Cooper’s criticism may awaken nuclear competitive spirit
Dr. Mark Cooper is strongly opposed to the use of nuclear energy, but on July 18, 2013, he issued a report sponsored by the Vermont Law School titled Renaissance in Reverse: Competition Pushes Aging U.S. Nuclear Reactors to the Brink of Economic Abandonment that may inadvertently spur action to create a more competitive industry. If nuclear professionals and nuclear energy supporters take the time to study the report and use it to motivate changes in our behavior, the effort will improve our ability to capture market share from natural gas, wind, solar, and coal.
The alternative is to ignore the criticism and allow external events to control our destiny, to the grave detriment of future prosperity, international security and climate stability.
Renaissance in Reverse is Mark Cooper’s latest in a string of critical reports about nuclear energy economics published during the past half decade. In this instance, however, Cooper’s publication timing is nearly perfect; four nuclear plants have been shutdown in the past six months, ostensibly because they could no longer provide electricity at a competitive price.
That experience has made reporters receptive to Cooper’s message; the press release he issued to market his report has been picked up by both local outlets like Asbury Park Press, Columbus Business First and Southern Maryland News that serve markets near nuclear plants and national news outlets like BusinessWeek and CNBC. The press conference introducing the report featured Mark Cooper and Peter Bradford, his Vermont Law School colleague; it attracted reporters from outlets as diverse as the New York Times, Associated Press, Baltimore Sun, Reuters, Platts, Toledo Blade, and S&L Energy who participated in a lively Q&A session that lasted for more than 45 minutes. The event probably would have lasted much longer, but it was only scheduled to last an hour and had to be cut short.
As Cooper and Bradford pointed out during their press conference, the reference case for the most recent Energy Outlook published by the Energy Information Agency only included one nuclear plant retirement before 2040. They did not point out the remaining context for plant retirements contained in that reference case:
The AEO2013 Reference case assumes that the operating lives of most of the existing U.S. nuclear power plants will be extended at least through 2040. The only planned retirement included in the Reference case is the announced early retirement of the Oyster Creek nuclear power station in 2019, as reported on Form EIA-860. The Reference case also assumes an additional 7.1 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity retirements by 2040, representing about 7 percent of the current fleet. These generic retirements reflect uncertainty related to issues associated with long-term operations and age management.
Even though the industry expected that there would be some plant retirements precipitated by unpredictable events during the next 25 years, the four nuclear plant retirements in 2013 have come as a surprise to customers, stockholders, and industry observers. In three of the four early retirements (San Onofre 2 & 3 and Crystal River) plant owners faced a fix-versus-destroy decision sparked by a material issue with costly requirements and an uncertain timeline to a repair that would be approved by regulators. In the fourth case (Kewaunee), one of the best maintained and operated plants in the country was retired because the value of its product in the market was not high enough to pay the continuing cost of keeping the plant running.
In all cases, the presence of a legally mandated decommissioning fund was part of the decision process and part of what makes nuclear power plants different from all other commodity production infrastructure. All commodity suppliers have to occasionally deal with market price weakness; they will often “mothball” a facility to save current operating costs while waiting for the market to improve. They will not invest capital to purposely eliminate the future potential for production when the market improves. In the case of nuclear energy plants, the existence of a protected decommissioning fund that cannot be used unless the plant is actually being destroyed can entice owners to take more permanent action.
Aside: Though not the subject of this post, I cannot help but point out that the timing of Cooper’s critical report was apparently aided by a rush to publication that skipped at least one stage of proofreading. I counted at least a dozen purely editorial errors that included subject-verb disagreement, improperly placed graphics, run on sentences and missing words in the context of the published statements. Atomic Insights has been known to contain similar errors at times, but this is a blog, not a formal research report ostensibly issued by a professional scholar with the support of an institute of higher learning. Here are a couple of examples:
“Indeed, the first reactor retired in 2013 (Kewaunee) was online and had just had it (sic) licenses (sic – nuclear plants have a single operating license, not several licenses) extended for 20 years, but its owners concluded it could not compete and would yield losses in the electricity market of the next two decades so they chose to decommission it.” (Page 2)
“It review (sic) reliability, capital expenditures, and safety retrofits.” (Page 3)
“In those areas of the U.S. were (sic) the wholesale price of electricity is set by the market, prices have been declining dramatically, as conceptualized in Exhibit II-1. (Page 4)
Figure 8 on page 7 obscures a line of text, which results in the following nonsensical sentence “A similar study for measure.” End Aside
Here is Cooper’s conclusion:
The lesson for policy makers in the economics of old reactors is clear and it reinforces the lesson of the past decade in the economics of building new reactors. Nuclear reactors are simply not competitive. They have never been competitive at the beginning of their life cycle, when the build/cancel decision is made, and they are not competitive at the end of their life cycles, when the repair/retire decision is made. They are not competitive because the U.S. has the technical ability and a rich, diverse resource base to meet the need for electricity with lower cost, less risky alternatives. Policy efforts to resist fundamental economic reality of nuclear power will be costly, ineffective and counterproductive.
It is difficult to use current market reality to reject Cooper’s assertions. Nuclear plants are complex machines; repairing or upgrading them is a challenging task that often results in substantial cost and schedule overruns. Building new nuclear plants is not easy, especially with inexperienced workers. Once they are completed, starting them and working out all of the initial operational kinks usually leads to disappointing performance figures that may last for several years. It is quite logical to be tempted to give up or to join the John Rowe chorus of naysayers who claim that nuclear will not be competitive in the US for at least two decades.
Aside: Cooper seems to be quite a fan of John Rowe. He quotes Exelon’s former CEO about a half a dozen times in his report. End Aside.
What Cooper fails to acknowledge in his report, however, is that many of the risks associated with nuclear energy are financial and imposed by choices made by human beings. In contrast, the risks associated with all other energy competitors are often part of their fundamental nature; their weaknesses cannot be solved by the best efforts of the most skilled engineers on the planet.
As Cooper points out, a substantial portion of the current fleet of 100 nuclear power plants in the US is under significant financial strain as a result of persistently low wholesale electricity prices, rising costs, licensing uncertainty and risk of a single bad event that could impose costs high enough to cause a corporate bankruptcy. Cooper modestly fails to take any credit for helping to impose both enduring additional costs and “black swan” risks by his participation in the organized opposition to nuclear energy.
Cooper and his antinuclear associates play on artificially created and carefully stoked fear to impose unreasonably costly required actions to address incredibly inconsequential issues. The most egregious example is the tens to hundreds of billions in costs that have been imposed on the people of Japan in a vast overreaction to the modest risk of negative health effects from the small amount of radiation released at Fukushima Dai-ichi.
Another costly example is the recent experience of San Onofre in Southern California. Political pressure created an environment where utility decision makers, thinking they were following a “conservative” course of action, made choices that led to the permanent shutdown of 2200 MW of clean electricity capacity with a market value of several billion dollars. That action was taken in reaction to a 75 gallon per day (0.05 gallon per minute) seep of nearly pure water.
My final example is the several billion dollars worth of design modifications that will be imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect Americans against the remote possibility that our reactors suffer the same consequences as those experienced by 40 year-old reactors located on the northeast coast of Japan. Antinuclear activists like Cooper and Bradford like to tell people to remember Fukushima, but they never remind them that no one was even injured, much less killed by the radiation released by three nearly completely melted reactors.
Cooper’s analysis fails to mention the financial risk associated with nuclear energy competitors. He talks a little about what he calls the quiet period of nuclear energy from the last 1990s through the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, but he did not mention the turmoil and financial challenges faced by electric power producers that were dependent on natural gas. He did not mention the natural gas driven energy crisis in California in 2000-2001 that got so bad that it resulted in a recall election. He did not mention bankruptcies and financial distress that plagued almost all of the independent power producer industry as gas prices rose from $2.00 to $14.00 per MMBTU in a brief, 8 year period.
He did not mention how nuclear power plants, operating at an average capacity factor of 90% or better for the entire decade, turned into cash generating machines in competitive markets and into hugely beneficial assets for entire regions in rate regulated markets whose electricity prices remained well below the national average.
He also exposes himself as more interested in getting rid of nuclear energy than in developing a power system that produces as little CO2 as possible. In some parts of his report, Cooper sounds almost like an employee of a natural gas company’s marketing department.
Many of the things that nuclear energy critics say irritate me, but one of their most annoying tendencies is their inability to acknowledge that nuclear energy has room for massive improvements. Cooper makes the following statement about renewable energy:
In contrast to nuclear reactor construction costs and cost estimates that have been rising dramatically, several of the alternatives are exhibiting reductions in cost, driven by technological innovation, learning by doing, and economies of scale.
That statement might be historically true, but it fails to recognize that there is nothing inevitable about it being true in the future. We have the ability to gain control over construction costs, to apply innovative technologies that lower costs, to resist regulatory ratcheting that does not improve public health and safety, to learn by doing, and to capture economies of improving the scale of our enterprise.
During the press conference, Cooper called this a “teachable moment” for the nuclear industry; I agree, but I am pretty sure that Cooper would disagree with what I want to teach. Nuclear energy is far too valuable to abandon; it is worth a considerable effort to make it better.
So Vermont Law School has nothing better to offer besides Bradford, Sovacool and Cooper ? Is there leadership in that school at the top ? A breath of fresh air and some opposing thoughts would give credibility to that institution.
Can we hear from students that have to cope with these ‘thinkers’ and poor researches?
We know Bradford is a poor manager for having been unable to change the way the NRC goes about its inefficient business. A mission to protect the environment and no nuclear plants has been built for decades. Instead, coal and gas plants come and stick their residues in my tissues and lungs.
We know that for lack of evidence that nuclear kills birds, as he admitted himself, Sovacool automatically jumps to causality that nuclear kills birds. He said that his article was peer reviewed but fails to admit that he probably was crucified in the process of that review but persisted in publishing his work as an article and not a scientific research.
As for Cooper, well I think Rod has made a point as to his well balanced efforts of in his article that is being criticized here. Poor math and poor fact reporting.
Vermont School buddies : remember that nuclear plants are being built on time and on budget everywhere in Asia.
Cooper and Bradford should also be honest. The NRC ineptitude and political calculations are the root causes of closing the SONGs plants :
NRC is the gold standard that Obama wants to export ? There won’t be any takers. New generation nuclear is happening also outside the US as we speak and everything will be decided in Russia, China, France and India.
The NRC has failed in its mission to protect the environment in California as CO2 emissions have gone up with the closure of the nuclear plants.
New generation nuclear is happening also outside the US … everything will be decided in Russia, China, France and India.
More correct to take France off this list.
France government; target to reduce share of NPP electricity from ~75% now, towards 50% in 2025. And raise share of renewable.
You forgot UK.
UK Government really wants at least one new NPP (Hinckley point).
They granted a subsidy, loan guarantee of $15billion (worth ~$2billion), to the utiliy, EDF. Now in the negotiation process regarding a major further subsidy (in addition to the liability subsidies).
EDF seeks a strike (=guaranteed) price of ~$140/MWh during 35years. Government would settle at ~$120.. Current UK wholesale prices ~$72/MWh.
So UK government really want to throw lots of money into it. Especially considering that wholesale prices may follow those on the continent.
The only stumble block: EU rules that forbid that subsidy. However Brussels is prepared to change the rules. But Merkel (Germany) at least not until her reelection. May be thereafter. So there will be no deal until the autumn.
France has a strong nuclear culture and a heavy bureaucratic mindset. Hollande can say what he wants, France is sticking to nuclear.
The UK has a big desire and has committed to many nuclear plants. It will get done. S L O W L Y but it will happen.
Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty says that nuclear subsidies are cool. They work for solar, they work for wind, they will be allowed for nuclear. Finland, France, Sweden, Czech, UK and many other European countries support this. The EU won’t stand in the way to the wishes of member countries that are aiming for CO2 emission reductions.
Hollande’s avowed policy (promulgated to mollify his Green allies) to reduce France to 50% nuclear won’t last one day longer than his term in office.
You can take that to the bank. France has the cleanest air and the least CO2 emission.
Now line up the green anti-nukes and take them behind ‘la grange’ and shoot them!
It won’t even happen while he is in office. Suddenly a politicians promise is something to take to the bank? I’m not even ascribing any dishonesty to Hollande. Once your hand is actually on the wheel and your decisions have real consequences, things tend to change.
Support for nuclear down to ~50% is part of the background to take ~33% of nuclear down before 2025.
The other part: France signed renewable targets in Brussels.
If France doesn’t take those serious, it must pay fines.
Especially as France has little excuses because countries around France move fast ahead (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal).
…Euratom Treaty says that nuclear subsidies are cool …
Sorry, but that one is overruled.
When formulating the renewable clauses, there was debate whether nuclear could be considered renewable. Pro-nuclear lost that. So now Merkel has to agree to a modification (Brussels prepared a secret draft which leaked), before UK is allowed to grant those subsidies.
These months there is a lull in the negotiations as Merkel will not consent before reelection.
A deal in which Brussels stop with import duties on (Chinese) PV panels and the anti-trust research regarding Germany’s electricity pricing (prices for industry to low?), and she agrees under certain conditions with Hinckley Point,
may occur in ~December (principles may be already informal arranged).
I said that article 2c of the Euratom treaty allows for such nuclear subsidies. At least read the article:
Article 2c) Facilitate investment and ensure, particularly by encouraging ventures on the part of undertakings, the establishment of the basic installations necessary for the development of nuclear energy in the Community;
Also 20 EU countries have demanded that the manner in which CO2 emissions are reduced be technology agnostic. Nuclear is in. 20 countries want it to be.
Reducing CO2 emissions is a big thing within the EU climate change strategy.
Nuclear is in.
The lull in negotiations between France and the UK has nothing to do with Merkel and everything to do with the strike price of electricity for the next 30-40 years.
ALso, Germany does not have a veto on the existing Euratom Treaty clauses. Article 2c stands.
‘Especially as France has little excuses because countries around France move fast ahead (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal)’
Considering that France not only has much lower CO2 emissions ( per head or per kilowatt hour generated ) and lower power prices, both industrial and residential, and is also a net exporter of power to all of them (except Portugal ), I think the learnings should go the other way.
Especially as France has little excuses because countries around France move fast ahead (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal).
The electricity customers in all of France’s neighboring countries should be enormous supporters of its continued strength in nuclear energy. They benefit by having a highly reliable source of low marginal cost power available to help keep overall prices lower than they would be without that source of power. They also benefit from the cleaner air and steadier supply of smooth, unvarying baseload electricity to help mitigate the weather driven ups and downs of inherently unreliable wind and solar toys that have been heavily marketed, often by companies that make money selling redundant capacity, “smart grid” technology and hydrocarbon fuels.
Your remarks about the Euratom treaty are correct.
Only.. Regarding subsidy those articles are overruled.
Check eg: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100899724
Reuters writes:”… Commission’s draft … proposes to allow governments to provide direct state aid for nuclear power” but that draft will not be accepted until Merkel agrees. Article title says enough:”Germany rebuffs … nuclear power subsidy proposal”: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/19/europe-nuclear-energy-idUSL6N0FP2P820130719
An agreement with an unrealistic high strike price will be seen as huge subsidy (not by UK & EDF of course, but by everybody else).
Especially since the strike price (~$130 during 35years while market price is ~$70) seems to be general inflation corrected and not wholesale market price rise/fall corrected. And experts expect wholesale market prices to go down in the next 30 years…
These strike price negotiations were going rather well, but now EDF and UK wait with an agreement until it is known under what conditions Merkel will allow it (since it became clear that Merkel is against the draft of Brussels).
As this may damage her election, Merkel is not open for any agreement until after her reelection.
Note that a nuclear disaster in UK may deliver Germany lots of fall out (winds in UK towards Germany and UK is only 500mile away).
And everybody in Germany remembers the human costs (extra deaths, Down, etc) that Chernobyl caused, while Chernobyl is 1000 mile away and major winds were not toward Germany.
If she agrees now I can see the headlines that devastate her election.
Even after her election she can only agree if special conditions (e.g. generation 4, only one NPP, strong EU safety control) and she get something back (e.g. stop solar import tariffs, stop EU investigation into low electricity tariffs for companies in Germany). That imply it will take until ~December (the moment EU leaders decide about the solar import tariffs).
In the mean time UK tries hard to sell the deal to the public (declaring it is no subsidy and that it won’t cost the tax-payer money, etc) and to find support.
That is not easy as many have seen the headlines about the stock-pile of nuclear waste at Sellafield together with expert estimations that it will cost the tax-payer >$100billion (UK had its own Yucca mountains defeat).
Daniel, sorry for my mistake, writing David.
..Germany does not have a veto on the existing Euratom Treaty…
You are quite right about that. The only problem; it is not relevant.
EU competition rules forbid subsidies. Also regarding NPP’s.
The only exception is renewable and nuclear is not classified as renewable (consumes Uranium/Thorium).
The route France follows may become an escape (takes some years to implement and a quite different culture compared to the one in UK):
Create a state company (EDF) that owns and runs everything. Inside that state company you can move money around without external eyes (until full investigation that you then obstruct). You may need also other state companies in order to shift profits. etc. Making it also difficult for any investigator (so Brussels won’t take the risk to burn itself).
That allows also for artificial low electricity prices…
Old (unsafe) NPP’s are only cheap because they are highly subsidized, transferring huge risks costs to tax-payers and citizens.
Belgian government now realizes that situation and asks some compensation:
With new more safe NPP’s, the costs are far above market prices. Check the figures of Hinckley Point, the new NPP of UK (I posted key figures in this thread).
And consider that this EPR is not even a generation 4 reactor, so still not really safe.
The waste issue will soon take a new twist.
Russia is willing to buy it from anyone today and its new business model offers to build, fuel and take ownership of the wastes altogether.
Newcomer to nuclear energy love that enticer. And you can see today that RUSSIA is building more reactors than anyone else.
Futuristic? Well everybody knows that the waste issue is not a technical but political. Russia will control most of the enrichment capacity and Uranium cycle within the next few years. In the meantime, both the DOE and NRC
Russia the new Saudi Arabia of GEN IV nuclear fuel ? Hey, it could have happened in our backyard in Nevada. But these super focus lenses of Reid just are not cutting it.
@BAS: “Create a state company (EDF) that owns and runs everything. Inside that state company you can move money around without external eyes”
EDF is incorporated and on the stock market. Dishonest accounting would be illegal, and require corrupt auditors. You can falsify that for a while but it won’t last very long, like it did with Enron. As the network and power distribution have been displaced in separate entities, RTE and ERDF, it would get *very* hard to cheat on something that is most of the activity of EDF in France. And actually all the historical spending on the nuclear program have been reviewed last years by the national Court of Auditors, and were found correct.
So the truth is the nuclear program of EDF is profitable despite EDF not being an extremely efficient company, that pay salaries on the whole rather above the average market level and generous compensations, even by French standard.
The only real serious question is : “are the financial provisions for plant dismantling really high enough”. The answer is that if EDF manages to do dismantling at a cost similar to the one of Maine Yankee and Rancho Seco, which were 900MW REP reactors very similar to the one it owns, yes they are correct. Currently it’s dismantling the Chooz A REP reactor, and until now the costs are globally in line with the prediction (and they identified things they could do better next time).
Thank you for your reaction.
… benefit from the cleaner air and steadier supply of … electricity…
Steady supply of electricity is a non issue in the EU. Even not in Denmark with >30% produced by wind (~45% produced by renewable).
It depends on grid management which is different organized compared to US.
Only interruptions are in the distribution grid (In NL we had an helicopter that flew against powerline).
I saw the Hanson study. Because it is so visible biased, most experts consider it to be only sales promotion.
Still, the cleaner air issue is really important.
Almost all health damage here is generated by cars (Micro-Particles are most important). So new regulations to minimize that impact.
E.g. no new houses in area’s with high levels of MP’s (along high-ways, in city centers), speed restrictions, old cars forbidden in city centers in Germany, etc.
It is one of the reasons I want a real tax on car fuel of ~$40/gallon. While necesary to compensate for the damage cars create, it also implies cars will drive slower exhausting less MP’s, CO2, NOx, etc.
Here the exhaust of Power Plants is regulated in such a way, they hardly contribute to that health harm (almost no MP’s, NOx, etc).
These regulations are one of the reasons utilities change towards new PP with fluidized bed technology. The low temperature of its burning proces implies that hardly any NOx’s are generated, so filtering becomes more easy.
Only CO2 is a real argument against thermal PPs.
But, as those plants are gradually replaced by renewable it is only a temporary issue. Their load factor goes down (and so their CO2 volumes) towards zero, the more renewable is installed.
This is a real factor as e.g. in Spain wind produced more electricity some month ago than any other method and wind as wll as solar is expanding despite the crisis. Denmark targets 100% renewable in 2050.
@BAS “Old (unsafe) NPP’s are only cheap because they are highly subsidized, transferring huge risks costs to tax-payers and citizens.”
No, Belgium realized that an old, already paid for, reactor whose lifespan is extended, is extremely profitable and wants to get as large as possible a part of the benefits.
In England last year, operating the old AGR reactor was almost 50% pure profit for EDF, 59.5 TWh generated at £50.5/MWh with £25.5 operational cost was 49% raw margin and £1.48 billion profit see http://www.neimagazine.com/news/newshinkley-point-b-and-hunterston-b-return-to-80-load
Since not building Hinkley point C put pressure on UK to extend the life of the old AGR, I’m not sure EDF hates the current situation that much after all.
..historical spending on the nuclear program have been reviewed last years by the national Court of Auditors..
Thanks! Didn’t know that. So I assumed wrongly.
Now it puzzles me highly why EDF in UK needs such a very high guaranteed price ($120-140/MWh during 35year) for its new NPP (they got already a loan guarantee; worth few billion).
Assume the new NPP in UK is the same type as Flammnaville 3 (ready 2016).
How can Flammanville 3 then be profitable without subsidy (e.g. guaranteed prices)??
Just found out that France’s Flammnaville 3 (ready 2016) and
Uk’s Hinckley Point
have same design (EPR), same constructor (Arriva), same utillity/operator (EDF).
So now the question urges how can EDF run Flammnaville 3 without subsidy, while they need >45% subsidy (via guaranteed pricing, loan guarantees) for the same reactor in UK??
– the UK EPR reactor is after the Flammanville reactor. So it should be cheaper
– wholesale market prices on the continent are lower.
The only explanation I can imagine is shifting lots of money (hundreds of millions a year) inside EDF France or affiliates in France.
Do you know a better one??
What is the status of that “national Court of Auditors”?
Government controllled? Civil servants?
So may be the audit of that “national Court of Auditors” was just a cover-up in order to avoid an EU investigation?
This also reinstates my previous suspicion that electricity prices in France are not cost price based…
@Bas : You can read the description on wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Audit_%28France%29
They have security of tenure and a quasi-judicial status. It’s a ritual that every year their annual report will denounce a huge list of wasteful spendings everywhere in the French administration.
The numbers were about the historical program with a global spending view, where the losses on some reactor could be compensated by the gain on others. The report of the court of audit already were finding a high cost specifically for Flammanville, even before the recent increase to 8.5 Billion €, and a clear significant loss with regard to the current power prices.
The rumored strike price of around £100 for Hinkley is still more than that.
But in England, EDF is looking for at least a 7 to 8 % yearly ROI, and the numbers the court gave where the one to cover it’s costs with a smaller profitability. Also the workers in England will have basically no experience in building a nuclear reactor, and EDF has now certainly understood that’s a major factor in cost increase.
They better start making some big decisions soon, their reactors have an average age of 27 years, 10 years to replace a plant, $71 billion may be needed to extend their lifetime beyond 40 (these estimates are just getting started), proposed waste storage facilities are facing delays, and half of EDF’s nuclear staff are nearing retirement and need to be replaced in 5 years. These decisions likely have little to do with a “strong nuclear culture” (looking pretty old, grey, and bald at the moment), or slow bureaucratic mindset and inertia (which has created political space for neo-conservative reformers looking to cut government bloat, debt, and big spending programs). French Ministers just voted to ban slim and menthol cigarettes. Fast food now makes up 54% of restaurant sales. France, as we know it, cease to exist (their “culture,” at a minimum, already appears to be under serious change and revision).
EL – You clearly do not have much personal contact with French culture or with the French nuclear industry.
Well, considering that the French essentially adopted American technology when they built their current fleet of nuclear reactors, I expect that they will follow America’s lead and extend the operating licenses beyond the original 40 years. This is not controversial in the US, why should it be in France? Hell, even the 40-year license period was borrowed from the US.
Anyhow, $71 billion sounds like a lot of money in a vacuum, but when you consider that this is the cost to keep 57 reactors — which today supply over three-quarters of the electricity generated in France — operating for another two decades, it’s quite a bargain. Compare that number to the cost required to build an entire new set of nuclear reactors. Compare that to the astronomical costs that would be needed to replace these reactors with something that has the “renewable” brand attached to it.
I find it difficult to see how this is a problem. France has done a much better job than the US in continuing to educate its talented students in nuclear technology or the associated engineering disciplines needed to support nuclear technology. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of living in a meritocracy.
Besides, it’s not as if all of these employees need to be replaced. When your de-facto national employment policy essentially means that employees are guaranteed a job for life, your large organizations, like EDF, tend to build up a lot of deadwood. There are many employees in a typical French company that can retire without the company ever worrying about finding a replacement.
I see … so cigarettes have what to do with nuclear reactors again? Sorry, but you’re not making much sense here.
I take this as wishful thinking from someone who does not know much about French “culture.” I find it strange that you talk about French “neo-cons” when France just recently elected it’s first socialist president in 30 years.
Please do not confuse amortization and financing paradigms of 40 years with asset lifetime when it is well maintained. Nuclear plants can easily get to 60-80 years.
NNadir has stated repeatedly that plants can last 100 years. The anti nuclear NRC grants 20 year extensions left and right.
Stop worrying and embrace the future.
The French for sure have adopted American technology but devised an industrial model of their own: forging ahead with a few reactor models only.
Smart you ask? Yes I would say as the French, for no OTHER reason than this one, enjoy electricity costs lower than any other nuclear country.
It is therefore very bloody likely that with only a few models (AP1000, EPR, VVER etc) a new nuclear age of low cost electricity is looming on a planetary level.
India is facing significant economic headwinds (here and here). Political dysfunction, slowest growth rate in decade, record deficits, 7.9% plunge in rupee this year, 20% plus slide in foreign investment (Walmart, two steelmakers pulling out, Ikea), lack of transparency and reliability, unskilled workforce, and bad infrastructure are cited among the many concerns.
Which means that it can not afford fossil imports to run it’s electric reactors, some have reduced production because the local supply of coal and gas at government guaranteed price is not sufficient, or costly experiment with renewable …
Just an aside, your post refers to the closure of SONGS units “1 and 2” — that should be units “2 and 3.”
China is paying $70 per MWh for electricity from its new nuclear plants. France has some of the lowest priced power in Europe. Low cost nuclear power is doable. I am interested to learn the $/kw for the new SMRs being developed. Nuclear usually benefits from economies of scale, but maybe B&W, NuScale, Westinghouse or others will find a way around that.
EU power prices:
Getting nat gas prices back up to historical norms would also help, but that seems to be taking a lot longer than some had predicted. Still, the depletion rates of fracked gas wells almost guarantees higher prices down the road.
The Russian will beat the market on delivery of SMRs. They have a floating model due out in 2016.
China, India, Vietnam and a truck load of countries are lined up.
They have a very interesting design that supports water desalination and electricity generation combined.
Watch them thirsty countries in Africa knock at the door:
Do not worry. The Russians are not going to go thru the NRC for certification, or should I mean ossification.
… Russians are not going to go thru the NRC for certification ..
So that is the way they created two nuclear disasters, each resulting in an huge exclusion zone (apart from the other huge misery and costs)…
You have to seriously smell the coffee regarding Russia. Finland wants more russian reactors. They have 2 since 1977.
They have proven to be more reliable over the years than any other western technology in Europe and their safety designs are right up there.
Financing issues ? Well wake up France and UK. Russia is really thinking outside the box and will take up to 34% equity in the Finland electricity company that will own the reactors.
In other countries, Russia builds, operates and takes home all the waste under a new model for new comers to the nuclear age. Belarus and Bengladesh love it.
Time to market ? Well Russia will have a SMR come 2016. It will provide water desalination combined with electricity.
CAN YOU SPELL CIVIL NUCLEAR HEGEMONY? Well the Russian can.
Oups… Forgot to mention that no one else has built more reactors in the last 10 years than Russia.
NRC, come in NRC… Read your mission statement.
Here is a very nice summary of Russia’s nuclear program. Their ‘build, own, operate’ along with some things going on in the rest of the world. Bas, you might take a look at this for a dose of reality:
Expansion is not the issue. Safety is.
According to the Russians; Mayak and Chernobyl both were 100% safe…
Now I read only about copying western safety standards.
While that contributes something, it won’t solve the real safety problem.
Just as the Japanese (Fukushima), the Russians miss(ed) a real powerful safety regulator. If they had that, both disasters may not have occurred.
Did not see improvement in that field.
I only read statements as:”reactors … are designed to withstand the impact of an earthquake or a plane crashing into them.”.
That implies they probably are unsafe.
The Japanese had those statements before 3/11 on their WEB-site.
If their reactors are really safe they would write:
– can withstand a 747 or A380 at max. speed
– can withstand earthquake of 12 on the scale of Richter.
Worse they write: are designed to withstand
So they recognize that the reactors are only designed to withstand and may not withstand in reality…
Which levels of unsafety? An example:
Our NPP in NL (Borssele) has similar statements, adding that it belongs to the 25% safest reactors in the EU.
While it is clear it can only withstand the impact of a light sports plane…
There is even a great risk Borssele will escalate into disaster, if the polder is flooded (it’s then 6 meter below water level), and our dike agency estimates that that happens 1:5,000years. So the EU recommended to raise the dikes urgently. That was ~2years ago. I have not seen any preparation as nobody wants to pay that…
That is possible because our ‘NRC’ (kernfysische dienst) is a joke, only doing what the utility wants.
From 1973 until 2011 nuclear disaster was sure if the dikes broke. Because until 3/11 the air inlets of the emergency diesel generators were then few meter above the ground, which is ~4 meters below the water level if the dikes brake (Electricity supply will anyway not operate with a 6 meter water level above the ground).
It’s very simple: The reason nuclear power is no longer cost competitive in some markets is because other base load energy generation are not held to the same standard as nuclear.
It’s common knowledge that coal spews significant heavy metals, sulfer and CO2 into the atmosphere. When they attempt to clean it up even a little (i.e., “clean coal”), coal loses it’s competitive advantage. If utilities were forced to run coal plants at the same standard as nuclear, coal would be so cost prohibitive that it would never be used for large scale electricity generation.
Natural Gas also enjoys a competitive advantage precisely because it is not held to the same standard as nuclear. Although natural gas produces less CO2 than coal, fracking to release it from shale can harm water tables, wildlife and land use. In addition, because natural gas is mostly methane, leakage from mining, transport and operation can contribute a greater amount of greenhouse gases to the environment than even burning coal. Averaged over 100 years, methane has a global warming potential of more than 20 times that of CO2 from burning coal.
I’m all for keeping the environment clean when producing electricity. However, the playing field needs to be leveled for all forms of electricity generation. Let’s hold oil, coal and natural gas to the same environmental impact standard to society as nuclear and let the chips fall where they may. When this happens, you’ll see Dr. Cooper writing articles about why oil, coal and natural gas can no longer produce electricity at a competitive price with nuclear.
…reason nuclear power is no longer cost competitive …other base load energy generation are not held to the same standard as nuclear…
The issue is that there won’t be baseload generation for a new NPP.
Consider the ellectricity market for that his operational period (2022 – 2062).
Even while US lags behind, by 2042 (halfway) the market is dominated by solar (cheap PV panels) producing for $20-40Mwh and wind producing for ~$80/MWh.
Both have almost no operational costs so they continue to deliver, even for $1/MWh. Installed capacity of solar and wind ~3times the max capacity needed.
– improved pumped storage capacities
– waste / biomass thermal plants
– improved grid: if there is wind or sun within a thousand miles, it will be transported to you. Intelligent grid that adapts consumption also slightly;
it implies your NPP then can deliver for ~$100/MWh during 10% of the time, ~$80/MWh during 20%, ~$40/MWh during 20%, $20 during 20%, $10 during 20% and $1 during 10% of the time.
Note that I didn’t consider negative prices as thoes occur at the Amsterdam exchange.
How will the business case look for your $10billion 1GW NPP?
If those would be leveled I belief most existing NPP will close.
NPP’s carry huge costs (accident, waste storage) that are transferred to society / subsized.
Bas, I believe we are still waiting for you to cite an example of any industrialized country, or district that is run purely on wind/solar. You can keep trying to sell us on your wind/solar fantasy, but the fact of the matter is that there is not a single place in the world that is doing what your saying. Germany tried, but what they really got was an increase in coal consumption.
NPP produce cheap power today. They exist, are reliable, proven. Solar/wind is unproven as a sole source of energy, are unreliable, and do not exist anywhere without substantial backup generation.
– Do you require electricity generation only by renewable 9SO 100%)?
– Will you believe me when I come up with “… a single place in the world that is doing what your saying…?
.. Germany tried, but what they really got was an increase in coal consumption.
That is simply not true. They consume now less coal then in 2010, shortly before the closure of 8 NPP’s in 2011. With coal is include also lignite.
Interested on where you found your information that Germany consumes less coal now than before the closure of 8 NPPs in 2011?
The latest information I could find does not appear to support your contention:
“Germany’s dash for coal continues apace. Following on the opening of two new coal power stations in 2012, six more are due to open this year, with a combined capacity of 5800MW, enough to provide 7% of Germany’s electricity needs.
Including the plants coming on stream this year, there are 12 coal fired stations due to open by 2020. Along with the two opened last year in Neurath and Boxberg, they will be capable of supplying 19% of the country’s power.
In addition, 27 gas fired stations are due on line, which should contribute a further 17% of Germany’s total electricity generation. (Based on 2011 statistics, total generation was 575 TwH).
It is worth noting that none of these coal or gas plants will be built with Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS)…”
Good work. But what this link (and many others) forget is the closure of even more inefficient, non-flexible coal plants…
Furthermore that (most of) these new plants are high-efficient fluidized-bed plants that can burn waste, biomass, coal, and lignite. Especially the fact that they can burn waste & biomass gives them a future.
And they always forget that the load factor becomes lower (and a 10% lower load factor is 10% less CO2) each year.
Utilities now even want to take gas plants from the grid.
This year, here in NL a complete new gas plant was dismantled, shortly before opening. Due to the low whole sale prices and no perspective on higher prices (parts mainly sold to the far east) …
This Bloomberg article (thanks El) states that despite the closure of 8 NPP’s in the spring of 2011, the exhaust of GHG (Co2) in 2011 was 2% less than in 2010…
So in 2012 even far less CO2 as they installed ~10GW more renewable and no NPP closed.
Get this document for more complete and up to date data: http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de/componenten/download.php?filedata=1357206124.pdf
Also the context should be that both in 2011 and 2012 a *lot* of solar was installed, around 7GW a world record.
But still the result is from 2010 to 2012, the production of lignite electricity has gone up from 145,9 to 159,0 TWh, and the one of hard coal from 117,0 to 118,0.
Even more recent data shows the CO2 emissions for the electric sector are for 2012 back to 317 Gt to CO2 emitted, which was also the level of emission back in 1997 ( from http://www.umweltdaten.de/publikationen/fpdf-l/4488.pdf )
Looking into your links the reasons seem:
– NPP’s produced 8 TWh less in 2012 (total 100);
– Gas produced 13 TWh less in 2012 (total 70)
– Total production 9 TWh up (all export)
Renewable produced 13 TWh more in 2012 (total 136),
but that was clearly not enough.
So coal was up by 17 TWh, an increase that was about 30% more than all renewables put together?
Using the nice links from jmdesp (all in TWh):
Renewable: + 12.7
Petroleum : + 0.6
Rest : + 0.4
Nuclear : – 8.5
Gas : – 4.3
2012 total production up: + 15.4
Net export went up: +16.8
Coal+Lignite production was in 2012 twice as much as renewable.
I excuse myself for my wrong estimation that coal consumption went down.
I read the figure from 2010 towards 2011 (went down with ~0.4) and knowing the new installed renewable capacity (~9GW) estimated it would go down further. Sorry.
Do you still think that the Energiewende is a good idea? What is going to happen as the remaining larger and more productive nuclear plants are shut down? How much more “coal+lignite” are you willing to see burned in order to make up for the loss of another 90-100 TWh per year of nuclear generation?
Sorry, a copy mistake: Gas is -12.5
Eneriewende good idea
The damage of Chernobyl’s fall-out (low level radiation <~1mSv/a) was one of the reasons that Austria made the law that forbids any import of electricity generated by nuclear. Fukushima showed them, it can happen also with other (Germany's) NPP's Note that the "Bayern" studies (along the border of Austria) are known as rock solid (may be the 100% extra serious congenital malformations per extra mSv made a deeper impression than the raised stillbirth). As I have not seen critics regarding those studies and the results are in line with many other studies (discussed in the Scherb & Weigelt publication), I think the present NPP's can do far more harm than the extra CO2 (a simple plane crash is enough) which is temporary. So, Yes I still think that the Energiewende is a good idea! As far as I can judge, Germany will reach its target of 80% renewable (probably even 90%) in 2050. What is going to happen as the remaining larger and more productive nuclear plants are shut down?
If according to schedule (1 in 2015, 1 in 2017, etc) nothing.
NPP’s produced ~100TWh in 2012
Solar+wind produced 74TWh. Installed capacity of wind+solar ~60GW.
Solar covers only ~2% of the roofs. So a tenfold increase of solar is a none issue. Wind will also grow substantial.
The present grow rate is restricted (via monthly adaptation of the feed-in-tariffs) to ~5GW/a for solar and wind because the grid is not adapted yet. That will be solved in a few years. Then installation rate will go up to at least 10GW/a (a we have seen last year).
So in 2023 (all NPPs closed) solar and wind alone produce 100TWh more (other renewable sources will produce also some more).
Note also that German electricity consumption is in decline since 2007 (now 22TWh less). That may also because part of the electricity generated by consumers roof installations is consumed directly in-house and cannot be measured.
How much more “coal+lignite” are you willing to see burned in order to make up for the loss of …100TWh per year of nuclear generation?
If that happens at all, it will be only for a few years and small.
So it is a none issue.
– they are building electricity to gas conversion plant now (near Hamburg)
– will install another line to Norway (more pumped storage)
– with their capacity of fluidized bed plants, they can allow them to burn waste/biomass only if there is no wind or sun and other storage is nearly exhausted.
– discussion to connect with the wind turbines in Spain/Portugal as those run if the north sea has no wind and vice versa.
I will be off for a few weeks (too busy, it causes that I work to hasty hence small mistakes).
I will be off for a few weeks (too busy, it causes that I work to hasty hence small mistakes).
No worries. I don’t think many people will miss your contributions.
Note also that German electricity consumption is in decline since 2007 (now 22TWh less). That may also because part of the electricity generated by consumers roof installations is consumed directly in-house and cannot be measured.
It is more likely that the effect is similar to the one that has helped California keep its electricity consumption in check – manufacturers have prudently decided to move their energy intensive facilities to other locations and to ship finished products into the high energy cost area.
The electricity input in manufactured goods is even harder to measure than solar production.
@Bas : What is that “Bayern” in Austria study ? Sorry I thought you were every time referencing to the same study in Finland (where I tried to explain you why it doesn’t make sense), but had missed that Austrian one. Did you provide a link to it already ?
The job of the UNSCEAR experts is to review the serious studies that are published and incorporate their results into their recommendation. As they did not reconsider anything after the study you reference was published, it means that in their expert opinion it’s not “rock solid”. It instead has no value at all. That’s not the opinion of some guys on the “Atomic Insight” site.
That’s the conclusion of the leading experts on radiation effects designed by 27 different countries, some of which have no nuclear plant at all and like Australia may even a law forbidding the construction of one, reaching a common opinion about the scientifically determined effects of radiations, see http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/about_us.html
Rod – Your gift for understatement is alive and well.
jmdesp – It’s the same flawed study by the crackpot Scherb that this fool has been spamming this website with for the past several months. Bas has only one study to refer to in order to make his idiotic claims, so naturally, he considers this one study to be “rock solid” when it is nothing of the sort.
The flaws in this study have been pointed out to him time and again. It has also been pointed out that the scientific community does not give this junk science any credibility whatsoever. Nevertheless, Bas simply doesn’t pay any attention to any information that does not come from either Greenpeace or one of the Green parties of Europe.
In other words, he’s an idiot. It’s best just to ignore him.
Governor Deal from Georgia blames the anti nukes for pointing fingers at raising costs at Vogtle when they are at the source of numerous legal battles that create those cost over runs.
I blame Mr Bradford from Vermont Law School and former NRC commissioner for making sure that unjustified costs have been charged to nuclear plants and then blaming the nuclear industry for being incapable of managing such costs.
A little off topic but interesting. The new VA hospital being built in Aurora, CO is over budget and may come in at over $1 billion. The nuclear industry aren’t the only ones with construction cost control issues.
Note at the end the “hand written” change order signed by representatives of Kiewit-Turner and the VA.
Vwenont Law Scnool is a hack factory, dedicated to turning out junk anti-nuclear science. Among the hacks of VLS, only Ben Sovacool defends his position. Cooper turns out rubish. The purpose of of such exercises, is to qualify Cooper as an expert on nuclear energy. Cooper then gets to testify at vaRIOUS HEARINGS. We need to ask “Who is paying for all of the anto-nuclear junk scientists at VLS.
Charles is correct. Vermont Law School is essentially a school for eco-hippies that occasionally somehow manages to teach enough law to keep it accredited.
In the US News and World Report ranking of law schools in the US, Vermont Law School is tied with several other schools for the position of 119 out of the 144 law schools that the magazine bothered to rank. If it were a medical school, it would probably be located in the Caribbean.
‘If it were a medical school, it would probably be located in the Caribbean.’
High praise indeed. It will never amount to anything else.
I guess now is the time to stop pointing fingers at Mr Bradford. He is insignificant after all. It’s one thing to play the game at the NRC. It’s totally unethical to blame the nuclear industry’s high costs while he was in a position to fix or denounce the system in place at the NRC. Like we say in all languages, no spine.
“It’s totally unethical to blame the nuclear industry’s high costs while he was in a position to fix or denounce the system in place at the NRC. ”
It’s analogous to Jackzo, who during his eight years on the NRC, never once realized that a nuclear reactor in shut down produces residual heat. Then after he leaves the NRC, he suddenly discovers something that any reasonably enterprising junior high physics student already knows.
And the media laps it up without asking the simple question of how he could fail to know this elementary fact and do his job on the NRC for all those years.
This is why I think a little Henry David Thoreau tricks on civil disobedience will occur in the industry vis-a-vis the NRC.
It started already in some plants and it may escalade.
About a NRCSUCK.COM site. I know it works and has been done for certain companies in the past who have had questionable ethics. For example, what is the conclusion of the YUCCA mountain safety report? We ought to know. Some do have it.
The NRC will act tough but it could be a tipping point for major changes. This is run like a circus and protecting the environment is in their mission statement. Having no nuclear plants built in the last decades and stalling progress towards this end is nameless.
Maybe a few T-Shirt one liners would be a good start.
To round out the press coverage … you missed the Bloomberg News story on this, which also includes interviews with several investment analysts, consultants, rating companies, and representatives at Exelon and Entergy. Story covered in the context of Obama’s climate and carbon policies, which may not come soon enough to help mitigate rising costs for older plants and operators.
Who’s standing in the way of carbon regulations again … I’d really like to get the smoking gun politics right on this (although it doesn’t always fall neatly along partisan lines).
If you aren’t already reading Bloomberg News, it’s a good place to start. Their coverage of Energy and Sustainability news is excellent. Their free app is quite impressive.
In general I agree with you regarding Bloomberg.
Only, their stories about the energy situation in Germany are mostly crap.
Assume they have a novice (or stupid) journalist in Berlin.
With the Der Spiegel web-site it is more or less the same.
But there I belief it is often done deliberately. Articles probably delivered/paid by utilities and big companies that have a business interest in slowing the transition (Wende), or want to massage politics / public in order to sell something.
They serialized the e-book on Energiewende by Osha Grey Davidson, “Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation — and What Americans Can Learn From It.”
They frequently break news stories on nuclear issues (and are sometimes the only mainstream outlet covering a story). Their coverage can be quite conservative (as one might expect). But I don’t mind this. If it comes out looking rather progressive, it has gone through a tough filter. I appreciate a give and take between perspectives (I wouldn’t be here otherwise).
I also like give and take and enjoy reading Bloomberg’s take on energy issues. From my point of view, however, Bloomberg frequently takes an establishment position on energy that is quite similar to the one taken by The Economist.
Nuclear is the source that can upset a lot of apple carts; accepting it makes both fossil fuels and large scale unreliables far less valuable.
We fully agree on this point!
Thanks for this interesting series regarding the Energiewende.
Even the facts are rather accurate!
May be because they copied the stories.
I even found some facts that I couldn’t find, e.g. that
GHG/CO2 exhaust in 2011 was 2% less than that in 2010 despite the closure of 8 NPP’s in 2011!
Didn’t know the difference in grid reliability between here and USA is so big:
“Germany’s grid … experienced a total of just 15 minutes and 31 seconds of brownouts in 2011, an improvement over 2010. (The comparable figure for the United States is measured in hours).”
I use here the word ‘transition’ as ‘Energiewende’ is German.
Will everybody here understand the word ‘Energiewende’?
Bloomberg BusinessWeek ran an interesting story about Germany’s Energiewende today titled Merkel’s Green Shift Backfires as German Pollution Jumps.
Do you have any thoughts to share with us?
It sounds like the issue is being watched, as suggested by the Ministers (and Merkel herself). They may need to fix the carbon-credit system, and start providing capacity payments to gas plants (as has been suggested). It sounds to me like they are committed to having this not become a permanent trend.
Bloomberg says a net of 3.9GW power plant capacity is added in 2013.
Assume it is true:
2012 German electricity production: 618TWh.
Net import/export balance: 22.8TWh (3.7%), a record (even France had a net import of German electricity).
In 2014 renewable will produce >15TWh more, while German electricity consumption does not rise. Assume the new plants have utilization factor of 50%. They then add another 17TWh
So in 2014 Germany would have a net export of ~55TWh (8.4%), which would drive prices further down and harm other (governments) interests (not bad for me in NL)…
Merkel can defend the huge overcapacity only by telling:
– Just if another blast occurs, and all NPP’s have to be closed shortly
– these new power plants produce only for export.
Not a strong story for the greens/left, even not for most of her own voters.
So she may try something (not easy now).
Unless Bloomberg forgot the closure of some old coal plants…
Note that electricity production delivers only a share of CO2 production.
Germans may consume now more fuel for their cars, etc (their economy is fine).
So the real cause of the enhanced CO2 production may be different.
E.g. the exceptional cold spring here in NL and Germany.
See European Commission: “The state of the European carbon market in 2012.”
Not hard to find major fault with the EU Emissions Trading System. Due to economic crisis of 2008, a surplus of carbon allowances have been building up in the system each year, and prices have collapsed (making it effectively free to pollute). Bloomberg mentions the same.
A number of options are currently on the table: updates to auctioning schedule, retiring allowances, increasing EU GHG target (to 30%), advancing program timelines, changing access rules, discretionary price management, etc.
Report suggests surpluses may be reduced by end of 2014 (if economic activity picks up), which doesn’t mean that Germany or the EU will be without energy (only that coal will be priced higher). Until that time, “structural measures should be discussed and explored with stakeholders without delay” (p. 11).
If you consider that:
– Austria recently put a law in place that forbid the import of any electricity which is generated by nuclear, even if it is only a small part, by 2015
– Germany has intensive electricity trade with Austria (Austria has hydro and some pumped storage), with net export towards Austria
It may well be that Germany installs those new plants as a preparation to increase the speed of taking NPP’s off the grid.
So you are telling me that Germany is making dumb, dangerous energy decisions like building massive new lignite power plants in order to continue to use Austria as a storage system for its unreliable, politically popular wind and solar energy.
Sounds pretty silly to me, but, then again, I grew up in a country where independent thinking is admired and we have never, ever acted like lemmings.
“… Germany … building … new lignite power plants in order to continue to use Austria as a storage system … Sounds pretty silly to me..”
I know it may look so reading only English (Bloomberg, etc) but the Germans are not silly*), so there are logical reasons. I try to find those.
I think this new Austria law is a factor that speed-ed the installation of new PP capacity. Furthermore, continued support of Austria’s politicians in the EU is welcome.
Note that this new law is not a surprise, it was coming already a few years.
Their Energiewende scenario did schedule for new conventional power plants anyway. New plants:
– must fill the gaps after closure of NPP’s, until enough storage
– pollute less (if old lignite is replaced by new, etc)
– have the flexibility needed (no need for base-load plants)
– may also burn biomass and waste
But the scenario schedules only one NPP off in 2017.
Few in 2019, rest after 2020.
So why so much new capacity now, while they have already more than enough capacity (record export last year) and get so much renewable added???
*) e.g. contrary to what English sites write:
German institutions studied and compared; continue with nuclear, or the Energiewende. They concluded the Energiewende to be cheaper.
@Bas: France exported more, 45,2 TWh. It’s *commercially* importing from Germany, but physically the electric lines at the frontier are exporting almost 100% of the time.
There’s a number of partial explanation for that, but it alls doesn’t explain it fully.
But the discrepancy is indeed a lot smaller if you take into account that 30% of the electricity of Fessenheim is commercially German or Swiss (their share of ownership, it’s always funny that the answer to the complaints about that plant being just at the frontier is that Germans and Swiss paid big money for that), that some of the electricity that comes from Belgium is commercially German, that a significant part of the exports to Switzerland cross Germany first.
Although even taking all of that into account still doesn’t fully lines up the numbers, it’d take a full log of the transaction to understand. The kind of thing Austria now wants to do to check if it’s electricity is nuclear.
What I read about San Onofre:
– heat exchange pipes vibrating so much that they hit each other sometimes;
– the leakage occurring after ~a year;
made me conclude that a simple stop on the leaking tube would not help at all.
Next leak within months (if not weeks).
Continue in that circumstances delivers a small risk that the pipes develop sudden big cracks and then really hit each other (due to pressure of leaking fluïd).
Then loss of most coolant may occur within some minutes…
And anyway the heat exchanger then becomes a wreck.
So, only a fundamental change (better pipe support structures) or new heat exchanger can resolve the issue.
Hitachi indicated to need 4years for that.
This 4 (possible 6) years of outage, together with the high (disputed) costs, the utilities explicit statement that they would follow the highest safety standards,
made the decision to close a logical / rational one.
Political pressure or the NRC have nothing to do with that decision.
They simply could not continue with some simple repairs.
Unless they accepted a very unreliable NPP.
But that creates exceptional high degradation to the utilities name/fame at the public, their customers (that could even ruin the utility)…
One plan was to plug the leaking tubes and operate at no more than 70% of rated power, outside the region where the vibrations occurred. This could have been done almost immediately.
The NRC decided to hold hearings before allowing this. That decision was unjustified.
So more qualified US Nuclear workers and their families will have to go outside their country to earn a living.
Thank you NRC. Thank you.
Here is one case today:
From the NY Times:
Now 50, after working at San Onofre more than half his life, Mr. Mourer is looking for work as far afield as Abu Dhabi, and debating whether to bring his four children with him.
Hey Senator Boxer, wazzup ?
A read about the 70% plan.
Will the vibrations be substantial less at 70%?
Or will it imply resonances (=far worse)….
Apparently, they have no good computer model of the heat exchanger, no good (well placed) vibration sensors inside it, so difficult to predict what will happen.
Combine that with:
– Why didn’t they start research the moment they detected vibrations?
– Or did they detect those only after the leakage? (=worse)
So they didnot know what was happening at all.
Will they then know what is happening after the restart at 70%?
So I think hearrings in order to come to the right judgement are fully justified.
The Finnish regulator would order to replace or improve the construction fundamentally as well as vibration sensors inside.
And may be also to develop a computer model.
Senator Boxer was asking the Judical Dept to open an investigation into the contract between SCE and Mitsubishi trying to get crimminal charges filed for possibly misleading federal regulators. When in actuality all SCE S/G replacement documentation was available to the NRC. So not sure how the NRC could have been mislead unless the auditors weren’t performing their legally required oversight duties. This push by the Senator is political pressure towards SCE.
Sen Boxer was holding up Chairman MacFarlane’s renomination because the Senator’s office felt they did not receive all documenation regarding the S/G replacement. This is political pressure on the NRC.
NRC is sensitive to the political situations around them since they are required to go to the Hill regularly and they need to justify their budget as do all federal organizations. Boxer has been adamant about SONGS being shut down and publicly stated the NRC has not done a proper job towards that end. This is political pressure on the NRC.
SCE was facing relicensing process in 9 years but looking at no power production for another 2-3 years to deal with endless public hearing after public hearing. This was upcoming political pressure from anti-nuclear groups which the SCE Board is very familiar as indicated in the list of formal protesters and intervenors that have been working against SONGS for over a decade. These groups were formally invited to group meetings the NRC was planning to hold this fall to “discuss” the stream generator replacement:
Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE),
Peace Resource Center of San Diego, Citizens’ Oversight,
San Clemente Green,
San Onofre Safety,
Democratic Party of San Diego,
Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility,
Friends of the Earth,
Committee to Bridge the Gap,
DAB Safety Team,
Earth Ocean Society,
Women’s Energy Matters
IOW political pressure by both anti-nuclear groups and the NRC since the NRC invited all these groups to participate when their position is fully known by the NRC auditors.
Finally, two nuclear plants existing in the same NRC region. Both plants suffer major issues requiring them to go offline for extended periods involving NRC oversight. One plant has flooding problems, the other has steam generator issues. Both plants facing years of repair, inspections and oversight meetings. HOWEVER, one plant recieves its own special investigation team while the other plant does not. The plant that recieved the special investigation team is none other than SONGS.
Region IV even created a webpage for the SONGS special project.
The difference between the two facilities? The plant that did not receive the special investigation team is Ft. Calhoun where the residents and political leaders are looking to get the plant back into generation not create false fear to drive it off line. SONGS on the other hand exists in a hostile political environment.
So no revenue for an unknown period of time in a market geared toward subsidizing wind and solar even if it creates a negative energy market in which the rate payers do not benefit financially; pressure about to be applied by the Dept. of Justice as they initiated a criminal investigation of a commercial contract between two businesses where the documents were already available to those that needed them; and endless public hearings to allow anti-nuclear protestors free reign to complain about a very technical subject that many of them wouldn’t understand that were going to be facilitated by the NRC itself.
So yes political pressure played into the decision making process at the SCE boardroom level.
Good post. This is an eye opener to me regarding political pressure!
So I misjudged that. Sorry.
I thought the hearings would take a few months and would involve many experts in order to come towards a better prediction about what will happen at 70%, and what additional action/equipment/etc. needed in order to minimize risk.
You also refer to Boxter’s criminal investigation initiative regarding that contract.
I was was also puzzled.
Here criminal investigation will continue until final conclusions, independent of the actions of SCE (whether SONGS closed or not).
Is that different in California?
It is my understanding that Sen. Boxer asked the DOJ to investigate as discussed in the linked article but the DOJ had not responded to the request before SCE decided to decommission SONGS.
However as the article also discusses, SCE had already provided information to the NRC months ago and the NRC has the legal right to ask for all documentation at any time. So their on-site auditors, who knew what was going on and would have routinely reported current events on the S/G replacement project back to Region IV headquarters, could have asked for the same documenation years ago.
So none of these technical S/G questions are a surprise to the NRC which makes the number of public hearings they were going to conduct over the next few months appear to be more politically motivated then technically required.
That however is just more background and doesn’t answer your question. I am honestly puzzled as well about the current status of the request to the DOJ.
I also assumed as you indicate that once the bell was rung it can’t be unrung in that if requested then the DOJ would have to responsd in some fashion. Either a yes they will investigate, or no there is insufficient grounds for a federal investigation or they have to wait until the NRC was finished with their own reviews before starting in investigation.
I have not seen any public response from the DOJ. Boxer stopped pushing DOJ once SCE made their decision public. So the DOJ might have quietly let the matter drop which if that is the case then that would be another indicator of the level of politics that was brought against SCE.
Thanks! Your link shows that Boxer had some evidence of wrong doing.
Seems SCE arranged for ‘improved’ designed heat exchangers, while trying to follow the ‘like-for-like’ replacement procedures.
I’m curious to see how/where this ends.
It supports the idea that SCE tried to make the plant more flexible (faster up-/down regulation).
With lots of wind and solar, fast up-/down is key for the profitability of the plant.
To support that flexibility, heat exchangers need to have thin pipes containing little fluid, made out of well conducting metal (copper in it?).
So Mitsubishi delivered a new design accordingly.
That explains the vibrations and also the “unusual amount of wear” as steel that conduct heat well, is usually not wear-resistant.
If this all is true: “Trying to follow the NRC like-for-like replacement procedure, while ordering/installing a new design. And still explicitly state that you follow the highest safety standards.”
I think SCE’s top management is not trustworthy and should be replaced.
Now this is where I disagree with your constant assumptions and statements that all management teams are evil. You really need to get a new view on that line of thinking. Your constant knee-jerk reaction against corporation management teams is blinding you to clear assessment of the facts and issues.
SCE was using a path that had been used by other nuclear plants to replace steam generators. This path for replacing steam generators was already allowed at other plants by the NRC itself. SCE was not the first plant to proceed down this path. There are sublte technical differences between SCE’s approach and other plants but again, the main licensing review path for steam generator replacement SCE was using had already been approved within the NRC
So this is not an issue of the SCE management team being untrustworthly or operating with illegal intent or whatever other evil intent type manifestations people want to lump on them.
This is a case of the SCE interpreting NRC previous actions within the industry and then assessing the situation themselves. If the NRC then came back and said they did not approve of the path once the steam generators were installed then SCE would have legal options available to them regarding the changes.
Those legal options would have ultimately allowed the steam generators to stay in operation while allowing SCE to continue to produce power. The end result of that review would probably have been some minor license or operational tech spec changes. That is provided the political pressures did not come to bear. We are now in agreement though what can happen when the twin issues of blind political ambition and political pressure are unleashed on one nuclear plant.
Your comment also assumes that the NRC review process would have caught the issues of the steam generators. You are not alone as there are nuclear poeple who agree idea with this as well. I, on the other hand, disagree as one who has been a participant in the NRC technical review process.
The NRC review team would have been looking at the same computer model SCE engineers were reviewing. The NRC reviewers would not have created their own model or had some other company create an independant model. So the NRC line of questioning would have been to have SCE and Mitsubishi prove the computer model. This was a task Mitsubishi had already performed for SCE egnineers.
It is my contention that little new information would have been brought to light during an NRC review especially since the failure mechanism is a “new” type of failure not routinely seen.
And I repeat again. Nothing in the Boxer PR statement about the supposed new information was new to the NRC. The NRC had already reviewed all the information that was presented to them and they had legal means to request addtional information. So if the NRC felt SCE was stepping over their license boundaries then it was up to the NRC permanent on-site inspection team or the Region IV headquarters to note that disagreement.
What is missing from this discussion are those internal NRC communications. Did the NRC inspection team raise those concerns years ago? If not why not? If so where are they?
SCE managment team should not be seen as “evil” or untrustworthy since they were only following a path previously allowed by the NRC. I disagree with their decision to shutter SONGS but the NRC is not completely clean on this issue either.
Bas- from your link about the Belgian government helping itself to the excess profits of their nuclear plants- ‘One third of these profits would be used to invest in medium term energy projects, the rest would be invested in wind power.’
So they’re taking money from a power source which has paid itself off, and will put out power at 90 percent capacity for fifty years, with most shut-downs scheduled for low demand times. They plan to use it to subsidise a power source which is estimated to last thirty years,and produces power on a random access basis about a third of the time. What the ‘medium term energy projects ‘ might be is hard to fathom, if they’re supposed to be low carbon. Converting half of Belgium to energy crops, perhaps?
The previous generation of Belgians have left a heritage of a reliable, profitable, and clean source of power. The current generation of politicians sound like they’re planning to use that bequest to pass on to the next generation an unreliable power source that cannot function without subsidies and fossil fuel backup.
Belgium made the explicit decision to not build any new NPP, only to utilize the existing NPP’s until the end. So they do that.
And the logical consequence is, that they follow Germany.
Do you see another route after the non new NPP decision?
It is a nice thing that they do not use that money to lower the budget deficit, but use it to improve their energy / CO2 situation.
The utility is angry because this is an extra tax above the risk tax that old NPP’s have to pay in Belgium.
The discovered haircracks / crazes in the reactor vessels of two NPP’s may have been the trigger (made feel government uneasy especially since it was concluded they existed already many years, hence extra tax to cover extra risks).
The risk tax is kind of insurance premium / compensation for government for the burden that comes in case of an accident with a damage bigger than the insurance covers.
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