowment, even assuming perfect renewable generation forecasting, breakthroughs in storage technology, replacement of steam generation with fast-response gas generation, and a major shift in load curves by smart charging of vehicles.”

    25% fossil is a lot, especially because it’s all inefficiently combusted peaking gas turbines. if we all – everyone on this earth – do this CO2 emissions will still be unacceptably large. Indeed they will be larger than today’s emission because most people today live in energy poverty and moving up to Californian energy levels means an order of magnitude increase in energy demand for most people on this planet.

    And bear in mind that this 74% requires massive assumptions, everything has to work and be cheap, cheap storage, cheap smart grids, perfect forecasting, breakthroughs across the board, etc. etc.

    Just one of those assumptions being untrue will void the entire scenario.

    I am vastly disappointed at this feeble attempt of a rebuttal by EL. He is contradicted by his own references.

  16. Cyril R. says:

    You seem to have an unshakable faith in engineering to solve all problems having to do with nuclear, advanced reactor concepts, risk management, waste recycling (on a cost effective basis), and more … but lose your scientific, technological, and engineering imagination and creative problem solving when it comes to other energy technologies?

    EL has got me wrong. Over the years I’ve become convinced that there are no problems left with nuclear power, even using primitive light water reactors. The problems, I have discovered, are completely in the minds of detractors. Waste, proliferation, safety… all nonproblems in the sense that nuclear is already better than anything else. Detractors have made up the waste problem. There is none. Dry casks work very well, I was surprised at how pedantic the engineering of dry casks is. Proliferation isn’t affected by nuclear power reactors because it is much easier to produce or steal nuclear weapons through other avenues, including mining uranium fromt the sea and then enriching it.

    A turning point for me was also, that the problems of wind and solar are not of a technology nature, but of a resource nature. That convinced me that wind and solar are marginal niche technologies that can’t power countries, no matter how much better they become. It isn’t a tractable engineering problem, it’s the resource itself that cannot cut the mustard. Wind and sun aren’t there most of the time, occupy large ecosystem space, and require large amounts of mined commodities that harm the environment.

    This is in a nutshell my eye-opener, that turned me from pro-renewable to pro-nuclear.

    • Rod Adams says:

      Though I’ve always been in favor of nuclear, I had a long fascination with solar, wind and biomass. This dated back to camp fires, using magnifying glasses to focus sun into concentrated light hot enough to burn wood, and a lot of time under sail.

      Then I took three semesters of advanced Energy Conversion from Dr. Chih (call me Bob) Wu, who had been engaged in renewable energy research for 25 years and who had literally “written the book” on Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).

      After doing the math, I realized none of those sources was worth the time of day. They all require way too much work and material for way too little return, even if they work PERFECTLY.

      That study helped me become more aware that “renewables” are a purposeful distraction designed to take away resources like Dr. WU that could have been used to improve nuclear energy as a fossil fuel competitor.

      You see, Dr. Wu initially earned his PhD in mechanical engineering with the idea of studying nuclear energy improvements. However, the funding for that field essentially disappeared during the Nixon Adminstration when the AEC was broken up with Nixon’s reorganization of the Executive Branch. (see Seaborg’s book titled Atomic Energy Commission During Nixon Years).

      As an academic, Bob shifted his grant applications to interesting problems in renewables where there WAS funding.

    • EL says:

      The Technology Path to Deep Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts by 2050: The Pivotal Role of Electricity (2011) is a very good study by credible and serious minded folks. It takes a broad look at our toughest carbon reduction challenges, and looks at multiple technology pathways for meeting these goals and objectives. High renewables (from diffuse resources) is one of viable technology pathways they examine, and so too is high nuclear, CCS, and an approach that is a mix of the above.

      It seems anti-science and anti-intellectual to me to suggest that “diffuse and variable” generation (to a share of 78% in the above study given resource availability in California, it may be higher elsewhere) can’t power a modern and industrial sized country (California being the 7th or 9th largest economy in the world). Because people are modeling this energy approach all the time (as this study shows). If engineers (and others promoting nuclear) feel that such studies aren’t evidence based or draw on faulty assumptions, then it seems to me you have a pretty good idea for a paper that refutes these studies in a conclusive way (and adds a great deal to our current knowledge). So please, write and publish on this issue, because it appears to be missing from our current research and archive. It would likely add a great deal and save a lot of people (from nearly every OCED country, and many developing countries too) a great deal of time, expense, and headaches. What is it, exactly, that all of these studies have missed (and that has led everyone down such a dark, futile, irrelevant, unproductive, costly, and time consuming rabbit hole)?

      Two findings from the study are worth highlighting: 1) the vital importance of conservation and efficiency programs to meeting our long term carbon reduction goals (we can’t really accomplish much of anything without significantly lowering our energy consumption). Even with a high nuclear option (or dense and concentrated energy resource). And 2) costs really don’t matter (the high nuclear cost and the nigh renewable cost, over the long run, are essentially the same).

      “Our results show that generation mixes dominated by renewable, nuclear, and CCS, in the absence of cost breakthroughs, would have roughly comparable costs, raising the present average cost of electricity generation by a factor of about two, a result also noted by other researchers” (p. 4).

      Their recommendation of where to focus next, given this fact, is also worth noting: “These findings indicate that minimizing the cost of decarbonized generation should be a key policy objective” (p. 4), as well as expansion of conservation and efficiency efforts (and slowing the rate of rising consumption). Everywhere I look, I see solutions. After 60 years of development, “Nukes have not even started trying to reduce costs” (as Rod indicates above). Well, they should start getting busy, because many of us are moving on as a consequence (resource planners, investors and developers, utilities, policy makers, and academic and laboratory based experts among them).

      • Rod Adams says:

        @EL

        Most effective engineers and technologists that I know have no patience with the kind of study and publication that you advocate. We prefer action and producing products that serve people well enough that they will actually pay for them.

        I went down the route of producing papers for academic publication, but quickly discovered that the publishers wanted authors to PAY THEM a rather substantial fee in order to share their idea. That is a really poor investment of time for someone who wants to do real work and prefers to be compensated for that work.

        It might be fine for professors and people who prefer intellectual pursuits.

        What I’d like for you to do for me is to find a single moderately industrialized jurisdiction that comes even close to relying on the type of diffuse, unreliable power systems that you seem to prefer. Stop talking so much about studies, often written by people who have no flipping idea what it takes to operate an electrical power grid. Let’s talk about reality.

        I will agree that society risks wasting a great deal of time and money if it does not have the full input of knowledgable, practical minded people in developing our future power systems. I just don’t think academic publications of fantasy studies is the right way to make the decisions.

        • gallopingcamel says:

          Rod,
          Thanks for taking a common sense approach to energy solutions. It is far better to heed practical people who generate electric power at affordable prices rather than academics with zero accountability to the public when their ideas fail.

      • Cyril R. says:

        They did not model economics and they assumed huge breakthroughs in energy storage to get to 78%. It is simply not plausible. There are no developments in the pipeline that lead to cheap (ie cheaper than coal) scalable (ie many many TWe) energy storage. Assuming that this will occur will void the entire scenario on faulty assumptions.

        And 78% is not enough. We’re headed towards 10 billion people and most want a high energy lifestyle (called economic growth for some reason). That’s a 5-10x increase in primary energy demand. To beat that without excessive GhG and environmental damage, we need more like 95% solutions.

        That’s so much, the way to think about it is: NO MORE FOSSIL FUELS. Not a little. NO MORE. Zero. Zulch. Nada.

        If renewables can’t do that, and they cannot, yet are being used as an excuse to not build more nuclear plants, then they are a dangerous distraction.

        • EL says:

          There are no developments in the pipeline that lead to cheap (ie cheaper than coal) scalable (ie many many TWe) energy storage.

          Supplementary materials and tables are not available with the free copy of the paper on-line. Paid version of paper is available here.

          Energy storage requirements for the high renewables options are 3x that of the high nuclear option (at 4 GW). Given the projected future energy needs in California, currently the 9th largest economy in the world, and carbon reduction targets (including electrification of most light-duty vehicles and public transportation), resource mix and energy storage requirements for each of the scenarios are as follows:

          - Baseline: 6% renewables, 8% nuclear, 86% other, 1,200 MW (current energy storage in California).
          - High Renewables: 74% renewables, 6% nuclear, 20% other, 12,000 MW Energy Storage.
          - High Nuclear: 35% renewables, 55% nuclear, 10% other, 4,000 MW Energy Storage.
          - High CCS: 36% renewables, 7% nuclear, 47% Generation with CCS, 10% other, 8,000 MW Energy Storage.
          - Mixed: 34% renewables, 19% nuclear, 39% Generation with CCS, 8% other, 6,000 MW Energy Storage.

          And each technology pathway has specific demands that are unmet by current needs:

          “The high RE case has the highest requirements for installed capacity, transmission, and energy storage; the high nuclear case requires the largest export market for excess generation, along with an expansion of upstream and downstream nuclear fuel cycle infrastructure; and the high CCS case requires construction of CO2 transportation and storage infrastructure” (p. 3).

          The paper is quite moderate when it comes down to it. And takes a very pragmatic and fiscally responsible look at meeting very broad and necessary carbon reduction goals with available technologies and alternatives (high nuclear scenario among them).

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            the high nuclear case requires the largest export market for excess generation, along with an expansion of upstream and downstream nuclear fuel cycle infrastructure

            Huh?  This doesn’t seem to follow.  Nuclear can be ramped up and down, it just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to unless the penetration is at Gallic levels.  Even then, there appears to be a wide variety of cheap dump loads which can make use of such power.  If you are only considering the current grid mix you’d miss this, but “you cannot do just one thing”.

          • EL says:

            Huh? This doesn’t seem to follow. Nuclear can be ramped up and down, it just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to unless the penetration is at Gallic levels.

            This would impact up your economics, raise your O&M costs, add supplementary outages to maintenance schedules, increase licensing and design approval costs, etc. France does this, and they have all of Europe as an export market (so apparently, it is hard to do without). They’ve converted much of their heating to electric heat (to provide just such a “cheap load dump” as you describe), and take a hit on efficiency and energy conservation as a consequence (which the report highlights is a primary concern that must not be overlooked). There are always trade offs, to be sure, but the modeling seems pretty straightforward and conventional to me (given available technologies, operational experience, system’s analysis, commercial and institutional behavior of private and public sector actors, and moderate assumptions about how these might change in the future).

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            They’ve converted much of their heating to electric heat (to provide just such a “cheap load dump” as you describe), and take a hit on efficiency and energy conservation as a consequence (which the report highlights is a primary concern that must not be overlooked).

            Why should I accept the assumption that efficiency and energy conservation are important measures of effectiveness for a power system if there is plenty of cheap (or free), ultra low emission fuel available to waste if it is economic to do so at times?

            Let’s check your intellectual consistency – How efficient or conservative is it for German, Texan, or Pacific Northwest wind generators to feather their blades or to dump power onto the grid at a “negative” price?

          • Brian Mays says:

            Engineer-Poet – It follows when you consider that the fanciful “high renewables” (HR) scenario includes oodles and oodles of magical “energy storage,” whereas the “high nuclear” (HN) scenario does not.

            What’s not mentioned in the comments here is how much of the “export market for excess generation” in the HN scenario is needed to accommodate the 35% of renewables with inadequate storage to handle the intermittency.

            Look at the difference between the HN scenario and the HR scenario. To get from HN to HR, you double the amount of renewables, but you triple the amount of storage. You also double the amount of “other” (i.e., flexible natural gas plants) to take up any additional slack. When you consider this, are the results really surprising?

            EL disingenuously implies that this large export market is needed to accommodate nuclear. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @EL

            How can a scenario with 35% “renewables” (unreliables) be titled “high nuclear”? If nuclear is acceptable as a power source, there is no need at all to use diffuse and unreliable power sources except to move money from the pockets of consumers into the pockets of the politically well connected, enormous companies that produce wind turbines, wind towers, solar panels, construction services for huge projects, work boats for off shore wind, etc.

            There is little to no need for electricity storage in a high nuclear situation; nuclear fuels are fantastic ENERGY storage solutions. If some of the machinery driven off of those fuels can follow the load, the system can respond to variations in power demand.

            Please remember that I have lived in a “high nuclear” environment where 99.9% of the power for everything we did came from a nuclear reactor that could fit underneath my office desk and could respond to load changes more rapidly than the very best combustion gas turbine could.

            You keep describing CA as a large economy. It is, but is has spent 30 years deindustrializing. There are a lot of creative people living there and they think about a lot of very cool innovations, but they import a tremendous amount of energy from other places in the form of finished goods that required a large quantity of energy input during their manufacturing processes.

            CA’s power grid would not be viable today without its ability to purchase electricity from nearly all of its neighbors and it makes sure that the accounting systems force the supplying location to count at least some of the emissions from those purchases in their own reporting. That is even more true with the continued extended shutdown of San Onofre – which was driven partially by stretching for the last percent or so of energy and economic efficiency.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            This would impact up your economics, raise your O&M costs, add supplementary outages to maintenance schedules, increase licensing and design approval costs, etc.

            So use dump loads instead.  Why not electric kilns processing crushed concrete, dehydrating the Portland cement for re-use without carbon emissions?  That’s something that can sit and wait for days or weeks until power is available.  There are plenty of other possibilities, but I’m not going to mention them until I can see if they’ve got patent potential.

            take a hit on efficiency and energy conservation as a consequence

            They’re doing superbly on carbon emissions.  Why conserve kWh when they don’t cost you anything important?  That makes as much sense as “conserving” sunlight coming in your window by closing the shades.

            Something I have suggested for New England is full nuclearization of the electric grid and the use of electric heaters as the first and cheapest source of heat for users currently burning fuel oil or propane.  The utility would modulate the demand side to hold nuclear utilization at 100% during the heating season, with the fossil-fired heaters supplying the balance.  Wires and transformers should not be stressed due to low ambient temperatures.

            Electricity at an off-peak “dump rate” of 3¢/kWh costs about 88¢/therm.  Even used in resistance elements, this is competitive with the residential price of natural gas and far cheaper than fuel oil, and at the typical O&M+fuel of 1.7¢/kWh it would yield a gross profit.  Splitting some atoms could displace a considerable amount of fossil fuel and keep a lot of money in the local economy.  What’s the downside?

          • EL says:

            ?Why should I accept the assumption that efficiency and energy conservation are important measures of effectiveness for a power system if there is plenty of cheap (or free), ultra low emission fuel available to waste …

            The cited paper is quite compelling on this point. Their carbon reduction targets could not be met otherwise and would require much greater bulk energy requirements that are more easily met on a cost effective basis with efficiency (“without aggressive energy efficiency, the bulk requirements for decarbonized electricity would be doubled, making achievement of 2050 goals much more difficult in terms of capital investment and siting,” pg. 4). Energy projects are notoriously difficult to site (no matter what the type), so your assumption of “plenty” of available energy (uranium or otherwise) is a bit of a straw man. There’s plenty of solar and wind on an absolute basis too (it’s not the existence of energy resources that their development a challenge). In addition, it is also typically cost effective over the long run for businesses and consumers to do more work with less power (unless you are a developer only interested in maximizing profits through rising consumption, and externalizing the challenge of carbon reduction onto others).

            EL disingenuously implies that this large export market is needed to accommodate nuclear. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

            This is the conclusion of the paper (not EL).

            Look at the difference between the HN scenario and the HR scenario. To get from HN to HR, you double the amount of renewables, but you triple the amount of storage. You also double the amount of “other” (i.e., flexible natural gas plants) to take up any additional slack. When you consider this, are the results really surprising?

            I’m not sure about your point here. What results? The results described in the paper are for each scenario to meet a primary energy carbon reduction target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 (taking into account projected rates of rising consumption, stock roll-over and costs, physical and resource constraints, bridging the gap between short and long term perspectives, and assuming no major lifestyle changes). Their approach does this. Is it surprising to you that each scenario can meet these objectives with costs playing such a minor role in the difference between the scenarios, and the additional cost to consumers also being quite low (cost control being a primary goal of the paper): “Our results show that generation mixes dominated by renewable, nuclear, and CCS, in the absence of cost breakthroughs, would have roughly comparable costs, raising the present average cost of electricity generation by a factor of about two, a result also noted by other researchers …” (p. 4).

            There is little to no need for electricity storage in a high nuclear situation; nuclear fuels are fantastic ENERGY storage solutions. If some of the machinery driven off of those fuels can follow the load, the system can respond to variations in power demand.

            I described the paper as “moderate” in it’s assumptions and not “extreme.” There are very good reasons to do resource planning that does not put all your eggs in one basket. The fact that every modern power system in operation today does this (servicing diverse consumer needs, on a cost effective basis, with high reliability, stable market operation, and more) is a pretty good indication that there is something useful about this approach (and a good template upon which to make future reforms).

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Hmm, comment seems to have failed to post. Trying again!

            This would impact up your economics, raise your O&M costs, add supplementary outages to maintenance schedules, increase licensing and design approval costs, etc.

            So use dump loads instead.  Why not electric kilns processing crushed concrete, dehydrating the Portland cement for re-use without carbon emissions?  That’s something that can sit and wait for days or weeks until power is available.  There are plenty of other possibilities, but I’m not going to mention them until I can see if they’ve got patent potential.

            take a hit on efficiency and energy conservation as a consequence

            They’re doing superbly on carbon emissions.  Why conserve kWh when they don’t cost you anything important?  That makes as much sense as “conserving” sunlight coming in your window by closing the shades.

            Something I have suggested for New England is full nuclearization of the electric grid and the use of electric heaters as the first and cheapest source of heat for users currently burning fuel oil or propane.  The utility would modulate the demand side to hold nuclear utilization at 100% during the heating season, with the fossil-fired heaters supplying the balance.  Wires and transformers should not be stressed due to low ambient temperatures.

            Electricity at an off-peak “dump rate” of 3¢/kWh costs about 88¢/therm.  Even used in resistance elements, this is competitive with the residential price of natural gas and far cheaper than fuel oil, and at the typical O&M+fuel of 1.7¢/kWh it would yield a gross profit.  Splitting some atoms could displace a considerable amount of fossil fuel and keep a lot of money in the local economy.  What’s the downside?

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            This is a test comment… I’m not seeing things post, nor am I getting mails asking for approval.  Something funny is going on.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            All right, breaking this in half to see if the halves will post:

            This would impact up your economics, raise your O&M costs, add supplementary outages to maintenance schedules, increase licensing and design approval costs, etc.

            So use dump loads instead.  Why not electric kilns processing crushed concrete, dehydrating the Portland cement for re-use without carbon emissions?  That’s something that can sit and wait for days or weeks until power is available.  There are plenty of other possibilities, but I’m not going to mention them until I can see if they’ve got patent potential.

            take a hit on efficiency and energy conservation as a consequence

            They’re doing superbly on carbon emissions.  Why conserve kWh when they don’t cost you anything important?  That makes as much sense as “conserving” sunlight coming in your window by closing the shades.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Something I have suggested for New England is full nuclearization of the electric grid and the use of electric heaters as the first and cheapest source of heat for users currently burning fuel oil or propane.  The utility would modulate the demand side to hold nuclear utilization at 100% during the heating season, with the fossil-fired heaters supplying the balance.  Wires and transformers should not be stressed due to low ambient temperatures.

            Electricity at an off-peak “dump rate” of 3¢/kWh costs about 88¢/therm.  Even used in resistance elements, this is competitive with the residential price of natural gas and far cheaper than fuel oil, and at the typical O&M+fuel of 1.7¢/kWh it would yield a gross profit.  Splitting some atoms could displace a considerable amount of fossil fuel and keep a lot of money in the local economy.  What’s the downside?

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            (okay, it’s something in the second half… re-splitting it)

            Something I have suggested for New England is full nuclearization of the electric grid and the use of electric heaters as the first and cheapest source of heat for users currently burning fuel oil or propane.  The utility would modulate the demand side to hold nuclear utilization at 100% during the heating season, with the fossil-fired heaters supplying the balance.  Wires and transformers should not be stressed due to low ambient temperatures.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Something I have suggested for New England is full nuclearization of the electric grid and the use of electric heaters as the first and cheapest source of heat for users currently burning fuel oil or propane.  The utility would modulate the demand side to hold nuclear utilization at 100% during the heating season, with the fossil-fired heaters supplying the balance.  Wires and transformers should not be stressed due to low ambient temperatures.

            Electricity at an off-peak “dump rate” of 3¢/kWh costs about 88¢/therm.  Even used in resistance elements, this is competitive with the residential price of natural gas and far cheaper than fuel oil, and at the typical O&M+fuel of 1.7¢/kWh it would yield a gross profit.  Splitting some atoms could displace a considerable amount of fossil fuel and keep a lot of money in the local economy.  What’s the downside?

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            (some word or phrase in the first of the previous two paragraphs triggers some kind of censorious filter.  This bears looking into.)

          • Brian Mays says:

            I’m not sure about your point here. What results?

            EL – I was referring to where Engineer-Poet emphasized the following part: “the high nuclear case requires the largest export market for excess generation.”

            This result is not surprising. The need for a large export market is clearly because the case includes too much “renewable” crap that produces power when its not needed, and yet doesn’t include enough storage to absorb it or “other” generation (i.e., natural gas plants) to provide on-demand energy with high margin costs, which can be economically shut off when the “renewables” are over producing.

            Thus, the worthless “renewable” electricity gets exported, often at a deep discount or even a loss.

            Rod hit the nail on the head. Why does a “high nuclear” scenario have 35% “renewables”? That’s the key question.

            Could “high” refer to what these researchers have been smoking? (That is, “high nuclear” = how to plan for nuclear power if you’re high.) They are out of Berkeley, after all. ;-)

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            The need for a large export market is clearly because the case includes too much “renewable” crap that produces power when its not needed, and yet doesn’t include enough storage to absorb it

            Something I’ve noted over and over is that storage plays to the strengths of nuclear.  Weather cycles operate on a period of a week or so, so a storage system fed by RE requires a capacity of several days of consumption.  But nuclear is most economical when run 24/7, so the storage for nuclear only needs to meet the excess demand of the daily peak.  This is a fraction of a day’s storage, and it’s cycled every day.  The daily cycling makes the storage pay off much faster than if it’s cycled weekly.

            There is one major electric storage plant in Michigan, the Ludington pumped-storage facility.  It was built to meet peaking demand by storing the night and weekend production from the Palisades nuclear plant.  This is no accident.

        • EL says:

          Cyril R. wrote: “They did not model economics …”

          They did model costs. They provide information on 1) total energy costs as percentage of Gross State Product, 2) cumulative net investment costs, 3) net annual investment cost, and 4) cost of carbon mitigation by sector (Conservation. Biofuels, Rooftop PV, Energy Efficiency, Electrification, and Decarbonization).

          Annual capital investment ranges from $4 to 15 billion/year in mixed case (much higher in the years when nuclear is being built starting in 2030). The cumulative investment costs in high nuclear and high renewables scenarios are essentially the same (between $450 and $485 billion), and are about 10 times higher than base case. Projected energy costs in 2040, they explain, are “highly uncertain.” Net cost of carbon mitigation programs come to $1.4 trillion from 2010 to 2050 (with transportation taking up the largest share).

  17. Christopher Willis says:

    Many have already chimed in with this sort of information, but I thought I would provide a pretty graphic to illustrate how much more green nuclear is in practice than solar and wind are in theory.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200256768648945&set=a.4773917032904.2196893.1444896715&type=3&theater

    The y axis got cut off in the screen cap, but it is “Carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), metric tons of CO2 per capita (CDIAC)”

  18. Reese says:

    Engineer Poet: “(some word or phrase in the first of the previous two paragraphs triggers some kind of censorious filter. This bears looking into.)”

    I bet the second to last word in the last sentence contains a string that is triggering the spam filter.

  19. Albert Rogers says:

    Peter, I offer you these, to add to your list of hateful biofuels – these traditional biofuelled resources:

    Horses (bicycles are better)
    Beeswax candles (provides lots of employment)
    Peasants
    Serfs
    Slaves
    Whale oil

  20. Albert Rogers says:

    About pumped storage: My own brother was Chief Biologist at what was then the biggest pumped storage facility in Europe, Dinorwig, in the mountains of North Wales. Most of the construction was underground, in what had been a slate quarry. When I visited him, the source of the of peak pumping power was a nuclear plant at Ffestiniog.
    Alas, the Thatcher government, driven by capitalist dogma, sold both of these publicly owned assets to the “private sector”, which for some reason found the nuclear power plant unprofitable. It was (expensively) decommissioned. Funnier still, Dinorwig, which is obviously (at 75% efficiency) now a net contributor to atmospheric CO2, and owned by Mitsui. The owner of most (or all) of the surviving CEGB nuclear plants, British Energy, is now a subsidiary of the French EDF. As “Punch” used to say, “another sign that the Sun has set on the British Empire”.

    • EL says:

      How is a pumped hydro storage plant a net contributor to carbon emissions? The hydro plant was designed to provide load leveling, balancing, black start, and operational reserve capability (and to complement the integration of nuclear plants planned for Wales and being utilized on a cost effective basis as baseload plants). Many of the Magnox reactors in the UK aged faster than expected. They were no longer safe to operate, and as you suggest were not economical to repair, and now they are shut down (with the second unit at Wylfa to shut down in 2014). Trawsfynydd operated for 26 years. The grid still needs balancing services (regardless of whether the nuclear plants are present or not). If these were to be provided by something else besides the pumped hydro station, typically natural gas, how would you get lower net carbon emissions. Wouldn’t you get lower efficiency and higher net carbon emissions from the burning of natural gas?

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