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  1. I have not looked at the Princeton study but typically these analyses leave
    out Life Cycle Carbon emissions which for PV solar is around
    40 g CO2/kWh, maybe 12 for wind, and 4-5 for nuclear. Batteries also
    emit sizable LC CO2. So if you come up with a system which relies
    on multiples pf soalr and wind plus a lot of batteries, your zero carbon grid
    based on operating emission is really a 100 g CO2/kWh or larger grid.
    This is addressed in the Appendix to my Why Nuclear Power has been a Flop book
    which you can download from gordianknotbook.com

  2. Rod, I saw your twitter stream with Jesse, where he explains he DID use nuclear for one of his scenarios. Okay. You gotta dig to find that part, however. Meanwhile, he has amazing hopes for carbon capture and storage. CCS is front and center, despite the clear problems with scaling it to anything like grid scale.

    If I were a fossil company, renewables and carbon capture would be JUST what I would like. Renewables would spike the need for natural gas, and if carbon capture didn’t scale as well as predicted—“well, hey we tried.”

    And thank you so much for your note about how hard it is to build transmission lines. Nobody pays any attention to that. It’s much easier to build a plant than a transmission line, and I expect plants to be going up all over the place. Gas-fired plants, with hopeful experimental carbon capture and storage. “We tried.”

  3. Rod – something that caught my eye because it is IMO completely opaque:

    ” thought-provoking answer. “I’ve run plenty of models with very cheap nuclear. That’s why I can confidently say that if costs are <$3500 the model eats nuclear up, and if not, it doesn’t.” '

    What, exactly, does "eats nuclear up" mean? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? And which costs are below $3500?

    Your review of this "study" puts it's credibility, for me, squarely in the "Mark Z. Jacobsen" group for sloppiness. It's unfortunate that it will get any attention at all.

    1. @Andrew Jaremko

      I’m not sure if Prof. Jenkins will participate in this discussion. His responses to me on Twitter indicate he isn’t pleased with my piece.

      So I’d try to answer. In the context of our discussion I’m pretty sure that “eats nuclear up” means that the cost optimization model really liked choosing nuclear solutions when construction costs were less than $3,500/kw. That cost leads to a highly competitive Levelized Cost of Electricity in many markets.

      I hope I did not give the impression that Princeton’s work was “sloppy.” My message was that they overlooked or discredited a potentially important tool that deserved evaluation as its own pathway, especially in the context of strong advocacy for a $2.5 trillion investment in long-lived infrastructure investments.

      1. Thanks Rod! That’s most helpful – I’m afraid I now have a reflex dislike and mistrust of any study that doesn’t include nuclear options.

        Season’s greetings, merry Christmas, and here’s to a great year for all coming up.

  4. Electricity can do most of the work

    Though electricity is only a part of total energy use, the Princeton study makes the reasonable assumption that decarbonized electricity grids can be expanded to supply the energy services needed to decarbonize most of the rest of the energy supply.

    That same assumption continues to work if the electricity decarbonization path includes a successful effort to improve nuclear energy products and projects. Unlike wind and solar, atomic energy is a thermal energy source that can directly supply heat energy useful for industrial processes. Some of the electrification expansions that NZA assumes to be necessary to supply all energy demands might be accomplished more affordably with direct heat use.

    One of the things I calculated is the demand for heat in winter.  The EIA has month-by-month tables of natural gas consumption by sector of the economy.  As it turns out, the peak of consumption (in January, natch) turns out to be just a fraction of the production of waste heat from a fully-nuclearized grid.  Using a modern-day district heating system with tepid water distribution at perhaps 20°C and some low-powered heat pumps, all space heat and DHW could be fully decarbonized with minimal added electric demand anywhere the pipes reach.

    1. The only fission district heating system in the OECD I’m aware of is the twin 365MWe Beznau PWRs in Switzerland; which supplies a couple thousand local customers. If I read correctly only a tiny fraction of available heat from one unit (~2%) is utilized.

      Imagine a regulatory regime in which the largest district heating system in the world — Consolidated Edison in NYC — could easily be fueled by a SMAHTR-type pebble bed. More likely HVAC will be all electric utilizing highly efficient ground-source heat pumps as is done in Sweden. But all that reject heat Amory Lovins likes to depict in his spaghetti charts, I wonder what his opinion would be of nuking up NYC to atomic district heat?

  5. I wonder if Jenkins would offer to be the first person smothered when inevitably one of those CO2 pipes carrying the gas to a disposal site leaks into a town or village on the way. This boy loves academia but has no practical experience in engineering.

  6. Lucky for us, academics of this sort will be buried in the avalanche of World Industrial Revolution 2.0, which is gaining momentum rapidly. The US Congress has, for example, finally figured out that Russia and China will seize world energy markets through nuclear power exports, and will reduce US geopolitical influence commensurate to a country with nothing to offer, if the prior anti-nuclear hysteria continues to reign. And so, Congress is passing one pro-nuclear spending bill after another. Bipartisan bills. Under the radar. After all, for many senators and House members, it is a little inconvenient to explain to constituents (voters) that your were just bullshitting them about nuclear energy being extremely dangerous, in order to drive up its costs for the benefit of Exxon, et al, and, as a cheap and easy way to herd the voting cattle.

    1. You are a smart man. Simple rules – Follow the Money. If they stop using oil, coal and gas what will replace their existing slot in civilization the most easily? Nuclear plants can be built instead of the old plants and recycle the existing transmission lines. It works. It does not need backup gas generation, super battery banks or a large pumped hydro project to enhance its availability.

  7. “For the benefit of Exxon”

    the framatome fuel fabrication facility in Richland Washington was started by Exxon in 1969.

    There is indeed a lot of spending going on… DOE literally giving it away; even Holtec is getting matched funds $15-20M/yr for their languishing SMR.

    The first world has shown total intolerance to risk in 2020 – it seems any risk is unacceptable, uninsurable, unattractive for investment. I got a feeling American interests are going to stand by and watch as Russia and China and Korea build [maybe] 50-ish LWR units outside their borders in the next 20 years before running out of paying customers. I believe I read a year or two ago that Indonesia wants to barter for equipment with palm oil… now that’s an attractive investment opportunity /s.

  8. In January I’ll be giving the second version of my Dartmouth Osher Institute course, Electrifying the World: for Climate, for People. I’m revising it now, with publication slated for end February. It demonstrates how to utilize 12,000 GW of fission-generated electricity to meet world demands for industry, transportation, commerce, agriculture, etc. It’s a lot easier to read than the Princeton slides.

  9. You know, the Princeton blurb only buttresses my belief that global politicians and scientists captive to them have lost their guts. After proving their eagerness to spend trillions on what Adam Smith called Moral Sentiments, they cannot spend even minuscule monies on informed scientific risks that bear considerable rewards. The failures of nuclear however, can also be traced to the outright corruption and stupidity that pols have shown in the name of making captive business interests more “free”. WPPS come to mind?

  10. “. . . decarbonization efforts [that require] a complete reordering of the economy.”

    Between Princeton’s NZA, MZ Jacobson, & the Green New Deal I think the “complete reordering of the economy” is the actual feature in all these plans, not a bug. Read AOC’s Green New Deal.

    The colossal failure of the German Energiewende vs. France & Sweden can’t have escaped nearly all rational academics, politicians & environmental journalists out there, could it? (nb: I say colossal failure, admittedly recent data suggest Germany actually achieved its 2020 decarbonization goal thanks to COVID-19 but let’s see what happens if Germany retires its remaining reactors on schedule in 2022, this is the reason Germany is insisting on building the Nordstream pipeline to Russia)

    Even at Vogtle’s obscene price tag of what, $7k per kWe, Germany could have built 60GWe that could easily have completely displaced its coal and made the solar-wind component entirely superfluous for LESS THAN HALF THE PRICE!

  11. I don’t understand why Princeton did not consider expanding Nuclear Power in their document called Net Zero America. If you look at Denmark & Germany they are currently at around 50 % of their electricity from Wind & Solar and their current residential electricity cost is at 48 cents/kwh verses the US at 16 cents/kwh. Back in 1984 when Denmark & Germany had little to no Wind & Solar their residential electricity price was similar to the US. So why is their residential electricity price so expensive? Because the cost of electricity from Wind & Solar is more expensive than our Conventional Systems. A Nuclear Plant pays off its bank loan around year 25, which results in a drop of over 50 % in its electricity cost, well below the cost of Wind & Solar, and the Nuclear Plant can continue to run for 40 to 55 years more at this reduced cost. That does not happen with Wind & Solar because when the bank loan is paid off, it is then time for it to be taken down. Then you have the issue that Wind & Solar have very low Capacity Factors. If you look at a 3260 MW Nuclear Plant and its annual electricity output, it takes 9168.75 MW of Wind to produce the same amount of electricity, and it takes 12,074.08 MW of Solar PV to produce the same amount of electricity. Next you need to consider that a Nuclear Plant can run for 60 to 80 years, a Wind Farm is 20 to 30 years, a Utility Solar PV is around 25 to 30 years. It seems clear to me that if the USA wants reasonable future electricity costs as we try to reduce our CO2 Emissions, it needs to be done with a lot of Nuclear not massive amounts of Wind & Solar. If we go to around 98 % Generation of Electricity with Solar & Wind (option E+RE+ in the Net Zero America Document) the land area needed for all this Wind & Solar is 262,969,546.60 acres which would occupy 48.37 % of our current Forest Land,
    what is the environmental impact of that? It appears to me that Princeton did not look at the future cost of electricity with their plans to Net Zero CO2.

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