Making Nuclear Innovative:Left to Right: Josh Freed, Jessica Lovering, Todd Allen, Jeff Harper, Caroline CochranPaying attention to Sen Murkowski


  1. Been wading through
    Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems (B.P. Heard, B.W. Brook, T.M.L. Wigley, C.J.A. Bradshaw in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
    Volume 76, September 2017, Pages 1122–1133. Its a bit of a slog.

    The review identified 24 “potentially feasible” 95+% solutions worth considering. But none were found to meet the authors’ fairly realistic final feasibility criteria for reliable electricity systems needed to meet electricity demand this century. Or even come close.

    There’s a lot riding on the nuclear industry, both new and old.

  2. Ed,
    The authors of “Burden of proof….” chose their criteria such that no present simulation will meet their criteria. So they could reject all 100% renewable scenarios.
    E.g. Criterium 2:
    simulating supply to meet demand reliably at hourly, half-hourly, and five-minute timescales, with resilience to extreme climate events
    No realistic 5 minutes timescales are possible (or necessary) even not in more advanced NW-Europe as power is still traded in chunks of 15minutes (USA 60minutes).
    But if someone would do a simulation on 5minutes timescale they still have the “resilience to extreme climate events” argument to discard the results.

    Forgetting that:
    – electricity supply is ~10 times more reliable in countries with a lot generated by wind & solar, such as Germany (20%) and Denmark (40%);

    – nuclear power delivers baseload, which implies that it’s not suitable for more than 75% (even not in combination with hydro as France demonstrates).

    While no expert doubts that renewable can deliver >95% against a lower price.
    Also demonstrated by the fact that quite a number of advanced countries target >95% share of renewable while no country targets >55% for nuclear.

    1. Come on Bas, there are weaknesses in the paper, but you didn’t manage to find them. You can do better than that!

      Now, to make sure that your misinformation doesn’t hang around without a response I have addressed each point that you raise:

      5 minute simulations are absolutely possible, and are essential if you would have problems from a short power outage, as are simulations that include extreme climate events.

      Electricity supply reliability is a complex thing to measure, and at the end of the day most statistics for measuring it are dominated by long duration, small area outages in the network rather than at the power generation or whole grid level. Germany and Denmark do very well at this, other countries not so much. The things that make the networks good are expensive, so when you look at lists of network reliability by country you see that they there is reasonable correlation with GDP (and to a lesser extent land area) rather than the generation method. Of course, if there isn’t enough electricity to go around there will be blackouts no matter how good the network is.

      Nuclear is great at base load, but it is very capable of adjusting rapidly to demand as well. Nuclear submarines wouldn’t be much use if they couldn’t rapidly change speed, would they? The reasons that most current nuclear power plants run to maximize base load production are mostly economic and regulatory, not technical.

      Many experts claim that renewables are expensive, so I have no idea what you are claiming here. Same with national targets, these are set by politicians and have nothing to do with technical merits.

      One of the most annoying things about anti nuclear activists is the way that you get forced into attacking other power sources in order to defend nuclear power. While in the long term (thousands of years) nuclear power is the only source with an adequate energy density for continued growth, for the foreseeable future a diverse energy mix is the best way to go, and yes, this should include wind and solar where appropriate.

      1. “…experts claim that renewables are expensive…”
        That’s the past. And wind, solar and storage continue their price decrease paths.

        Consider e.g. the 350MW PV-solar tender of Abu Dhabi. Won by a consortium which installs, operates and decommission the farm for a guaranteed price of 2.3cnt/KWh for all produced electricity during 20years. GTM research predicts that prices for next tenders (SA, UAE, etc) will decrease towards below 2cnt/KWh this year! I estimate next year.

        Don’t compare with US & EU market prices as those are artificial high due to the import taxes (EU; 45%) on Chinese PV-panels.

        1. @Bas

          The densely populated areas of the U.S. and EU have little or nothing in common with Abu Dhabi. We have a lot more clouds, rain and short winter days. We pay people who install solar farms more than slave wages, we expect all enterprises to pay their fair share of taxes and our real estate is worth a lot more than empty desert.

          All of those factor into the very low prices promised for solar PV electricity, which even in Abu Dhabi isn’t the same product as the stable frequency, 24 x 7 power that is produced in a nuclear power plant.

          Its a bit like comparing a BWM to a bicycle and claiming that the bicycle provides cheaper transportation.

          1. Rod,
            We agree that:
            – such low prices won’t be reached soon in dense populated areas with far less sun and an high paid labor force, such as NL, etc.
            – PV-solar, though highly predictable, doesn’t produce 24/7.

            But it’s smart to realize that continued price decrease for PV-solar during next decades is widely predicted. So gradually even US, starting in the sunny regions, will see significant lower prices than the ~4cnts/KWh Austin and the ~6cnts/KWh Georgia Power bought PV-solar.

            1. @Bas

              The problem I have with predictions of ever lower costs for solar is that few, if any, of the panel makers are profitable at current prices. The market is oversupplied, making it a buyers’ market. When governments finally realize that they jobs they are supporting with continued subsidies are not terribly productive jobs for the rest of the economy, the subsidies and low interest loans to the factories will slow and finally stop.

              There is a market for panels, but it is not as large as current production capacity. Higher cost producers will drop out, and the more efficient producers will finally be able to regain enough pricing power to move panel prices into the range where they are selling for more than they cost to manufacture – including all associated overhead costs.

              I predict that eventually, there will be a somewhat profitable business of producing solar panels for customers where the systems make sense. That market will probably not be large enough to even make a visible difference in overall energy use statistics.

              At some point, even the emperor will realize that his clothes are quite thin and not concealing very much.

          2. Rod,
            The PV-panel world market increased from 30GW in 2012 to 73GW in 2016. That is an annual grow of 25%.
            So most over-capacity will be absorbed by that.

            Don’t know the P&L figures of most producers, but those of Sunpower (which I intent to install on my roof) look fine.
            And big new parties, such as Huawei, are entering the market. Which will contribute to further price decreases.

            Apart from that, production lines for PV-cell and -panel production can and will be much more automated. Compare the complexity and price of flat-screen TV’s with the simplicity and price of PV-panels. So I estimate that prices of $100mln/GWe will be reached in big projects.

            Even here in NL with our high latitude, the first houses & buildings with so much solar in/on their roofs combined with good isolation and heat pumps, that they become energy independent.

            Considering also the decreasing prices for Power-to-Gas and batteries, what’s the future for classic power plants?

            The question explains the move away from classic power plants by the major German utilities (E.on, RWE). Those try to reform towards service companies, organizing Virtual Power Plants, etc.

    2. Where did you get the figures for greater reliability where much of the electricity is from wind & solar?
      shows how much CO2 is being created for electricity generation in various European countries. The countries that are consistently low CO2 generators use a lot of nuclear, hydroelectric or both. The countries trying to use a lot of wind & solar generate a lot of CO2.

      1. Here statistics with discussion about a.o. (wrong) ideas that switching off classic power plants would harm reliability.

        US SAIDI (~2hrs) gives a rosy picture compared to EU, because US excludes outages due to extreme weather. Hence my 10times worse (also based on an IEEE report).

    3. “While no expert doubts that renewable can deliver >95% against a lower price.” This is a truly bizarre comment, and the converse is the case. Why have so many eminent scientists signed this letter. I actually think the converse is true, that if we surveyed international scientists with an h-index > 30 or any other number, we would find a 97% consensus that 100% isn’t going to work.

      1. Graeme the letter states: “… climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems…”

        Time needed to develop “safe, next-generation nuclear” is unclear. But that won’t be available before 2030 (if at all). Then, planning & construction takes another 10years.
        So let’s develop renewable in the meantime as climate change doesn’t wait.

        – The letter argues against wind and solar only. I agree.
        Renewable is far more. Countries are migrating towards >95% renewable.

        – We agree that 100% is still under discussion. But adding nuclear doesn’t improve the migration considering its costs, long lead times, and its incompatibility with high shares of wind & solar.

        1. Safe next generation nuclear plants are being built today. There is no need to delay until 2030 to begin building them. Improved products will certainly be available; they can be implemented as they achieve readiness to deploy. For example, I predict that there will be dozens of NuScale modules in revenue generating service before 2030.

          Countries like NL are free to try to move towards a mostly renewable energy supply system. I see no evidence in my country of any desire among the population to make the sacrifices such a plan would require.

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