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  1. Thanks Rod, very good analysis.

    I realized there was something screwy with the article about the NOAA-CIRES report, when one of the authors, Christopher Clack, replied to my comment on the NOAA facebook page:

    The answer:
    <blockquote cite="Christopher Clack
    Each line is available to be built.
    The model pays for each one as needed.
    They represent a MAX of two 6GW lines. Well within today’s limits.
    I am looking into being able to post the paper on an open access location for all to see.”>

    The part about “a MAX of two 6GW lines” is a dead giveaway that this simulation has nothing to do with the concept of “100%RE” or “100%WWS”, in the style of Stanford’s Mark Jacobson & company.

    As I illustrated previously, by Jacobson’s own figures, the 100%RE scheme would require some 250 HVDC transmission lines, each with a record 8,000 MW capacity:


    PS. The NOAA FB dialogue may be found here:

  2. Several important points. First, this study (MacDonald et al.), unlike Jacobson, is not nuclear-free. It retains all existing nuclear and hydro, and indeed uses nuclear for load-following when needed.

    Second, and more important by far, is that both this study and Jacobson rely on Bahrman (2007, 2008) for HVDC costs, here quoted at $701/MW-mile. But the most recently completed HVDC lines in North America, the East Alberta and West Alberta lines, came in with actual real-world costs nearly ten times higher than that ($1.7 billion and $1.8 billion for 1 GW lines of 217 and 300 miles respectively.) Since the lowest-cost plans here are the “big-grid” national plans that rely heavily on HVDC, this is a big deal. At that cost, it’s cheaper to build a nuclear plant next door than to transmit wind power 700 miles.

    Finally, it is important to note that neither MacDonald nor Jacobson (nor Budishak, earlier) was willing to investigate the cost implications of increased nuclear in their non-fossil grids. One really has to wonder what the all-renewable crowd is afraid of discovering. As far as I know, the only similar study that has deigned to allow nuclear a place at the table (the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project) found that the median high-renewable scenario was about four times more expensive than the median high-nuclear scenario.

    1. So it turn out wide-area “smart grids” are extremely costly to build and maintain. Who knew, right? Certainly not the unreliables advocates who keep pushing for them (as a necessity for their high[ly]-unreliable energy plan).

      1. “So it turn out wide-area “smart grids” are extremely costly to build and maintain. Who knew, right?”

        Just think of all the foundations alone for all of those towers for hundreds of miles. I’ve read that the electric power industry is the most capital intensive industry in the United States.

        1. Somebody should tell the unreliables advocates this. It seems their power transmission schemes run on pure handwavium.

    2. It’s been fascinating to see various die-hard anti-nukes pick this headline up and wave it around like usual.

      But your HVDC costs would seem to really poison the chalice, Mr Pickering. Why did the Nature reviewers not check on such things?

    1. All we need now is laser isotope separation and we’re set.

      Unfortunately, this one seems to have recently fallen prey to politics.

      1. That depends.  Actual thermonuclear weapons don’t use tritium, and tritium-boosted fission weapons start with fission weapons.  How much material you need for the latter, compared to how much creates a water-quality issue, I have not studied.  I’m sure the numbers for weapons are classified anyway.

        1. The amount of tritium would vary depending on details and be highly classified, but some estimates put it around 4 grams (or ~1.5 PBq) per boosted fission device. That’s enough to be annoying if you spill it, but compared to the rest of the device it isn’t really a hazard to drinking water or a proliferation risk.

    2. ‘It appears that heavy-water reactors (and separation of tritium from both HWR and LWR coolant/moderators) may have just become a lot cheaper.”
      Cheap enough for Tepco to bother getting the tritium out of their water tanks? ( instead of just letting the Pacific ocean dilute it.)

      1. The article didn’t say, but yes that would appear to be closer to technical feasibility now.

        Logically, that water should have been dumped years ago.  Compared to the radioisotope inventory in the oceans already, that tritium is insignificant.

  3. Just some quick notes about hydro. In the past hydros were often allowed some daily output variation. This usually took the form of raising the pond a little at night, and dropping some during peak usage. The variation of pond levels and downstream flows drove some people crazy, so they rallied against this practice. Most hydros today are “run of river” which means the pond needs to be relatively stable and flow out of the pond should be approximately equal to flow in.

    Why is this important? Because some models assume hydro can load follow and others model site specific, whether they are allowed to load follow or not. Now, a load following hydro can work well in tandem with a wind farm, but if it is “run of river” then it looks like non-load following baseload capacity.

    As far as Rods comment with regard to hydro retirements, I believe most of them are smaller facilities, although some large ones may be under environmental pressures. The bigger issue is the droughts out west. Have you seen the pond level at Hoover Dam recently? Power production must be down, but I have no idea how much.

    1. Interesting point. I just assumed that Jacobson’s 100%WWS “plan” makes use of existing hydro as a deferred storage buffer for wind and solar. An interesting issue to check out. 🙂 I hadn’t realized the implications of “run of river”. Perhaps that’s why there’s no extra hydro in the 100%WWS scenarios?

      In any case, at some(many?) sites there would be some limited load-following capability though surely. BTW, what’s the term used for “non run of river” hydro?

    2. Dams are still considered either run-of-the-river or storage dams in the part of the country where I used to live and work on hydro facilities. Managing the water flow through or over the dam has become more complicated though resulting in some facilities that were once strictly storage facilities to now maintain a more natural flow downstream.

      A project I worked on several years ago involved integrating a new power facility onto an existing dam with the discharge regulated to mimic natural flows and provide attraction flow for salmon. However, the dam was still considered a storage dam since it captured the winter snow melt and spring rain run-offs and was also used as the holding pen for the smolts until they were released to run downriver back to the ocean. The dam was was part of a regional utility in the Pacific NW that connected into the Bonneville Power network.

      The issue I have with studies like this one and Jacobson’s where they blithely throw out the “we can use hydro to back up wind” comment, is similar to the issue you raise. These types of studies conveniently leave off several other issues which circles back to the job I did. Part of the issue of maintaining dams ready and operational in the NW relates to the dissolved oxygen content in the water for the migrating fish. We had to include biologists and water specialists in the design phase to ensure we hit the target values for attraction flow, oxygen content and water temperature.

      Hitting the right dissolved oxygen band is now an operational requirement. Accounting for fish migration patterns is also an operational requirement. These two issues become constraints when trying to balance wind power with hydro. These issues are primary reasons BPA has fought to have the legal right to curtail wind power when necessary.

      The other issue I have with these types of studies is their lack of depth regarding the idea that dams built for one purpose can automatically be converted into power generation facilities to back up wind and solar power. Not all dams were constructed to provide power. Many were constructed to allow for water irrigation, flood control and shipping concerns. Some facilities will require major infrastructure upgrades to tie the power output into the grid and then be required to change their operational profile. So while grafting a power generation facility onto those types of facilities is doable at a price, that does not mean it can be assumed they will be operated in full time backup mode to support wind and solar power.

      Since I rarely see these issues discussed, I then automatically suspect the numbers that are provided. It tells me the individuals putting the numbers together have not spent much time delving into the operations of hydro facilities in today’s world. Nor have they spent much time understanding the FERC licensing and operational requirements.

      Getting a new permit from FERC is about 5-10 years from scratch due to all the environmental issues that would need to be addressed which would also involve lawsuits from the very groups that support Jacobson’s plan. (It took decades for the legal issues to be resolved at the facility I worked at. I and others who finished the job were late comers as there were only a handful of original members left.) Then add in construction timelines and now those new hydro facilities will not provide power until after 2025 if the process were started today.

      Unless the timeline has changed recently, the first SMR from NuScale is expected to be certified around 2022. Add in parallel fabrication starting later in the licensing process (which would be possible if the regulatory environment were changed to allow a prospective owner to manage that risk properly) and NuScale could have an SMR up and running by 2025.

  4. Bill, has there been any discussion of building more storage dams to make up for loss of glaciers? I think glaciers just about everywhere are melting, increasing summer flows, but as the glaciers get smaller, water storage for irrigation, stock and cities is going to get more and more critical – hydro will be at the back of the queue.

    1. John,

      I have not heard of storage dams being built for the specific purpose of capturing glacier run-off. There is the the running discussion in places like Seattle and San Francisco about the reservoirs they use for both power generation and water supply. The environmental groups have been clamoring to have those facilities decommissioned and return the sites to their natural state. However, I have noticed a decrease in the level of that discussion now that wind and solar are being combined with hydro through the BPA system. It could be an anecdotal observation on my part though, since the discussion about removing Hetch Hetchy appears to be ramping up again.

      There remains the discussion of dramatically increasing the number of dams in Alaska and then tying into the BC Hydro grid or running underwater HVDC lines to supply the West Coast. Also, BC Hydro is now entering into the construction phase for Site C. I am not familiar with that plan other then a few data points such as it will be a 1100 MW facility and it has taken about 8-10 years to get to this point in an area that has traditionally supported hydro power.

      I am surprised, actually, that Jacobson or his followers haven’t been out there trying to resurrect those Alaska plans from several decades ago. But as Rod pointed out sometime ago, if Jacobson claimed a significant number of new hydro facilities were required to make his vision of the world viable, he probably would lose some support from the pro-wind and solar groups he is trying to court.

  5. The “Renewable Energy Alone” belief is similar to creationism. Creationists may claim that their belief has nothing to do with their religious fundamentalism, but in fact it does, because absolutely no one else outside that group takes it seriously. It’s equally true that although “Renewable energy alone” believers might say that this belief has nothing to do with being an anti-nuke, again it does, because absolutely no one else outside that group takes it seriously.

    I’m curious, can anyone nominate a instance, anywhere, anytime where an ideologically neutral scientist supported the “Renewable Energy Alone” option.

  6. Another day …

    Another day … another attack on low carbon energy resources and standing in the way of game changers for environmental policy, neutral and independent science, and nuclear power.

    I’m not sure why you are so dismissive of the paper. You don’t think it’s a significant finding that with no increase in leveled cost of electricity we can feasibly reduce carbon emissions 80% below 1990 levels with a mix of solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, and natural gas and no energy storage? “We note that energy storage could have interesting possibilities if the costs are low enough, and we plan to conduct more work in the future (taking advantage of the NEWS model) to investigate the potential of these emerging technologies.”

    Nuclear and hydro are enabling technologies for a workable and feasible energy system with low costs, high reliability, and achievable carbon targets (even more so if increasing costs are considered, or energy storage is included). To say nothing of CCS. What is your problem with such a view … that nuclear is seen as a flexible energy resource that can contribute significantly (at comparable levels to solar or natural gas) in a low cost and fully flexible and reliable energy system that meets established (and not overly radical) guidelines for carbon reductions by 2030. Because if that’s an uninteresting conclusion, I’m not seeing it (unless it is to propose a more risky, bold, difficult to achieve, radical, unpopular, less flexible, and less reliable version of our near term energy future with meaningful, cost effective, and achievable carbon reduction gains).

    I’ll remind folks talking about Alberta HVDC costs that study doesn’t model current costs, but anticipated future costs. Siemens reports a break even costs for HVDC at around 500 to 800 km (depending on financing variables, right of way, etc.). China has many such projects underway (integrating wind, hydro, and baseload plants including nuclear). If you think these costs are unrealistic, posting better estimates for future costs would be a good place to begin.

    1. @EL

      Before I respond to your comment, I’d like to ask you to do me a favor. Take the time to reread what I wrote, a bit more carefully this time.

      Here’s a hint – I did not dismiss the study, criticize the study’s authors or attack low carbon energy sources.

      1. Before I respond to your comment, I’d like to ask you to do me a favor. Take the time to reread what I wrote, a bit more carefully this time.

        @Rod Adams

        In your review, you suggest the benefits of renewables and a cost-optimized future energy model with expanded grid, hydro and nuclear, and no storage are somehow “eclipsed” (to borrow a term) by the lack of emphasis on a 100% renewable energy option (which the paper does not attempt to model).

        Your review is rife with the connotation that renewables are “limited” when a more expanded role for renewables, energy storage, higher cost technology options (included larger role for nuclear) aren’t modeled. In fact, the conclusion of the paper (properly summarized by the press release authors) is that renewables (with no impact on levelized costs) can eclipse fossil fuels and meet established carbon targets in a future energy system (with high reliability, flexibility, broad geographic availability, low costs, and no storage). Why the scare quotes around “proving” (the conclusions of the paper seem pretty well proven and well argued to me)? Comparing results to something else that isn’t modeled is not very informative (unless you want to do that modeling and suggest a better approach that meets some of the same objectives and performance standards identified in the study, e.g., low cost, lower carbon emissions, lower relative share of fossil fuels, high flexibility, high reliability, broad geographic availability, 2030 timeframe, no storage, etc.).

        1. @EL

          My post was a commentary on the way Jacobson and his minions were spinning the story.

          I like the NOAA-CIRES work, subject to their response to the question I’ve asked them about their cost assumptions for HVDC.

          The study backs up what most of us have been saying here for years. A 100% renewable electricity grid is a mirage, not a vision.

          1. A 100% renewable electricity grid is a mirage, not a vision.

            @Rod Adams

            And is there a 100% nuclear option to replace it with? By 2030?

            I think you seriously misunderstand the purpose and aim of the paper. It is not to justify a 100% renewables option. Taking the most extreme form of an argument, and saying it is a mirage, has nothing to do with this paper. And nothing to do with the merits of the question it answers that renewables can eclipse fossil fuels and significantly meet carbon reduction targets … in a specified (relatively short) time frame, using current technology (and no reliance on costly energy storage options), and no impact to levelized cost of energy. That’s a powerful conclusion, one that your summary does very little to explain or foreground.

            For a greater share of renewables and emissions reductions, one would have to look at a model (as some do) and a time frame (which may include more expensive load following nuclear) that includes more advanced technologies, cost impacts, energy storage, other infrastructure supports, etc. Such a system isn’t modeled (or ruled out) by the paper (it also seems worth saying).

            1. @EL

              Please find an example, anywhere in the rather voluminous body of work I have published on the Internet in a completely searchable form, where I have advocated any kind of 100% nuclear option.

              I have, on numerous occasions, testified to the fact that I have lived inside a closed, off the grid environment that was 100% powered by nuclear energy. That is not the same as advocating a 100% nuclear energy system for the U.S. or the world. It is simply a statement of fact that I hope makes people realize that nuclear energy is incredibly capable.

          2. @EL @ROD

            I have never heard anyone here advocate for a 100% nuclear position. That does not sound like the best system.

            I would advocate for a 50% nuclear/50% renewable system by 2050. That could make a lot of sense. Especially if the nuclear were not just AP1000s but a combination of AP1000s and SMRs.

            I don’t think the supply chain can get us to the 100% renewable by 2030, let alone the stranded cost issue that I mentioned in a previous post or the amount of energy storage that would be necessary.

          3. Please find an example, anywhere in the rather voluminous body of work I have published on the Internet in a completely searchable form, where I have advocated any kind of 100% nuclear option.

            @Rod Adams

            You miss my point. I’m trying to raise the issue about straw arguments, and whether they have anything particularly interesting or significant to add to the discussion. I’m unclear why you think one of the most significant or interesting contributions of the paper has anything to do with the technical feasibility of a 100% renewable energy model (a question never asked or developed by the authors).

            The paper asks a rather specific question, and I’m wondering if you’d be willing to answer it (as someone who has decided to publish your views on this paper). As a result of the study, are you more or less likely to support a build program for HVDC in the US to advance carbon reduction goals, better integration of available low carbon energy resources (including renewables, hydro, and load following nuclear), and keeping cost impacts low for consumers.

            If your answer is yes, then the scare quotes in your title need to go. If not, you need to make a better argument why the case for renewables and investments in HVDC hasn’t been made by the study authors. Reading through your summary, I don’t see where you have made one.

            1. @EL

              I’ve never been in favor of a radical and costly rebuild of our nation’s electrical transmission/distribution system to make it more “integrated” from one coast to another. I say that both as someone who is deeply knowledgable about electricity and electrical distribution and as the son of a man who spend his career designing and building transmission lines.

              Unlike communications, where it is vital to design systems that allow connectivity between all users in the network, electricity is not a product that fundamentally needs to be moved or shared. With the proper generating equipment, it is quite possible to be “off-grid” and yet have exactly the same capabilities from your home electricity distribution system as if you were still connected.

              The reason we began using grids and transmission systems in the first place was economic; there are economies to be gained that lowers the cost of each kilowatt hour if you can operate right-sized power plants near their generating capacity as many hours of the day as possible. Serving a wide variety of commercial, industrial and household loads was one of the ways to do that, so early electricity entrepreneurs started almost immediately to design systems to connect a diverse customer base to their generators.

              Westinghouse and his numerous financial backers recognized the value of a concentrated source of power — the Niagra River, specifically at the point where there was a large volume flow rate of water that fell a considerable distance — if the power could be moved to a market large enough to use (and pay for) the power that could be generated at a low marginal cost. He figured out how to build reasonably economic transmission lines with low losses along the way.

              The idea of building a new network based on unprecedentedly long HVDC transmission lines ONLY stems from a desire to attempt to make unreliable, diffuse power sources like wind and solar energy somewhat less unreliable by adhering to the false, but seductive slogan “The wind is always blowing somewhere.” Some people even make the absurd statement “The sun is always shining somewhere,” ignoring the fact that even a country as continent spanning as the United States only contains 3 out of 24 time zones unless you include our distant states of Alaska and Hawaii.

              For a study that is supposed to identify costs, and publishes future costs that have a two significant digit level of precision, it is remarkably light on modeling the true cost and schedule requirements of building long transmission lines of any type. Heck, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an example of any lengthy transmission line whose planning, siting, and engineering processes before starting construction took less than 15 years. Even with eminent domain, there are a huge number of property holders and communities that need to be involved in the discussion along with a multitude of soils, terrain obstacles, roads, etc. that need engineering solutions and environmental impact studies.

              My dad spent the last half of his 35 year-long engineering and supervisory career working on a single transmission project to move 500 KVA of coal sourced power from Georgia to South Florida. Most of the transmission path was on an existing state-owned corridor next to the Florida Turnpike. I’m not sure if you’ve ever driving along that road, but it is about as flat as Kansas.

              My idea power system would gradually, perhaps over the course of a century, reduce the importance of transmission lines by siting more and more power plants closer to customers in smaller grids with sufficient redundant reliable generation that produces essentially zero air or water pollution. I’ll give you three guesses which fuel sources can supply that kind of local power.

          4. is there a 100% nuclear option to replace it with?

            France proved that 78% nuclear for the electric grid is barely a stretch.

            By 2030?

            Given the small absolute growth rates of ruinables and their low absolute ceilings without massive expenditures for storage, you’re comparing against a total fantasy.

            But take my concept of NuScale-as-Liberty-ship, where we build roughly the same annual tonnage of NuScale reactor/containment systems as we built Liberty ships in WWII.  That would be about 3400 units per year, rated at about 161 GW(e) total.  Replacing the coal and gas fired generation of the USA would take ~3 years for all except peaking.  Once that was done you could load them on container ships and do the rest of the world.

            Would you accept 90% nuclear electricity by 2030?  It looks like that could do it.  Then other things need to be de-carbonized, like space heat and industrial process heat.  That will take longer, but with such a major problem dealt with so quickly we have some breathing room for the rest.

          5. Would you accept 90% nuclear electricity by 2030?


            You’re funny … or detached from the real world circumstances of these things. I’m interested in achievable results (not just theoretical possibilities). It sounds like the authors of the paper we are discussing are interested in the same.

          6. I’m interested in achievable results

            What is not achievable about a production rate of ~10 NuScale units per day?  We once built bombers at more than that rate, and Liberty ships at ~2/day.  The bulk of each unit is a pair of largely cylindrical barrels.  These are ideally suited to robotic welding with automated weld examination.  There are probably 20 empty plants of various histories around the USA which could accomodate a production line.  So what’s the show-stopper?

            If there’s no serious obstacle to replacing the fossil-fired plants of the USA in 3 years, it’s certainly possible to do it in 20.  Massive subsidies for wind and solar for more than 20 years have brought them up to… 4.9% of total US generation in 2014, and 5.0% for the first 10 months of 2015.  Why do you even use the word “achievable” if that’s what you’re touting?

            1. @E-P

              There weren’t any large, thick-walled pressure vessels in either bombers or Liberty ships. Manufacturing those vessels will limit the production rate of NuScale units. It simply takes more time to produce thick welds compared to riveting thin hull pieces together.

          7. But take my concept of NuScale-as-Liberty-ship …

            My goodness, I hope that they’re built better than that!

            The Liberty ships were built with the assumption that the Germans were going to sink a certain percentage of them. They weren’t intended to last much longer than the war.

          8. It simply takes more time to produce thick welds compared to riveting thin hull pieces together.

            The Liberty Ships were welded, not riveted.  So the welds are thick; it takes more welder time per foot.  Use more welders.

            Manufacturing those vessels will limit the production rate of NuScale units.

            How many robotic welders can you have working at once?  You can work them 24/7/365, aside from downtime for maintenance.  Maybe you could switch to friction-stir welding and change the whole game.

            The major issues I can see are annealing of whole vessels and the forging of elements that can’t just be welded on (does this include the mating flanges of pressure vessels? I’m not up on this).  But I’ve toured Ford’s Rouge plant.  I’ve seen a yellow-hot hundred-ton ingot of steel come out of the soaking pit and go into the rolling mill, coming out as hot-rolled sheet just minutes later.  We were capable of doing this and better when that plant was built, which was almost a century ago.

            Liberty ships… weren’t intended to last much longer than the war.

            IIUC the NuScale vessel is supposed to run 2 fuel cycles (4 years) and then be swapped out for refurbishment.  Not having to design it to run 40, 60, 80 years is a feature, not a bug.

            1. @E-P

              IIUC the NuScale vessel is supposed to run 2 fuel cycles (4 years) and then be swapped out for refurbishment. Not having to design it to run 40, 60, 80 years is a feature, not a bug.

              Not sure what IIUC means, but I think you are confusing NuScale’s pressure vessels with Terrestrial Energy or ThorCon’s molten salt containers.

              The later are not designed to retain much pressure, so they can be thin walled and replaceable/repairable. NuScale’s pressure vessels have a design pressure of ~ 2500 psi; they are durable vessels that need to last a long time to recover the capital invested in them.

          9. Westinghouse and his numerous financial backers recognized the value of a concentrated source of power — the Niagra River, specifically at the point where there was a large volume flow rate of water that fell a considerable distance — if the power could be moved to a market large enough to use (and pay for) the power that could be generated at a low marginal cost.

            @Rod Adams

            Interesting reply, and we may already be trending in this direction with investment and expansion of micro-grids, and greater interconnectivity between them (here, here, and much more).

            Low marginal cost generation is a powerful incentive, as you describe, and it seems you may have more in common with the paper than you think.

            What is not achievable about a production rate of ~10 NuScale units per day?


            Perhaps we could improve a bit on current production schedules, and produce a few plants in the US in under a decade (on time and on budget) before we start talking about a plant a day (much less 10). Sound like a reasonable place to start the discussion?

            Massive subsidies for wind and solar for more than 20 years have brought them up to… 4.9% of total US generation in 2014, and 5.0% for the first 10 months of 2015. Why do you even use the word “achievable” if that’s what you’re touting?

            Renewables to lead world power market growth to 2020.
            Nuclear Power Versus Renewable Energy – A Trend Analysis.

            If you see good news for nuclear in these numbers, where are you looking? “While the recent history of nuclear power is one of decline, the renewable industry remains buoyant with global investments reaching US$214 billion in 2013 … Considering the low level of nuclear development over the past 15 years, it is surprising that agencies such as the IEA continue to assume in their decarbonization scenarios that there will be a significant increase in the deployment of nuclear power … The traditional concept of baseload electricity generation is likely to become obsolete with increasing renewable energy penetration in national grid systems.”

            I’ve argued for clear efforts to reverse these trend lines. Unfortunately, many of these common sense recommendations are anathema to industry and status quo perspectives on the site.

            1. @EL

              Niagra Falls wasn’t economic because it was “low marginal cost.” It was an attractive power source because it could RELIABLY service customer demand 24×7. The capital cost associated with both the power station AND the transmission lines could thus be repaid over a much shorter period of time by collecting a small hourly fee 168 hours per week rather than the much lower number of hours for a line going to a power source that only provides 40-70 hours per week.

              The smaller grids I envision will not have any need for long distance interconnection. Without long distance transmission, the alluring, but overly optimistic “the wind is always blowing somewhere” will be exposed for the myth that it is.

          10. “IIUC” = “If I understand correctly”

            NuScale is still just a PWR with all of the pressure requirements that go along with it. There’s quite a difference between constructing its pressure vessel and constructing a hull that only needs to keep water out at roughly 1 or 2 atm of pressure.

          11. I think you are confusing NuScale’s pressure vessels with Terrestrial Energy or ThorCon’s molten salt containers.

            No, definitely not.  ThorCon runs a single cycle and then cools in place.  This is distinctly different from what I recall being written about NuScale.  However, I’m unable to find anything to confirm that.  The NuScale site itself is very simplistic, and the ADAMS list of documents on the NRC site is ridiculously large; it runs to 38 pages of 20 entries per page.

            Regardless, one of the features of NuScale is that the entire NSS system is moved from one part of the plant to another in the normal cycle of operation.  What can be moved by crane can be refurbished on or off site, or replaced if deteriorated; there is no impact to the BOP.  Since the steam supply was cheaper than a coal boiler in the early days of nuclear power and NuScale potentially allows massive automation of both production and QC, the vessels (however thick) need not be a major cost factor even if their lifespan is relatively short.  They can be removed for dye-penetrant and eddy-current testing for cracks, shipped to a heat-treatment plant for annealing of radiation damage, and otherwise handled as refurbishable and replaceable components rather than the life-limiting element of the whole installation.

            I’m not finding anything direct on the NuScale reactor vessel.  Taking the 400-odd MPA yield strength of steels used in VVERs and assuming 250 MPa working strength, 17 MPa working pressure in a NuScale, and 4.5 feet (1.37 m) radius, I get a wall thickness of 9.3 cm (3.7 inches).  Calculating the thickness based on the 264 t module weight as a right circular cylinder with no end caps comes out to ~20 cm, but there’s a lot of internal structure.

  7. The cost elephant in the room…..

    When people talk about 100% renewables, they are obviously talking about retiring all existing coal, gas, and nuclear. Sometimes they say no increase in levelized cost, as in this case.

    One thing, amongst many, that they don’t talk about is cost recovery for assets that are retired before the end of their economic lifetime. This is also referred to as stranded cost recovery. Most utility commissions allow stranded cost recovery. If they did not, the utilities would go out of business. How much stranded cost would be in the system for 100% renewables by 2050? I have never seen an estimate of this.

    Let’s stick with the 100% by 2050 scenario and talk about new nuclear. The new Vogtle and Summer units will be approximately 30 years old in 2050, the first NuScale SMR should be about 25 years old. If retirement is mandated in 2050 how much of those plants will still be unpaid for at that time? Who will pay the bill for the unpaid portion of the facilities? All of these concerns also apply to the large number of gas plants that are currently being built, as well as newer coal.

    I, like many of you, wish that these studies, especially the ones that mention cost, were more upfront about what they include, or do not include. It is good that many of you pay attention and question the assumptions that go into these studies.

  8. I checked the CV’s of all the authors. None has any qualifications in Electrical Engineering or lists State Certified Professional Engineering qualifications. To be credible this study would have to be done by a Senior Electrical Engineer at a Phd level with years of experience designing power grids.

    The cost assumptions are as in this case circular quotes from other studies done by unqualified individuals using pricing based on exponential decreases in the costs of dumped Chinese solar/wind materials.

    This is in common with “studies” done by the likes of Jacobsen who as a civil engineer is qualified only to design footings for wind towers.

    A study done with qualified engineering professionals in Australia a few years back concluded that the cost of transmission alone was greater than the cost of 100% nuclear.


    It is a tragedy that there are many journals today that will accept propaganda from laymen in the field as valid science.

    1. @seth

      The term “peer-reviewed” is often quite literally true. Studies done by amateurs in a specific field are apparently reviewed by people who are their peers and know little as well.

      My method is different. I try to produce the best information I can and then publish it in a place where knowledgable people, as well as amateurs are free to comment. That can result in a pretty good product because I learned long ago how to say I was wrong and take action to repair any damage I might have caused.

  9. The Nuscale unit has an NRC required minimum design life of 30 years. The major component is the pressure vessel, but that is not very large as the entire reactor is to be transportable on a 2 lane truck. While high pressure the smaller physical dimensions simplify manufacture. And through stir welding will certainly be used.

    If there is sufficient demand a specialized factory can be constructed. Or factories to make 10 per day.

  10. The NOAA-CIRES report is being “spun” again.

    This time by The Ecologist.

    A simple check quickly confirms the deceptive spin, as illustrated here:

    Am I the only one who is struck by the serial spinning of NOAA publications ?

    In at least two other cases, NOAA publications spread fictitious messages spun from the original.

    The best known is of course the supposed spread of Fukushima radiation across the Pacific Ocean — which was in fact NOAA’s diagram of tsunami wave height.
    The spinning was facilitated but NOAA’s sloppy captioning or introduction.

    It took quite a while, and some prodding by readers, to get NOAA to finally post a proper explanation — long after the spun version “went viral” in the social media.
    Here is a collage of the two NOAA posts:

    The lesson appears to be that, for whatever reason, intentional or not, NOAA’s style of publishing is susceptible to serial spinning.

    The fact that it keeps recurring suggests that NOAA is either immune or aloof to the serious problems they are responsible for causing.

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