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  1. I think that the general public, (due to the inept and insufficient industry effort to educate the public about NE, and zero effort at marketing), sees plant closures as an environmental “victory”. To maintain these plants with an eye towards eventual renewed operation would face huge opposition from the fossil fuel industry, in league with the environmentalists that foolishly advance fossil fuel interests by touting renewables as replacement for nuclear, INSTEAD of allies of nuclear.

    Plus, who would bear the burden of cost to maintain these plants to the degree that a restart would even be feasable? I doubt the utility companies would be willing to foot the bill, as these dormant facilities would not be bringing in profits.

    1. @poa

      The key word in the above is “dormant.” In a world driven by reason, keeping a nuclear plant functional would be at least as easy as keeping a coal, oil or gas plant functional. In fact, it would be quite a bit simpler because nuclear plants are made with better materials and have more effective chemistry controls that minimize corrosion and wear.

      Since all fuel would be relocated out of the core and into on site storage, it should be very difficult to make the case that a mothballed nuclear plant needs any more security than one that is in a “possession only” state.

      There is no need for operators to maintain proficiency; there will be several months notice in which to retrain them before a restoration. The QA and the system integrity shouldn’t be that difficult to maintain; I can’t see how it would keep more than a couple of FTE’s engaged.

      Businesses make investments all of the time in facilities that WILL produce money in the future, but are just cost in the present. It’s all a matter of how you run the numbers and how you control the costs while maximizing the opportunity.

      1. The key word in the above is “reason.” Just what world do you live on Rod?:)

        Joke. There are two adjacent but seemingly unrelated posts up today on The Daily Climate :
        UN: Huge emissions cuts needed to meet Paris climate goals (Karl Ritter, AP), and The US keeps shutting down nuclear power plants and replacing them with coal or gas (Brad Plummer, Vox).

        Also, not quite so squeamish with the numbers as AP though not as thorough as Vox: Un report: Climate goals rapidly moving out of reach. (Scott Johnson, Ars Technica.)

        And, speaking of externalities brought home to roost: UK coal-powered electricity projected to fall by record amount — like by about 66% year-over-year. (Adam Vaughan, The Guardian).

        There are worthwhile graphics in each of these, although the deepest depth of commentary is sounded — not surprisingly — by Brad Plummer at Vox, including a bottom-line surmise that this is an issue of which the Clinton campaign is well aware.

        1. @Ed Leaver

          Good one. Ha Ha. Please note the use of the conditional tense: “in world driven by reason keeping a nuclear reactor functional would be…”

          Part of my mission is to paint the impressionistic view of how the world might look in the future if we made choices based on reason and love of humanity instead of selfish greed and encouraged emotions.

          1. I guess in the Navy, “conditional tense”
            equals “subjunctive mood”. Relying
            on reason and love of humanity is not
            going to get it done. You have to
            harness greed. That’s what a properly
            functioning market system does. The
            mess that nuclear is in today is not
            the market’s fault. It is well-meaning
            attempts to replace the market system
            which are almost immediately co-opted by
            greedy special interests.

      2. Do you think the laid-off operators would be available for retraining at a mothballed plant that was being brought back to life? My guess is that they’d have moved on, either to other plants or out of the business entirely. Once they are gone and started a life elsewhere, you probably aren’t going to get them back. These aren’t grease monkeys putting nuts on a wheel at an assembly plant. Same with technicians and engineers. A more likely scenario is that a large majority of staff for a plant being brought back to life would probably be starting from scratch, and that means big bucks invested in human capital. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but it complicates the process of restoring a mothballed plant.

        That said, don’t get me wrong. Mothballing is a lot better than destroying the facility. Its just the human side of the story is not as straightforward as it might seem.

      3. “Since all fuel would be relocated out of the core and into on site storage……”

        What are the maintainence and oversight logistics of storing this fuel? Is it dry, or in pools? Doesn’t it just provide more fodder for the argument that nuclear “waste” is timelessly dangerous? After all, if the plant is shut down, can’t the argument be made that it is no longer “fuel”? Seems to me that there aren’t any good outcomes for an idled plant. Even in a state of dormancy, they can be attractive targets of the anti nuclear crowd. Plus, the need to store the “dangerous” fuel after shut down, for long periods of time, provides an argument for not building new plants.

        Seems to me, the whole root system for NE’s problems stems from the public’s perception of radiation. Change that perception, you change NE’s future. The Catch 22 is that the public doesn’t trust the industry, and the fear of radiation is so ingrained in our national psyche that erasing it is like trying to tell a kid that a bee sting didn’t hurt.

        1. @poa

          The current path that results in a reactor in SAFSTOR with a “possession only” license has all of the spent fuel issues that you mention. None of the decommissioned reactors has sent their used fuel off site.

      4. I work at Clinton.

        After taking fuel out of the reactor, regulations still require the emergency response organization to be staffed for the “zirconium fire” window in the spent fuel pool. ERO staffing requirements is what determines how fast you can reduce FTEs, and will require up to half of your normal full power staffing to maintain for up to 18 months.

        This poses another challenge to reducing FTEs. It also is odd because the NRC found in its study on spent fuel pool fires that the risk of fire is essentially eliminated after 4 months for a BWR, and 11 months for PWR fuel, plus operators are trained on b5b requirements to use spray guns from fire protection for the very fringe cases where you somehow lose pool integrity.

        As you know Rod, when you go into decommissioning, all of these FTEs are paid out of the decom fund, so the company doesn’t see it as a loss, but mothballing would mean you have to pay essentially half staff for 18 months, plus a reduced staff until all fuel is in dry cask storage.

        1. Michael,

          Your point about the decom fund is interesting, and may point to an area where a change in the rules would be helpful.

          Perhaps the rules could be changed to allow the expenses you describe to be covered by decom fund money, even if the plant is being mothballed instead of decommissioned. The first reaction to this proposal would be that that would take away money that will be eventually needed to decommission the plant. But let’s think about that for a moment.

          The expenses you describe would be the same whether the plant is being decommissioning or mothballed (since any possible plans to reopen it have no affect on the physical condition of the plant, e.g., zirc fire potential, etc..). Now, it’s true that if you restart the plant, you would incur those costs a second time, when the plant is closed for good (i.e., another zirc fire / 18 month period, etc..). However, it is also true that years of additional operation would significantly increase the size of the fund.

          I think it could be argued that reopening the plant, and running it for even a few more years, would more than offset any decom fund money used for mothballing expenses, resulting in more money being present in the fund, not less. And, BTW, if you decide not to (ever) reopen the plant, no significant additional expenses are really incurred, because the mothball expenses should not be much more than those which would have occurred if you just decommissioned it in the first place. That is certainly the case with the expenses that you (Michael) described.

          I think that this could be used as an argument for allowing plants to be mothballed using decom fund money. At a minimum, expenses that would have occurred anyway (if the plant was decommissioned) could be covered by the decom fund, despite the presence of the restart option. One could possibly not allow use of decom fund money for other expenses that wouldn’t be incurred if there were no plans to restart (such as enhanced component inspections/maintenance).

          Thoughts, anyone?

  2. Trojan has been almost totally dismantled and removed. Effort continues, even dry cask storage is planned for removal.

  3. Great article Rod; we can only hope the NRC is listening.

    Just thinking out loud here: The NRC may help reduce the carrying costs of a “planned extended shutdown” by basing its annual license fee on the actual amount of energy produced plus a fixed overhead fee e.g. $X/MWh + $Y, instead of the $4.8 million fee it charges now (where X and Y are to be determined).
    This change would not require a new “operation” mode to be defined nor would it require that the operator request a possession-only amendment.

    So, on average, what percentage of the operating costs of a dormant nuclear plant is $4.8 million?

  4. Natural gas by it’s very nature is a far more valuable fuel for domestic cooking and heating. We need to put back in place the ban on new large gas fired power plants that was in place circa 1980. I also think that we need to press for the development of the small modular reactor and other advanced designs. We need to get prototypes under construction in the next two years. Some questions I have , how many base load and intermediate cycle gas plants are under construction and where ? Gas may be cheap but you don’t throw up power plants over night. Is this a wide spread industry trend or are we seeing a few special cases here? In the long run the federal government is going to will have to step in if it’s former to stop these shut downs.

  5. Well…I’m disappointed, Rod, that Ms. Kosnick hasn’t chosen to drop in, if only briefly, to comment on the topics you raise. Yeah, I know, busy people, yadayadayada…

    But I’ve read a few of her past interviews, and panels she’s participated in, and she seems kinda establishment to me, like she may not bring any fresh strategies online as far as changing the narrative through effective marketing and PR. It’d be nice to hear her outline, if only tentatively, what she’s got in mind for the next few years. If its same ol’, same ‘ol, expect the doors to keep slamming shut. You guys should, in my opinion, be politely prompting her for sound and innovative leadership, as much as her position will allow. Lord knows, you obviously haven’t been getting that, as far as successful marketing strategies go

    1. More about this….

      Have any of you read anything, in the mainstream media, recently, casting NE in a positive light? So how exactly does John Q get exposed to a narrative complimentary to NE? Well, if uninterested in energy issues, beyond what color wall receptacles will go with their fresh wall paint, they don’t get exposed to a positive narrative. Odds are, their opinion about NE is “radiation, bad = nuclear energy, bad”. Or, if the negative and sensationalized media accounts about an event such as Fukushima perks their interest, they may accidentally stumble upon a website such as this one, as I did. So really, a few websites, that number less than the fingers on two hands, that are not even moderately known about by the general public, are the front lines of the effort to change the narrative about NE. And Ms. Kosnick can’t even briefly visit the trenches, and lay out a battle plan?? Has she given any media interviews since her appointment? Does anyone here have half a clue what she intends, how she will enhance or forward the message people like Rod have tirelessly tried to deliver for decades? I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but…tick tock….tick tock….

      1. Its a tough situation, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There are not too many (big) entities out there who are dedicated to the nuclear cause. Individual plants are hobbled by the need to justify costs to regulators. Membership in NEI as a lobbying organization also comes under scrutiny. EPRI out in Palo Alto is basically a research organization, and won’t spend money on anything that isn’t mission-critical (i.e., engineering studies) to its members, who pay big bucks to belong to it. That leaves the American Nuclear Society, which while they have advertised being involved in outreach and public education (there are check-off boxes on their dues statement for voluntary contributions to those things), their efforts have not been widely disseminated. When I was a grad student we got funding and educational materials from them to run an information booth at our state fair. I think they award fellowships and scholarships as well. So then you’re down to grassroots, blog sites, local organizations like at Diablo Canyon and Vermont Yankee. All strictly voluntary and self-funded. It truly is a David and Goliath situation. We’re David here with our voluntary organizations and blogs (slingshot) going up against the Goliath funding machines of the anti-nukes and so-called environmental organizations. Not impossible, but long odds indeed.

        1. In Britain, they have an organization called “Supporters of Nuclear Energy” which does nice things like organize visits to plants, as well as “showing the flag” publicly. We have nothing like that in the USA. In fact, because I purchased some promotional materials (and charging for them strikes me as a bad move) a while back from ANS, thus getting into their database, I was called the other day by someone offering me a membership. When my answer to “how long have you worked in the industry?” was “I don’t”, he was very embarassed & didn’t know what to say to me.

      2. @poa

        You may dismiss this as an excuse, but Ms. Korsnick’s promotion does not officially take effect until after the end of 2016. Marv Fertel is still serving as NEI President and CEO. There MAY be some protocol and planning reasons for the lack of follow up interviews.

  6. I know it isn’t exactly the same situation, but we can still learn from the recent Watts Bar 2 story. That plant was essentially complete (including even the hot functional testing, IIRC) back in the 1990s and then sat “dormant” for decades. So I’m thinking the recent finishing off and starting of that unit gives an idea of the effort that would be involved in re-starting a mothballed unit. Answer: Billions of dollars; but billions less than constructing a new unit from scratch. Food for thought?

    1. gmax,

      Well, my “thoughts” are that there’s no valid reason for it to cost billions of dollars to bring a fully-built plant back into operation. It is equally ridiculous that starting up a mothballed plant would require anywhere near that level of effort/cost. What does it cost to bring a coal plant out of mothballs, again? I mostly reject any reasons why a nuclear plant should cost that much more (the reasons being nothing more than nuclear exceptionalism).

      What all this shows is that the “way of doing business” in the nuclear industry is fundamentally flawed and needs to change if the industry is to have a future. The red tape shouldn’t be much more than coming out of an outage; just think of it as a very long outage…… (Same for mothballed plants.)

      BTW, I had no idea it was fully constructed and was even doing operational testing. Given how expensive it is to resurrect a project, it makes me wonder why, after getting THAT far, they decided to indefinitely postpone the project, as opposed to finishing it off. I don’t even care if the power wasn’t needed, due to lack of expected demand growth. If the act of halting the project would literally mean billions of dollars of extra expense in the future, I’d of finished it off and just closed fossil plants (and perhaps turn those fossil plants back on when demand climbs back up). Were they unaware of how much it would cost, i.e., of how things work in the nuclear industry.

      Then again, their regulators allowed them to treat finishing the plant like a new project, and allowed them to put the (billions in) cost into the rate base, and even make profit on it (presumably). As Rod often points out, utilities sometimes actually like additional costs, if they can pass them on and even earn a profit. The Watts Bar 2 stop and restart scenario you describe is somewhat similar to PG&E’s wanting to close Diablo Canyon and build new renewable generation to replace it. It’s a new capital project, and they get to pass the costs onto the ratepayer and earn a healthy profit (on those additional, actually unnecessary, expenses). I often wonder if things like this are the real reason why the industry does not fight back against unreasonable, and expensive, regulatory burdens. In many cases, they can actually make money off of them.

  7. Well –

    This may not be from the same perspective as the rest of you but here goes. This post is a little whacked out.

    I recently saw what my health insurance will jump too.,……Ouch!

    I got to thinking about our government. There’s words in the constitution to promote the general welfare. I see affordable public health options like they have in other countries as promoting the general welfare. An affordable public option would give us both physical and economic welfare.

    Shouldn’t the NRC be concerned with both physical and economic welfare as well? Isn’t this what wise leadership is supposed to do? They certainly are serious about radiological health.

    The price of gasoline certainly jumps prices at a whim to supply and demand. The same market forces are prevalent in the pricing of natural gas. Don’t you think the price is going to rise after the utilities tear down their coal and nuclear plants? Is this good for the countries economic health? Is this promoting the general welfare?

    You would think they would have made some changes already to help the public. Who is really running the government?

    I used to laugh at the “smoking gun” idea, but no longer.

    1. If we can have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve to preserve national (economic as well as military) security in case of a sudden shortage of fuels, surely we can have a Nuclear Mothball Fleet ready to spring into action in the same contingency. After all, it’s not hard to assure any nuclear powerplant a five-year supply of fuel stored on site, & being able to bring fission onto the grid in short order means being able to take off gas which can then be used as a substitute for liquid fuels in many applications — leaving those liquid fuels, in turn, available for the applications where they are not easily substitutable.

  8. I am no expert on the matter of Public Utilities advertizing, however, ever utility that I worked for, even those that were municipal owned/operated had restrictions placed upon them as to the advertizing that was allowed to be aired and the advertizing that was allowed as a recoverable “business” expense. If you have seen any ads from the local water company, electric company or gas company, you will not they are about safety, conservation, and other helpful topics. Som may have subtle discussions about how gas heating is better than electric heating, but it is never to the point that it is selling.

    Years back NEI tried some Nuclear push campaigns. Then, various state PUC’s started looking into how much the local NPP was paying NEI for the blatant advertisements. Thus, the NEI program faded away.
    As Rod said, there is no “Nuclear Industry Complex” that is going to push nuclear. Those making NPPs can also make wind turbines, gas turbines, whatever and make more money faster. You, the customer, are the loser, as you get to pay MORE for MORE expensive power that pollutes MORE and produces MORE CO2. And the companies making that equipment are free to advertise how CLEAN NG is and how Wind turbines make no CO2, and how Solar panels make no CO2. They make MORE money and you get to pay MORE again, this time to reduce the COP2 that is generated by the backup sources, creating a self feeding destructive chain reaction of ever increasing costs for a program that make the problem worse.
    As I have said many times here, “If this is really about reducing CO2 then we would be building ten new NPPs a year, NOT wind turbines and solar panels.” the fact that we are not building new NPPs means we are not going to reduce CO2 levels in our or your children’s lifetime. PERIOD. And How many US NPPs will shut down in 2017? I am betting another five!

    1. There was a famous court case over leaflets mailed to customers by Con Edison in 1976 promoting nuclear electricity. I really want a copy of that leaflet.

  9. Assume gas gets depleted in ~2025 and whole sale prices rise towards >$50/MWh.
    Then the question arise how long those high whole sale prices will continue?

    Or stated otherwise:
    How long will it take before additional production by wind & solar push whole sale prices down towards <$40/MWh? Or <$30/MWh?
    Are the earnings in that intermediate period enough to justify the investment of a restart?

    Considering the already low prices for solar & wind and the widely predicted further price decreases, I don't feel optimistic.

    1. @Rens

      During the period from 2004-2008 wholesale electricity prices in the US often exceeded $100/ME-hr for weeks or months at a time at some power hubs. They were consistently in excess of $70/MW-hr in areas with a high dependence on natural gas.

      Growth in wind and solar will halt when subsidies are actually allowed to expire as scheduled. I’ll admit that our Congress has been reluctant to allow that to happen and has extended or increased the subsidies about a dozen times since 1992.

      1. @Rod,
        As Bod Dylan once song:”Times, they are changing…” Those old times won’t return. Now Dubai, etc. contract unsubsidized PV-solar for <3cent/KW-h.
        $70/MW-h is the present unsubsidized price level of offshore wind in Europe.

        Predictions are that unsubsidized wind & solar will produce for <$30/MW-h nearly everywhere in 2050.

        When we assume that the unsubsidized price of solar & wind declines linear from present levels to that of 2050. Then the unsubsidized price levels in 2033 (halfway) will be ~$50/MW-h or less.
        So an in 2025 restarted NPP may then operate another 8-20years without making operational losses.

        The Question is whether it will earn enough in that time window to compensate for the costs:
        – to keep it "restartable" during the ~9years until 2025; and
        – to restart (cleaning, upgrading equipment, training new staff, etc).

        1. I would not trust those contract prices on Solar. as an example, why does the grocer mark the price of dairy products down to 1/2 the normal price on the day before the “Sell By” date? the customers do not want spoiled products. Same with wind solar. Read those contracts carefully. The contracts I have seen are for a non guaranteed delivery of the purchased quantity, on top of that, the dispatcher knows that the electricity, when delivered, could stop at any moment. When a dispatcher is accepting “unreliable” power, regardless of the cost, they know they have to have 50 – 100% backup (which he has determined by his past experience and his reliance on weather forecasts) which can be selling for 100 to 1000 times as much during high demand periods. As more and more “Unreliables” come on line the prices for that emergency replacement power (which will have to be fossil) will cost more and more. And, the price of those contracts for unreliable, and sometimes non existent electricity will sell for less and less. Think of it as four or five day old bread stores all within a block of each other. Without economical storage “Unreliables” are not ready for prime time. And there are no Economical storage facilities. For the cost of a 1 GW Unreliable plant and a one day storage facility (pick your flavor) and O&M costs you could build a 1GW NPP cover O&M and still have money left over.
          Don’t believe me? Visit your nearest electric utility dispatcher and ask them.

          1. Rich,
            With present 8MW wind turbines (installed in EU) the cap.factors of individual wind turbines are >50%. When combined over a larger area they easily reach >60%. Combine with distributed solar (the sun shines when there is little wind) and you are >70%, which is not far off from the 90% of power plants.

            And power plants need expensive spinning reserves (they stop sometimes in a second) which wind & solar don’t need as production swings are known hours/days in advance and a break down of one wind turbine hardly affects total production…

            Customers buy because the total costs are lower. Which apparently applies in more and more places now, due to the continued price decrease.

            And there is room for further price decreases. Compare prices & complexity of a standard TV-set with the simplicity of a PV-solar panel. Than you realize that solar panels prices will decrease another factor 3 or more if they are produced in same quantities.

            Apparently several countries think so as they are targeting near 100% renewable.

        2. @Rens

          Some things change, some remain the same.

          Predictions of the future are only accidentally correct. Most of the time they’re wrong, especially when coming from motivated prognosticators.

          1. Re: Capacity factors.

            “With present 8MW wind turbines (installed in EU) the cap.factors of individual wind turbines are >50%. When combined over a larger area they easily reach >60%.”

            These look to be Trump type values.

            A quick look at a link for Danish offshore wind shows an average capacity factor of 40.8%. Note this is for offshore wind which is both more expensive to build and to maintain and has higher capacity factors than on land facilities.


            I still think this is pretty good for automated unmanned facilities with free clean fuel. If they could just fill the gap with some sort of high temperature reactor instead of burning coal or natural gas, it would be 100% clean air.

          2. Eino,
            That concern older wind farms with smaller wind turbines.
            Same with older Dutch offshore wind farms in the N-sea.

            The Dutch 700MW Borssele offshore wind farm in the N-sea (~30km off the coast in ~30m deep water) tendered this summer was won by Danish Dong using 8.2MW MHI-Vestas wind turbines who are expected to produce with a CF >50% (wind profiles, etc are well known as the area is part of the advanced Dutch coast defence which uses nature as the sand engine).
            There were 38 bidders.
            Dong will install (before 2021), operate and decommission the windfarm for a guaranteed price of €73/MWh during 15years and has to sell thereafter at the whole sale market which Dutch government in 2035 estimates to have an av. price of €29/MWh (=this year’s av. whole sale price).

            Note that wind turbine design (blades, etc) and management (adaptation to wind) as well as wind farm management (wind prediction, etc) are still not well developed. Though there is improvement such as exchange of wind info between turbines as well as sensors, so the turbine can adapt to wind changes roughly a minute in advance.
            Further that 20MW turbines (=higher=more steady wind) are feasible with offshore.
            So further improvements of CF are expected.

        3. Rens; Please explain how that is going to work. Look at the linked maps for potential wind energy for the EU and USA. You will notice that less than 1/3 of either map has any areas with average annual wind speed above 7 m/s. Major portions have insufficient wind to make even the most efficient high CF wind turbines economical feasible to provide power.
          The first big problem is getting that power from the windy areas to those areas that have none or little. Many of the existing transmission lines will need to be upgraded. Most areas of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania are already at capacity. That means adding additional transmission lines from Iowa to New York, etc. Expensive, very expensive.
          The next big problem is that the numbers are “Average Annual” wind speed. That means that they take all the hourly numbers (taken on the hour) for the year and average the numbers. I live in one of those states in the middle of the USA with the best, highest values of wind potential. I have an anemometer mounted on the top of my 72 ft Ham Radio antenna tower. I have seen many days when the wind speed hovers around 1 – 3 MPH (0.5 – 1.5 m/s) for days to weeks. And then wind speeds of 10 to 30 mph (5 – 15 m/s) with gusts as much as double the nominal hourly high.
          That is the problem. The wind does not sit there at an average speed as shown in the maps. The wind can be nonexistent for a week or more, then it can be in the “average” range for several weeks and then a week or so at twice the “average” map speed. Worse yet, even when it is windy, the wind is not constant. The wind pattern is similar to the usage pattern of a typical restaurant, restroom, gas station or highway, without the periodicity or predictability – only forecasts that are about as reliable as the average weather report, i.e., about 50% reliable.
          Look into what happened to the entire power grid in South Australia. Search South Australia power loss blackout.

          1. S-Australia
            As it now shows, the SA power loss had nothing to do with their wind turbines but everything with a combination of other failures (incl. bad design, fossil plant).

            Power lines
            DC-technology is improves fast.
            China seems to construct a 12GW power line over ~3500km.
            Estimate that the costs are ~1cnt/KWh.

            Handling variability wind
            Modern wind turbines comunicate wind speed they sense to each other and a management center. They also have sensors around.
            That allows for very accurate wind prediction e.g. 3-2-1 minutes ahead, which is enough to adapt / optimize the position of the blades and nacelle. It increases CF.

        4. It’s obvious that running a plant for 8+ years would more than offset the restart costs (or it should be).

          Current price suppression in the wholesale markets are due to market interventions on renewables behalf (heavy subsidies and outright mandates for use). Nuclear (and fossil) must get ALL of their income from wholesale market prices, whereas most of the costs for renewables come from elsewhere (taxpayers and retail rate payers). That is how they can survive negative pricing, etc…

          If renewable sources had to get all their money from wholesale market sales, the drops in wholesale market prices, that occur when the wind blows or sun shines, would affected them even more than they would affect traditional generators (because the price drops occur right when they are generating power). Thus, w/o such market interventions, it is unclear how much (intermittent) renewable generation would actually be economical, and would actually be built. That is how an unperturbed, naturally-functioning market would penalize renewables for their intermittency, and the effect would be significant.

          Renewables advocates often talk about how economical these sources are getting, but I’m still waiting for them to put their money where their mouth is and agree to dropping all the heavy subsidies and mandates (for renewables only). Both renewables and nuclear should be treated the same, and be given some advantage over fossil for their non-polluting, non-CO2-emitting nature. Either give them equal subsidy, include nuclear in all mandates, or drop both and tax air pollution and CO2 emissions.

          If nuclear was given proper credit for it’s non-polluting nature, it is doubtful that any existing plants would be closing, for the foreseeable future. It is clear that a mothballed plant would be economical to restart, after natural gas prices go up, especially if CO2 is taxed or if nuclear is appropriately subsidized.

          1. What if all subsidies (incl. those for renewable and nuclear) would be stopped and emissions were seriously taxed?

            No nuclear plant would be built and all existing NPP’s would stop soon as the insurance premium for accidents (for damage up to at least $500B) and the nuclear waste burden (>1000yrs) would make all nuclear uneconomic.

          2. Rens,

            And I was taking you somewhat seriously…..

            Any liability limit subsidy for nuclear is less than 0.1 cents/kW-hr. This is shown by the following analyses done on the Price Anderson Act, at the bottom of this linked article (I’ll let you do the math to convert per reactor annual costs to cents/kW-hr):


            This is corroborated by the fact that if you divide Fukushima’s total economic cost of ~$100 billion by the ~100 trillion kW-hrs nuclear has generated over the last few decades, you get an “accident cost” on the order of 0.1 cents/kW-hr. Fukushima being the only significant release of pollution in non-Soviet nuclear’s entire 50+ year history, and much of the resulting ~$100 billion cost being due to unnecessary over-reactions.

            Nuclear waste? The costs of disposal are 0.1 cents/kW-hr, which is already included in nuclear’s price. That pays for disposal to the highest standards ever applied to any waste stream (resulting in long term risks/impacts that are LOWER than those of most other waste streams). Your assumption that nuclear waste, unlike other waste streams, will require expensive, long-term monitoring is completely false. It is no different from any other waste stream in that regard. Once the repository is sealed, no further action, or monitoring, is required. Again, it’s not like our other waste streams have no long-term toxicity or pose no long-term hazard. Where does that assumption come from?

            If emissions were “seriously taxed”, as you suggest (and I agree), and we removed all mandates and subsidies (including any nuclear liability limit or waste subsidies), nuclear would do much better. It’s costs would go up by ~0.2 cents/kW-hr at most, whereas fossil fuels’ price would go up significantly (an order of magnitude more, at least).

            Renewables would do less well, because the current dramatic market interventions on their behalf would be eliminated. They would actually have to compete with nuclear and coal-to-gas switching as emissions reduction measures, on a fair playing field, and the negative impacts of their intermittency would be fully accounted for.

          3. Jim,
            No insurance company will accept a NPP for a realistic max for your premium of 0.1 cents/kW-hr. We differ roughly a factor 10 about the necessary accident premium.

            In ~16K reactor years 4-5 reactors of the 500 created a damage of ~$1trillion (~1% ended in an accident, far worse than e.g. that of the 747, which fits with nuclear’s inferior safety culture compared to the airline industry).
            It’s a damage of $250B/reactor disaster, which occurs once in 4000yrs. So a premium of $62mln/yr per reactor.
            A 1GW reactor produces 8TWh/yr.
            So the premium is 0.8cnt/KWh for a power plant not near a big city.

            The premium is clearly factors too low for e.g Indian Point as it can easily cause the permanent evacuation of NYC, causing a damage of many trillions. E.g. an attack when there is a stable wind in the right direction (the Japanese were lucky as the wind blew the emitted radiation near allways direct to the ocean).

    2. Wind & solar are non-substituting forms of energy. Germany hasn’t reduced its consumption of fossil fuels for electric generation even three per centum, for all its installations. Therefore the question is nonsense.

      1. Germany reduced its consumption of fossil fuel for electricity generation substantially. Just look at last decade:
        In 2005 all fossil generated 373TWh.
        In 2015 all fossil generated 340TWh (=9% less)

        Furthermore wind & solar are widely expected to continue their fast price decrease in coming decades. So they are becoming more and more competitive, and will continue to compete many other from the market.

          1. Bas/Rens….

            When people post with constantly changing personnas, in an attempt to conceal their past commentary and participation, it completely robs them of credibility. I don’t even bother to read your comments anymore, because anyone attempting to employ deception just doesn’t deserve consideration.

        1. The question is not, “did electric generation accounted for as from fossil fuel sources change?” The question is, “did fossil fuel consumption change?”
          The two answers are different, in large part because fossil fuel plant operated in such a way as to accommodate the swings in wind/solar output, which are not correlated with changes in load, loses efficiency.

  10. Rod

    Always like reading your blogs…and agree with this recent post on . In fact I wrote over 6 months ago on the Energy Collective a piece on this topic and calling for some out-of-the-box thinking and regulatory framework adjustments. (see http://www.theenergycollective.com/robertsweeney/2376545/time-for-a-new-mode-of-operation-opportunity-to-rethink-the-regulatory-framework-ahead-of-shutdowns)

    While my comments followed an analysis of the NRC’s rulemaking comments received back in the Spring that my firm, IBEX Engineering Services, Inc. conducted, I suggested the NRC could take a look at this in the context of rulemaking activities associated with decommissioning and allow some flexibility before a utility makes the decision to cease operations. That said, I also think other regulators could look at this in the broader scheme of things, including some incentives from states and stakeholders to preclude premature elimination of these high-value carbon-free generating assets.


  11. @Rens
    Please, please quit repeating the false narrative (meme) that the Nuclear Power utilities are receiving massive, even significant subsidies from the US Government. It is based upon a lie and false accounting logic. Numbers show they pay more than out than received and are one of the rare industries actually paying for the problems (real/imaginary) they create, unlike Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Air travel, Food production, Building safety, auto safety, work safety, whatever. e.g the License for a 767 aircraft is less than the license on a bicycle (where needed). The total of all of these at license fees does not even pay for the aircraft controllers, let alone the radar, GPS, weather equipment or other airport needed oversight control or safety measures.
    First, the US NPPs pay for more than 90% of the entire operating cost of the regulating agency (which also is responsible for all other nuclear uses like educational, medical and industrial radiological exams) assuring that the plants are safe and comply with not only Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations and all other federal regulations. E.g., EPA, OSHA, NFPA, etc. Name a industry or service in the USA that pays for the day-to-day operation, maintenance, budget of the regulating agency. FAA – NO, EPA – NO, FDA – NO, NFPA – NO, OSHA – NO, USDA – NO, NTSB – NO, etc. Please let me know which of one that is paid for by the organizations they regulate. On top of that, the NPPs then pay for the review and approval of any license amendment and even for the inspection of their facilities and the follow-up inspection of the facility to assure corrections are made.
    Second, the Nuclear Liability Insurance (Price-Anderson Act) is not a subsidy. The Owners of nuclear power plants pay a premium each year for $375 million in private insurance for offsite liability coverage for each reactor unit. In the event a nuclear accident, causes damages in excess of $375 million, each licensee would be assessed a prorated share of the excess up to $111.9 million. It is not free, it is not cheap, and the US government makes money from it, just like they make money from the collection of SS tax and Medicare taxes, throw it in the general budget and SPEND it!
    The Price-Anderson Act was designed back when there was no definitive, tested, accurate risk assessments that any underwriters could use or would even use to predict the probability or potential for an accident and the cost of the outcomes. That was 40 plus years ago. I know the problems back then as I wrote a senior thesis on the problem. Now there are more than enough data to accurately establish a private insurance policy that could cover the cost of a NPP accident. And the data shows the cost would be less than what the NPPs are now paying. Further, considering the fact that even if an accident like Chernobyl were to happen, then all other plants would more than likely be shut down. This would eliminate the need for the funds collected from the now shut down plants be needed for the accidents that could now never be operated again.

    As a retired NPP manager, I would say, throw us in the briar patch of no Price Anderson Act. It would be cheaper or about the same cost without all of the negativity attached to the phony subsidy meme.

    How much would you save on taxes if industries were paying for all of the costs of their regulations?

    1. Rich,
      I understand from your comment that each NPP’s (or reactor?) is now insured to a max of $375mln + ~100*$112mln= ~$12Billion. While:
      – a reactor can cause a damage of $250B or far more e.g. if winds are wrong.
      – you confirm that insurance companies can insure far more. Which is true considering the ~$50Billion regarding the Deep Horizon.

      Prior to PA; no insurance.
      No insurance is risky as the owner of the NPP will collapse, so probably even
      less compensation for the victims.
      Hence obliged insurance (similar as cars, planes, etc) to at least $250Billion/reactor (and e.g. 10 times more for Indian Point as it can cause so much more damage).
      If private insurance companies can insure to only $100B, then government should insure the other $150B asking a premium similar as what private insurance ask.

      Others socialize (accident) costs too
      Not true for most in your list. But where it is true, it should be corrected.

      Agree that cars are also subsidized. To compensate for all the cost they cause to society I propose to increase car fuel tax greatly (to ~$40/gallon).
      In NL we have a group who promote it, but the EU is a millstone…

      1. Your information source is pure bovine manure. Even Wikipedia theris better – he Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act (commonly called the Price-Anderson Act) is a United States federal law, first passed in 1957 and since renewed several times, which governs liability-related issues for all non-military nuclear facilities constructed in the United States before 2026.”

        Price Andersom requires “Owners of nuclear power plants pay a premium each year for $375 million in private insurance for offsite liability coverage for each reactor unit. This primary or first tier, insurance is supplemented by a second tier. In the event a nuclear accident, causes damages in excess of $375 million, each licensee would be assessed a prorated share of the excess up to $111.9 million. With 104 reactors currently licensed to operate, this secondary tier of funds contains about $12 billion.” Only after that does the US government kick in any money – just like the US government kicks in money after every tornado, hurricane, eaethquake, Flood, bad snowstorm, etc., etc., etc.. Which is probably costs a 100 times more for the total of these disasters than the NPP accident – even if in NYC!!!

        Further all US Licensed, operating nuclear power plants “Although not required by the Price-Anderson Act, NRC regulations!! require licensees to maintain a minimum of $1.06 billion in onsite property insurance at each reactor site. The NRC added this requirement after the Three Mile Island accident out of concern that licensees may be unable to cover onsite cleanup costs resulting from a nuclear accident. This insurance is required to cover the licensee’s obligation to stabilize and decontaminate the reactor and site after an accident. Currently, only Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited provides this insurance for licensees.”

        Try Google, Yahoo, or Bing to verify the propaganda you repeat (cut and paste?) before spreading it here.

        Have you calculated the net cost to taxpayers of the Subsidy that the airlines receive for their pittance of a licensing fee compared to the cost of airline costs? Have you calculated the net cost to taxpayers of the subsidy to home owners, especially those along thew coasts, for the subsidy they receive in their lowered insurance costs relative to the risk of floods, hurricanes? Either of those cost the tax payers more and benefit the elites and wealthy more than the fly-over common folk taxpayers of the USA and the EU.

        1. Thanks for confirming my estimate that the liability insurance covers only $12Billion.

          You should compare with wind, solar, etc as we are discussing clean electricity generation methods. Those receive much lower subsidies.

          1. Thank you for confirming that you know absolutely nothing, ZERO, 0.0 about underwriting risk in relation to liability insurance.

      2. @ RENS : S-Australia
        “As it now shows, the SA power loss had nothing to do with their wind turbines but everything with a combination of other failures (incl. bad design, fossil plant).”
        Again, Bovine manure. I have worked with Electric Utility Dispatchers coordinating the startup of 10,000 horsepower motors. If I were to start a motor this size without telling the dispatcher, the entire substation could be lost. Been there, done that. Losing 400 – 500 MW of WIND turbine power (any power) is going to cause the grid to collapse. PERIOD. Point of fact would even happen with the sudden loss of 200 MW
        Try reading these links. Cut and paste into your browser DELETE the “[ … ]” square brackets from either end. Helps give you the link without the BOT blocking the link. Third link is paywalled.
        From above – “…
        In this updated report, it is now known that five system faults occurred within a period of 88 seconds on 28 September 2016, leading to six voltage disturbances.
        Data now shows that nine of the 13 wind farms online at the time of the event did not ride through the six voltage disturbances, resulting in a loss of 445 MW of generation. Preliminary discussions with wind farm operators suggest this inability to ride through all disturbances was due to ‘voltage ride-through’ settings set to disconnect or reduce turbine output when between three to six disturbances are detected within a defined time period.
        Thermal generators remained connected up until the SA system disconnected from the remainder of the National Electricity Market (NEM). The Heywood Interconnector remained connected up until the sudden increase in electricity flow resulting from the loss of generation caused the automatic protection mechanism to disconnect the lines.

        1. Thank you for illustrating the bad design that I stated.

          In Denmark wind produce >40% of all electricity. No such outages. Superior reliability compared to nuclear countries such as France, UK and of course also USA (USA lags substantial behind regarding reliable supply of electricity).

          1. Wind in Denmark does not in fact produce 40% of all electricity. This can be verified by examining the “carbon intensity” of Danish electricity, which is north of 800 grams CO2 per kilowatt-hour, equivalent to generating all power from hard coal.

          2. At windy days wind in Denmark generated already up to 140% of consumption. Check also Wikipedia.

            Carbon emissions estimations of nuclear/wind/solar electricity, are highly influenced by the preferences of the authority who makes those, as there are no exact measurement tools.

          3. Thanks for confirming that you are ideologically driven and unwilling to understand the root cause of accidents so that future problems can be eliminated. Your “observations” are based upon others FALSE statements. The Wind turbines acted EXACTLY as designed. They acted to PROTECT the valuable equipment – the blades, gear-box, generator, etc.. They are not designed to protect and assure the continued delivery of power regardless of the speed of the wind. That is impossible, to achieve with todays knowledge, capabilities, and materials. If they actually believe that FALSE excuse, and change the setpoint, then they will just cause a different form of destructruction with the same end result – NO POWER. but now with a broken, useless, expensive piece of junk that was once a Wind Turbine. There are no existing materials to make the blades with that will withstand the forces of the wind at theses speeds. Do some simple calculations as to the forces on the tips of those 8 MW turbine blades when spinning from a wind of 12 KPH.

          4. Rich,
            The grid went down. And the grid is substantially more than the connected wind turbines…

            Don’t understand why you assume that I think that the wind turbines were designed badly. I know about cut-out speed, etc.

      3. @Ren

        Here is the Official government link for the realtime recording. Notice the FIRST laoo was the WIND turbines. all within less than 90 seconds. NO fossil, nuclear, CCTG, “spinning reserve,” etc. can keep up with that big of a loss that fast. Further, the transmission lines had not fallen at that time. That is another true lie. They fell shortly after the loss of the Wind Turbines, aggravating any recovery.

        [http://energy.anero.id.au/wind-energy/2016/september/28] (Delete square brackets on either end.)

      4. @Rens:
        ” a reactor can cause a damage of $250B or far more e.g. if winds are wrong.”
        Where did you get that number? Even at Fukushima, where the fuel supposedly burnt in the open, did not cause that much damage or potential damage or will cause that much in the long term future. The soil and atmosphere Radiation levels are now less than many areas in the world were people are and have been living for many many years. Levels were never high enough to require an evacuation to save life. The evacuation that was imposed actually killed more people, animals, etc, than would have died or will die from exposure if they had stayed. Google it!!!

        1. Let’s look at Fukushima.
          There is still no estimation of the radiating nuclear fuel in the basement of the reactors, even not whether part entered the ground below (robots failed because of the high radiation levels).
          Hence there is also no good plan for the clean up.
          Estimations are now that it may take more than 50years and that the costs may increase towards $200B. It can become less but chances are more that it becomes substantial higher.

          Estimates of the economic loss due to the exclusion zone, etc range from $250-$500billion US.

          Then we also have the costs for:
          – the clean-up of the land;
          – the fishery (fish nearby contains too much radiation);
          – the health damage such as the significant increase of perinatal deaths in zones that were not evacuated, the up to 7% more cancers for children predicted by the WHO expert committee, etc.

          1. The lying liar Bas Gresnigt/Bentvels/Rens lies some more:

            – the fishery (fish nearby contains too much radiation);

            From September 12:

            None of the seafood taken from waters offshore from Fukushima Prefectures were above-standard.

            In other words you are shoveling lies AGAIN, Bas.  And those lies are anything but harmless:

            Regardless, food producers continue to complain about public radiophobia hurting business. One said, “We are still suffering from groundless rumors.” [http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160909/p2a/00m/0na/023000c]

            Once a fact has been established, telling lies contrary to that fact which damage other people should require no more than proof of utterance to incur money damages.  Bas’s globe-trotting lifestyle would come to a complete halt if he had to pay for even a tiny fraction of the harm he is doing.

            BTW, Rod, it is long past time to prohibit the use of URL shorteners here.  They are only used to hide the destination and nature of links, and only by scum like Bas.  I’d put a warning near the comment box and simply delete all comments using URL shorteners from here on out.

          2. You may missed it but there is a large zone near the NPP where fishing became forbidden after the disaster.

            Still, the sentence before the sentence that you quoted states:
            Of the 264 items that failed, 259 were wild mushrooms, freshwater fish, and other “hard to control” foodstuffs.
            So even fish further away is contaminated too much.

            What’s your problem with URL shorteners?
            They keep drafts more easier to read & check, so deliver comments with less mistakes.

          3. the health damage such as the significant increase of perinatal deaths in zones that were not evacuated, the up to 7% more cancers for children predicted by the WHO expert committee, etc.

            “Significant increase”, eh? You may have missed it, Bas, but the authors didn’t actually claim it was significant. Looking at your reference, what the authors themselves actually say is “observational studies as the one presented here may suggest but cannot prove causality [of mortality from radiation] because of unknown and uncontrolled factors or confounders”

            Gazing at things whose shapes are essentially random in nature, can cause one to see all kinds of interesting things that aren’t there, whether they are random statistics, star patterns, or clouds in the sky. For a little instructive amusement, go to Google Image Search and type in “cloud pictures that look like things”. This morning, the page shows me patterns that “may suggest, but cannot prove” that there are remarkable objects floating in the air, like a woolly lamb, a gigantic feather, a marble bust of Queen Victoria, a fire-breathing dragon, a death’s-head, and even a phallus complete with a pair of balls!

            On a more serious note, the authors refer to “uncontrolled factors or confounders”. Have you considered, Bas, that one of these “factors” is extremely likely to be radiophobia, the irrational terror of radiation? Acute stress and anxiety is a known factor in increased perinatal fatality, and was shown by the UNSCEAR Chernobyl studies to have effects hundreds to thousands of times more lethal than the radiation itself.

            You might care to consider, Rens, that it follows from this research that nuclear fear-mongers such as Arnie Gundersen et al, have blood on their hands. The blood of innocent babies and unborns. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be classed with such people. So please, think again about the wisdom of banging stubbornly on with your fallacious and mistaken arguments.

            with best wishes,

          4. turnages,
            You cited only the usual pre-cautionary statement of the research that I linked.
            The conclusions (shortened):
            Perinatal deaths increased 15% in areas that got some (Fukushima) nuclear fall-out but not enough for evacuation. Increase highly significant P=0.0009.
            Less increase in areas with less fall-out. Zero increase in areas that got no fallout…

      5. This estimate as to damage caused apparently comes from nowhere.
        It is necessary to repeat, & keep repeating, that a small proportion of the costs, eg, at Fukushima have anything to do with real-world radiation safety. The decontaminated water in storage, for instance, contains about as much tritium as would be released to the environment in a year’s operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. And, passing over the costs incurred for storing this water, at least one workman has already died as a result of this completely unnecessary policy (by falling off).

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