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15 Comments

  1. What is your point Rod?
    Rod has chosen a life style of working in a big city and living in a big house in distant suburb therefore using lots of energy.
    The Pickens scam wants to provide Rod a cleaner and domestic alternative for Rod’s dirty and gluttonous transportation fuel use. I suppose a scam is better than no plan at all.
    Rod’s plan is to promote paper reactors. The impractical is much more interesting to blog about than what works.
    The electricity generating industry does have a plan. At this time, 30+ large new nuke are in various stages of planning. One nuke that started construction is being finished now.
    Every new nuke that comes on line will lower the demand for natural gas benefiting all of us. I do not see a problem using NG for fleets of truck and buses. I do not think it will help Rod much.

    1. Kit P, that is such an absurd caraciture of Rod’s position in general and of his particular point with this article that I’m suprised even you had the stomach to put it up.

    2. Kit’s plan is to continually condemn “paper reactors” for being “paper reactors” while failing to recognize the regulatory monstrosity in the room – the NRC – that virtually guarantees that “paper reactors” stay on paper only. Kit continues to fail to recognize the incredible chilling effect that NRC over-regulation has in establishing a tremendously encumbered playing field for nuclear energy – that is not existent for any other form of energy production and use.
      I do agree with Kit that we should focus on what works; nuclear energy does work; the NRC, however, prevents it from working to its fullest potential. I therefore recognize that either NRC regulation needs to be imposed on the fossil and “renewable” industry, or the nuclear industry should have the same level of regulation that fossil and “renewables” have.
      Unfortunately, Kit fails to recognize that the overregulation of nuclear power is a problem. Instead, he attacks those who want to do something about it. This is a sign as to his motives. Rather than attacking the technology directly, which is rightly impossible, he rather seeks to shape the battlefield upon which it fights. Only by fighting unfairly against nuclear do fossil energy and renewables have a chance.

  2. T. Boone Pickens’ only aim is to make money. In the 90’s NG was cheap, and every utility was building peaking plants rather than investing wisely into full size 600 – 1200 Mw plants. Then the price of NG more than doubled. You got a “surcharge” on your electric bill, and if you heated by gas (because it was so cheap) you saw your heating bill double, and T. Boone Pickens made a fortune.
    He is now trying to push the same agenda, but with a different flavor – Green. He wants “wind” and he is smart enough to know that the ONLY logical/economical backup is NG turbines (the utilities will use the inefficient ones, without co-generation, as they cannot be brought on line fast enough to meet FERC guidelines). GE likes the idea as they get to sell wind turbines AND gas turbines. Obama likes the idea as it is “Green” (NOT). His reserves of gas will more than double in value, and again, we get to make him even wealthier.

  3. I have no doubt that self interest plays a major role in Picken’s advocacy of natural gas vehicles but his energy plan still has merit. Of course, natural gas prices are certain to increase with greater demand but do you think oil prices are going to remain stable over the next decade or so ? Worldwide demand for oil is going to continue to drive price of a barrel upward. Pickens is correct that the U.S. has an abundant supply of natural gas. A major reason for the decline of the American middle class is that we are sending far too many of our hard earned dollars to OPEC or China. I’d rather see some Americans get rich from domestic natural gas than continue to have so much of our national prosperity drained off by OPEC. I am all in favor of expanding nuclear power and applaud Rod’s long-time advocacy on the issue. Nuclear energy is essential to energy independence and can produce vast quantities of energy in the long term but natural gas is the perfect bridge fuel as we attempt to break our country’s addiction to foreign oil. While there is a market for electric cars, a lot of Americans are not going be thrilled with driving a tiny vehicle. An energy strategy that includes national gas vehicles will allow for greater transportation options to fit the diverse lifestyles of this country. There is no reason that all new vehilces sold in the US within 10 years could not run on natural gas or electricity and that is the quickest route to energy self sufficiency.

  4. What struck me most when reading this post was this:
    In the time that we have been sitting here, I made $50 million. Can your reactors do that for me?
    I am surprised by the sheer lack of humility in that statement, the greed of it is just sickening, it’s offensive. Pickens likes to come across as a genteel grandfatherly type but he’s just a shrewd greedy businessman.

  5. Hoover Dam was not built with private money. Even the Alaska Pipeline needed an Enabling Act by Congress. I am not surprised by Mr. Pickens opinion. On the other hand, and as Rod has pointed out, the geniuses of Wall Street were the same people who thought the dot.com and housing bubbles would never end.

  6. I heard T. Boone speak at the first Energy Summit at UNLV in 2008 (when I was still starry-eyed for solar — although I did pick up a card from NEI with a “pellet” of uranium fuel and it remains on my desk as a reminder of its energy density). I am much less impressed with him now, if I ever was then.
    Thanks to Rod and many of the other posters, I have become more aware of the dynamic and interplay of competing interests. At times, this is discouraging. However, with the advance of new nuclear construction around the world (even Bangladesh has negotiated with the Russians for a nuke!) and the continuing safety record of nuclear power plants, I am optimistic for its future.
    Can anyone point me to info on the cost per kWh for generation between coal and nuclear? With and without external costs (CO2, SO2, NOx, PM) included. Mange takk.

    1. Doc:
      Here are a couple of good sources of information for electricity production costs in the US:
      http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/reliableandaffordableenergy/graphicsandcharts/uselectricityproductioncosts/
      http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/reliableandaffordableenergy/graphicsandcharts/uselectricityproductioncostsandcomponents/
      I know that some will dismiss them as coming from a biased source, but I have found the information to be accurate. Facts are not subject to bias.

  7. Pickens is claiming to be able to make $25 million an hour, while not working, just while listening to someone talk nuclear. If he made money at this rate 8 hrs a day for a working year, he’d be pulling down $50 billion year. The claim is a joke. After the nuke talkers left he probably lost $80 million.
    I heard him interviewed where he said he’d made and lost it all several times, and here he is, talking like he can make $50 billion a year any time he wants to. Wikipedia says his favored business strategy is “expanding quickly by acquisition”. He sounds like the same kind as the ones who bought up reactors when they were selling for less than what the fuel on hand cost, and if he had stumbled on them, the Pickens Plan might be different today. On the other hand, Pickens financially backed the Swift Boating of Kerry as if Bush, what, knew what military service was? He weaseled out of his boast that he’d pay $1 million to anyone who could dispute anything in the Swift Boat ads. The man is also said to have given $700 million to charities. May his gas be declared to emit more carbon than coal.
    Moving right along: NEI, using Rod’s reference, states the US average cost of production for the entire nuclear industry is 1.87 cents kWhr.
    People at the Columbia Generating Station told me their cost of production was 3.5 cents kWhr. A brochure put out by the owner of the facility states the fiscal 2007 “cost of power” was 3.69 cents. I cold called the facility several months previous and was told 2.5 cents. I don’t think its supposed to be this difficult to find out what this facility produces for. The owner, Energy Northwest, is supposed to be owned by the utilities it sells its power to, and it is supposed to sell at cost.
    Entergy is currently selling VY nuke power to Vermont for 3.95 cents kWhr (says Entergy http://www.safecleanreliable.com/04032008.htm ), or 4.2 cents (says state of Vermont http://cto.vermont.gov/blog/vermontyankee ) depending who you listen to.
    Entergy opened negotiations on contract renewal, assuming that the plant license is successfully extended by the people Entergy proposes to stiff the big one to, starting at 6.1 cents. They also want an inflation clause. ( says local news http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/86719/ ).
    If their reactor produces 650 MW at 90% capacity, Entergy makes $50 million a year on each cent per kWhr difference between the cost of production and the selling price. If they can produce for 1.87 cents and sell for 4 cents they make more than $100 million a year. If they can jack up the selling price to 6 cents they make more than $200 million a year.
    They only paid $180 million for Vermont Yankee in 2002. The previous owners reportedly tried to sell the plant two years previously for $23.5 million. Obviously, no one is going to sell a plant for $23.5 million if they were raking in $100 or $200 million a year. The people of Vermont could have got this thing for $23.5 million.
    Something is fishy somewhere. I am doubtful about this 1.87 cents kWhr NEI statement.
    But mainly, people are interested in new builds. What do they cost? Du and Parsons did the study for MIT and their update to The Future of Nuclear Power, which compares gas, coal, and nuclear new build “levelized” estimates is here: http://web.mit.edu/ceepr/www/publications/workingpapers/2009-004.pdf
    And there is the US EIA “2016 Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources from the Annual Energy Outlook 2010” look at the table on page 3 for what the EIA thinks new builds entering service in 2016 will cost, i.e. coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydro.
    All this nuclear stuff looks like studies of what it cost to make cars before Henry Ford arrived in town.
    I think nukes would want to promote the idea of what a reactor SHOULD cost. If reactors were built in the 1970s for between $100 million and $200 million, and then the cost escalated by a factor of 35, and the el cheapo ones and the expensive ones are all still operating today, and they are all successfully being re-licensed and are all being talked about as potential candidates for “life after 60”, and living forever or whatever comes after that, what the hell went on, and is going on, exactly? And, more importantly, what could go on as part of an emergency plan to decarbonize civilization, once it dawns that we are in extremis, after enough people wake up to how serious climate change i

    1. That a large reactor costs $4 bn to build is absurd – I can imagine that most of the money goes towards paperwork, regulatory delays, and unpredictability costs rather than plant.
      Oyster Creek was very inexpensive in 1964 – it was built on a $68 m turnkey contract from GE, and generates 636 MWe. Inflation has resulted in the dollar inflating by a factor of 6.84 since then, so a 636 MWe plant should be able to be brought in nowadays somewhere in the range of $465 million or perhaps around 73 cents per watt, based on that calculation.
      I can imagine that high-quality small modular inherently-safe HTGRs could be built in the US, at around those prices, steadily decreasing as time goes on – if the NRC disappeared tomorrow into thin air.

      1. Prices of 73 cents to 1 dollar per watt, that is, for small, inherently safe HTGRs, not $465 million per unit. By the way, none of the current “fleet” of reactors are exactly “el cheapo” reactors. All of them are basically built to the standards that were in force when they were proposed, which were pretty high.
        Just as a question, Rod: I know that the estimates for Plant Vogtle are probably confidential, but is there any kind of itemized list breaking down where the costs of building a plant come from? (For instance, what makes up the $8 bn quotation?) I can imagine that there would be quite a bit of impetus for regulatory reform if someone came up with an itemized accounting of how much cost the NRC’s ever-changing rules and regulations add to a plant.

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