1. I am afraid it is going to be a LONG TIME before Wall St. sees nuke start-ups like Silicon Valley start-ups. Back in the 90s it was the case that if you had anything to do with fiber-optics or the Internet you could get millions thrown at you.

    I am going to go out on a limb and predict that this day will come too for innovative nuclear start-ups once society realizes that fossil fuels are a dead-end, that Big Oil sees the writing on the wall as a dying industry, the regulatory choke-hold is removed, and a globlal multi-TRILLION dollar energy market opens up to real competition from fission.

    Once investors realize applications are as diverse as process heat for industrial chemicals, desalination, renewable synfuels from captured CO2 and water, district heating using SMRs, remote power for mining operations, process steam for tar sands (oil will still be useful and needed for a long time), transoceanic shipping, etc., there will be a gold-rush that will make the IT investment boom look like nothing. World demand for energy is forecast to increase by 100% over the next generation, and it is already a multi-trillion market. Energy dwarfs IT in terms of absolute dollars globally.

    When this will open up… it is anyone’s guess. My guess is that the tide will turn once the Shale Gas bubble has thoroughly popped and the last hurrah of the oil industry (which owns gas too), convincing us all that we have 100 years of cheap abundant gas, is exposed as a gigantic con job. They will have nothing left with which to con us into believing Peak Oil is dead once gas prices spike back up again to prices paid elsewhere in the world (~$15 / MMBTU). Perhaps 3-5 years for the bubble to be exposed for what it is, and a few years for the political winds to change direction… perhaps before the end of this decade.

    1. From my experience, I have noticed a tendency in the nuclear industry to want to make other forms of energy more expensive so that nuclear can better compete. This is usually through pushing for a type of carbon tax or some form of more stringent regulations on competing electricity sources (I’m not considering solar and wind real electricity sources here). I wholly disagree with this.

      Long term consequences of increased cost/regulations would undoubtedly lead to more expensive energy as a whole, meaning more expensive production of goods, a reduction in the average citizens buying power and reduction in the competitiveness for trade in the global market.

      Man-made climate change is a heated subject here, I myself am not completely sold on the theory. But even if I was, I hold no stock in a government lead solution. If we truly want to reduce man-made CO2/pollution, nuclear must become cheaper than all competitors through a free market approach, not through bureaucratic engineering. Regulatory strangleholds are what you get when you let bureaucrats manage industry, I cite the nuclear industry as a great example of this. Technology must live and die by its merits, not by who currently has the politicians ear. Once you go down the road of imposing government restrictions to boost your industry, you are now at the whim of the political winds and they could easily shift against you. This is when a society begins to reward based on status, not by merit.

      Innovation breeds success. Putting aside the incredible regulatory burdens placed on nuclear, if we are currently not building plants that are seen as sound investments, the nuclear industry must innovate (I do believe the new AP-1000’s are marvels of engineering). SMR’s are one example of a great step in that direction. Take away the massive initial capital involved in nuclear, move to a production line model, simplify construction. There is so much innovation left in nuclear there is no way the industry can fail if given equal regulatory footing (through a reduction in regulation that is 😉 ).

      1. Re: “Once you go down the road of imposing government restrictions to boost your industry, you are now at the whim of the political winds and they could easily shift against you. This is when a society begins to reward based on status, not by merit.”

        I don’t know how the nuclear industry could’ve done this in a nuke-hostile political environment. If they did it royally boomeranged. The great glaring institutionalized hypocrisy in the U.S. is while nuclear plants can’t open until there’re countywide sirens and deep evacuation plans and $$ excessively extensive security and media channel preparations in place, there’re ZIT such requirements for oil and gas plants and chemical facilities here, even though they’ve a LONG grim track record of not just evacuating whole neighborhoods but even putting them away. And let’s not even get into totally containing emissions. Unreal and outrageous public health/safety concern hypocrisy. If there was a “level playing field” between oil and gas and nuclear, on most all fronts the fossils would HAVE to tip the table.

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

      2. There is ample evidence that free market principles are the best way to introduce rapid technological innovation in the economy. Silicon Valley and the IT revolution is the easiest example to point to where free markets, freedom of capital to move around, and the profit motive can create revolutionary changes in technology. No argument from me!

        However, I don’t think it is the industry’s fault with regard to costs. The problem is that the nuclear regulatory regime makes cost-reduction and innovation next to impossible.

        I agree with Rod that the reason is more about fossil-fuel cartels exploiting the power of government to knee-cap the competition. It is for this reason that I predict change will come only when the *politics* changes, and with it the power of Big Oil to keep the game rigged evaporates.

        I would extend that thesis a bit further to say hostile government regulatory policies also have been serving the geostrategic interests of the US military-industrial complex. What better way to project Power in the world than to control the world’s access to energy? With markets trading oil and settling accounts in $USD, and with US Forces controlling the Persian Gulf, the US has influence over every country in the world by having one hand on the oil tap and the other hand on the global money tap. The partnership between government, the MIC, Wall St. and Big Oil was out in the open with the Bush Admin., IMHO.

        A world with universal access to virtually limitless energy would change a lot of things, including the geopolitical balance of power. So, I figure hostile US government policy toward nuclear power over the past decades, in addition to serving interests of Big Oil, also has been playing a role in geostrategic power-plays by helping maintain control over world access to primary energy. Uncle Sam didn’t think it was in his best interest to see cheap, innovative nukes all over the world.

        The grip of such post-WWII policy imperatives will weaken once there is no denying the age of oil and gas is OVER, and climate change injects new imperatives into a new global order.

        That’s my $0.02!

        1. @SteveFost
          …regulatory regime makes cost-reduction and innovation next to impossible…
          That regime also imposed import tax of ~40% on solar PV-panels, and added other costly license & administrative regulations regarding PV-panels on US roofs.

          Together with inefficient distribution & installation by the involved companies in the US, these lead to the situation that Germans can now install an e.g. 4KW PV-installation on their roof for about half the price compared to US-citizens. While both install exactly the same cheap imported Chinese panels…

          So may be some cultural aspects are also involved.
          – inefficient operating companies. Doing things along regular lines becomes more important in wealthy societies;
          – ban import from cheap competition. That it becomes more expensive for the citizen is less important as the citizen is rich enough;
          – over-regulate new things. A sign of fear for change, which you see in economies that are at/over their top.

      3. I’d say it was the nuclear regulators, particularly in the USA that are knee-capping the nuclear industry with their overly conservative estimates of safe radiation levels, which are not supported by real world examples of just how much radiation the human body can tolerate. I may be overly suspicious, but I remember a quote from Buckminster Fuller about how “Construction is the biggest form of non-detectable political kickback”, and the money being spent in both the construction, which always seems to run way over budget, and the de-commissioning made extremely expensive by the insanely tight regulations, support such a notion. It seems the Yakuza are now running the Fukushima show, and will rake in billions from the taxpayers over decades, if they get their way. Chernobyl was just the same, and now another Billion Euros is being spent to house remains that present practically no appreciable danger. It seems it is Carbon Kings that, particularly in the USA, are doing their best to frighten the public out of its wits to give nuclear a bad name, and with just the Candu reactor ‘waste’, we in Canada have an estimated 43 TRILLION dollars worth of clean energy that they are still figuring how many billions it will cost to bury, and where to bury it. Our oil sands producers, for one, would rather see that atomic waste buried deep and forever, for sure.
        The nuclear plants have become cash cows for construction, and have become so big and complex, that I refer again to Buckminster Fuller, when JP Morgan told him “You will never be rich young man, if you continue to make things look too simple”. The smaller modular reactors are the way to go, but I was amazed the other day to see that the ex prime minister of Japan, while touring Taiwan, was pleading with them to drop all their plans for nuclear energy, and yet Toshiba builds, to my mind, the most impressive piece of nuclear science and engineering, with the S4 unit.

        Former Japanese PM Kan urges Taiwan to ditch nuclear power.

        And as far as costs, even with the huge (and expected, by me anyway) cost overruns, Finlands new nuclear plants are still cheaper by far than the German solar power.

        Cost of German Solar Is Four Times Finnish Nuclear
        Olkiluoto Nuclear Plant, Plagued by Budget Overruns, Still Beats Germany’s Energiewende


        Now if we could just stop the mantra of ‘dangerous nuclear waste’, perhaps we could make a start at cleaning up the mess the carbon barons are making of the world.

        1. To Gary N,

          Your statement:

          The nuclear plants have become cash cows for construction, and have become so big and complex …

          Nuclear plants are ‘complicated’ to build, but not complex.

        2. Regarding Danny Roderick and the book Tipping Point by Gladwell.

          In the book, you have 3 profiles that can swing things around on the grand scale of a market: connectors, mavens and salesmen.

          I think we have a trio here. This guy is the one.

        3. @GaryN
          …Cost of German Solar Is Four Times Finnish Nuclear…
          At the moment German Feed-in-Tariff for big solar is 10cent/kWh during 20years.
          That Feed-in-Tariff went down with ~20%/year during the last years (going down each month now).
          Thereafter it is just what the utility wants to pay for it. No other subsidy.

          Finland get the French EPR for a fixed, low price. The huge cost overruns are for the builders. So the electricity of Olkiluoto is greatly subsidized by the French builders.

          If you want to look at the real costs, you should look at the strike price and other subsidies that the utility (EDF) requires at Hinckley point C:
          – Guaranteed FiT of 12cent/kWh during 35 years!
          – Investment loan guarantees. Those can be converted to a subsidy worth ~1 billion.
          – Accident liability limited to ridiculous low amount
          – Waste liability reduced to ~100years
          These liability subsidies can be calculated to be another subsidy of €200million/year.
          This all implies a real cost price >12cent/KWh for an EPR.

          Olkiluoto will start ~2016.
          At that time solar FiT will be <6cent/kWh still going down.

        4. How relevant is the high cost of solar in Germany to solar’s practicality elsewhere?

          If I was to make a list of stupidest places to try to use solar energy, Europe north of the Alps would be high on the list. If instead you use solar in some region closer the equator where seasonal variations are small, I could see solar & a steady power source like nuclear complementing each other & reducing the need for storage or generating capacity used only part time.

          Is anyone aware of an analysis of such a situation, showing how cheap photovoltaics or solar thermal would have to be to make this work, & whether it is at all plausible that the costs could be brought that low?

          1. Is anyone aware of an analysis of such a situation, showing how cheap photovoltaics or solar thermal would have to be to make this work, & whether it is at all plausible that the costs could be brought that low?

            Analysis? Why look at the hypothetical, when we have experience?

            SEGS is still the largest thermal solar facility in the world. It is located in the deserts of the southwest US, some of the most prime real estate for solar power in the entire country. Yet, soon after it was completed, the company that built it went bankrupt in the early nineties — a victim of low natural gas prices at the time. The only reason that it is still operating is that government largesse, particularly from the state of California, rescued the failed venture. And so it continues to provide non-competitive electricity to this day.

      4. Did I hear AP1000 ?

        Well Danny Roderick is CEO of Westinghouse. He is all over the place. He says nucular instead of nuclear but you better watch him. Starting now. Charisma and brains. You guys were looking for a star with clout? Look no more.

        I think Rod should try to interview him. He would accept.

        1) In December, 4 more AP1000 are starting construction in China.
        2) He publicly stated that whatever the strike price agreed upon between EDF and the UK for electricity, he can deliver below.
        3) He said that even though his AP1000 is not certified in the UK, he as no doubts that he will beat AREVA’s EPR to the finish line at Hickley Point on another site of course
        4) He wants to buy Spanish utility Iberdrola’s stake in NUGEN to build nukes in the UK

        I think he will be knighted one day.

        1. I have a feeling that when Ontario Power Generation decides on which reactors they are going to build at their Darlington site, they will be AP1000’s. I think Rod posted a link a couple months ago to an interview Danny Roderick did on BNN (Canadian business station) regarding getting the contract to build AP1000’s. He is a breath of fresh air as a pro-nuclear businessman.

          1. That makes me wonder why Ontario would reject their proven homegrown industry to buy foreign.

            On the other hand, if the disposal (actually, storage) of spent fuel is a major financial issue, the AP-1000 might be a great deal.  The AP-1000 is a PWR, which produces a spent-fuel stream which is about 1% U-235 and a goodly fraction of a percent fissile plutonium.  This can be reformed into CANDU fuel bundles (DUPIC fuel) and produce well over twice the per-kg energy of the natural uranium currently used, and also level the power production across the CANDU core and produce more net power.  The result is greater power production from the CANDUs and less than half the volume of spent fuel.  Win/win.

          2. @E-P

            You’ve got a good Uranium energy extraction plan – first AP-1000, then into CANDU via DUPIC, then maybe into fast reactors after pyroprocessing. The vitrified FPs could stay in small underground silos on the IFR site for a few hundred years until radiologically harmless.

            The need for some limited enrichment for the PWRs would make Canada dependent on foreign supply, which might be a political impediment – unless they go all-in and embrace laser isotope separation as well.

            Maybe they have a few Engineer-Politicians up there, eh?

          3. I believe Canada is already using slightly enriched uranium in some of its CANDUs, so either they have some enrichment capability or have had no difficulty contracting for it.  With only a few LWRs it probably doesn’t make sense for them to buy their own centrifuge plant.

          4. @Daniel : Well meanwhile Westinghouse is the one that’s currently very likely to be beaten on the finish line by the EPR in China, despite the Sanmen-1 unit starting construction 6 month earlier than Taishan-1. I don’t wish for them to fail, but a little bit more modesty about what they can do and what their competitors can do would be a good thing.

    2. Agreed. Once the multi-national Oil Cos covert their Star but staid traditional gas wells into a bonanza, converted into glowing cash cows, and we’re paying ~$15+ / MMBTU here in the US, their view will change. The Multinational Oil companies will begin to see themselves as energy companies.

      A possible blessing for the American People might be that the first Oil/gas Company makes that conceptual conversion will be a major ahead of the other Oil and gas companies. That might be a factor in pushing the cash flow to nuclear development from oil companies a bit earlier, before gas-revenue bonanza reaches its peak.

      The question for me now is: What Oil/gas companies now have plentiful and strong traditional gas plays over the hyped fracking plays? I ask this question because I don’t want to miss the upcoming bubble. Anyone know where I can find this info?

    3. “Back in the 90s it was the case that if you had anything to do with fiber-optics or the Internet you could get millions thrown at you.”

      Might that have something to do with the fact that, potentially, a silicon valley startup creating software or online services or infrastructure, could take 10 or 20 million and actually create a product and bring it to market with that money? Whereas, a nuclear reactor is gonna take closer to a billion dollars to bring to market?

      1. My point is based on the premise that there is no earthly reason why bringing a SMR online should cost anything close to that kind of coin. Over-regulation drives costs and time-to-market to the moon, hence no way in which entrepreneurial model of rapid innovation can work. The rules of the game have to be re-written, and I think they are currently so restrictive, including use of LNT in regulations, for a reason: to keep the nuclear genie in the bottle as much as possible.

    4. @SteveFrost
      … once … regulatory choke-hold is removed…

      For the regulatory choke-hold to be removed:
      1 – NPP’s have to be at least gen.4.
      I even do not see a full-scale program to develop one…
      Looking at the high cost-price of gen.3+, may be gen.4 is too expensive.

      2 – No radio-active releases during the lifetime of a NPP.
      As life expectancy grows, more attention goes to anything that may harm that expectancy.
      The correlations between fetuses/babies/children harm and the presence of a nearby NPP, harm nuclear prospects immense (e.g. the stories around Vogtle).

      3 – The waste problem to be solved in the eyes of non pro-nuclear radiation experts.
      No good idea seen for that yet. Only ideas such as fast breeder that would shrink the volume greatly or storage deep in the earth.

      Pro nuclear spread the notion that lower level nuclear radiation does not harm. That exclusion zones are nonsense, etc. This harms nuclear seriously as there is too much scientific evidence that it does harm. So this implies that those pro-nuclear are not trustworthy. And politicians/people won’t give a potential dangerous thing to people the do not trust.

      …Shale Gas bubble has thoroughly popped ..
      Future competition for NPP’s are renewable as their prices go down and down.
      In an environment where wind+solar capacity is more than twice the max. consumption, power plants can only fill the gaps left by wind and solar (operating costs of wind and solar are significant below those of NPP’s).
      Gaps that become smaller the bigger the capacity of wind+solar+storage.
      Base load power plants will become a relic of the past.

      So the gen.4 NPP’s also have to be flexible, with fast up and down regulation towards near zero, similar to the low temperature fluidized bed plants that Germany build (those have also the advantage that they can burn waste & biomass).

      So I am afraid that you won’t see your prediction to become true.
      Only fusion may have a chance.

  2. Hmm, I had noticed earlier this week that the comments had been disabled at the Safe Reactor Blog. http://safereactor.org

    Jack had mentioned on there about two weeks ago in the comments that he had run into a cash issue, and then several comments later mentioned that the cash issue had been solved that morning.

    If something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.

  3. Emergent opportunities are also appearing outside the US, where the regulatory framework is killing everything nuclear.

    In the 1960’s, Air Canada was stuck with excess planes. They decided to offer a new route. Montreal to Miami. Well, this one proved to be a success story. It was not part of any strategic planning. (DV82XL could vouch for that)

    In the Artic Sea, Russia kept on pushing their nuclear powered ice breaker fleet when other countries let go of the idea. Now artic routes are kept opened with 9 russian nuclear powered ice breakers.

    These nuclear reactor desings are now being levraged to build floating SMRs that will provide electricity combined with desalination services. Due date ? 2016.

    You think there won’t be a market ? Well Vietnam, China, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina and many other ‘russia’ friendly countries are lined up and interested.

    Nuclear will prevail. It is a world wide market commodity. What we need is the World Bank to wake up and finance those SMRs to third world countries.

    1. I think we nuclear supporters need to start making a change of message. The question, the debate, really isn’t “will we do nuclear”. Nuclear technology is and WILL be happening all over the world. The real debate is, will we be left behind? Because it’s happening with or without us. Are we just going the HAND the market to russia, China, S. Korea, and France?

      1. When I see John Kerry pushing nuclear technologies and deals abroad to the likes of India, knowing full well what he, Clinton and Gore have done to the advancement of nuclear research in the US, well I just want to vomit.

        1. In my view Kerry, the Clintons, and all may still be trying to slow development of Nuclear Power, only world-wide this time. They’d have no hope to do so unless they can stay out front of nuclear development, except insisting on a “safe” pace of development with respect to both accidents and the proliferation of weapons. The real dynamic of their success in slowing development of Nuclear Energy will be to maintain the current financial and energy status quo.

          I’m suspicious of General Electric’s dominance of the LMFBRs through the S-PRISM technology. It seems to me they can leverage that technology to say “out front” of the LMFBR research and development, slowing it’s progress to maintain their Cash Cows elsewhere in the energy sector.

          I see both General Electric and the current political/financial “powers that be” as an impedance to Nuclear Energy development, all the while trying to get out front of it’s development. To that end, I expect the personnel of the NRC to become even more radicalized, and be given a larger international role, with the goal of impeding nuclear energy development world-wide.

      2. @Jeff S.
        …Are we just going the HAND the market to russia, China, S. Korea, and France?…

        Don’t worry about France.
        Their government decided recently to lower the share of nuclear in electricity generation from the present 75% towards 50% by 2025, and stimulate renewable.

        1. @Bas

          Governments in France are elected and can be replaced. The country has a long history of supporting nuclear energy and also has a large installed base of government leaders that have exceptional technical educations. I do not believe that the current government’s antinuclear rhetoric will result in the premature closure of even one nuclear plant and it will not stop the construction of new nuclear power stations at home or abroad.

          1. @Rod
            I do not know much about French politics, as:
            – I am not very fluent in French; and
            – I assume publications in English are just as unreliable as those about Germany.

            But I understood that the reduction of nuclear towards 50% by 2025 is an election promise from Hollande, their president, who stays in office until May 2017.

            What to expect then?
            At that time renewable will have gained a favorable place in French society with FiT’s of 6cent/KWh and lower (now already below 10cent/KWh). *)

            Assume they decide to build a new NPP (the French developed EPR). That will be ready after 2025. And then produce for a cost price of ~7cent/kWh**)
            At that time renewable deliver for FiT’s of 2-5cent/KWh and substantial part of the French will have PV-panels on their roof.

            So then the nuclear picture seems to me difficult to sell to the public.
            Especially since the anti-nuclear movement is gaining momentum in France (I was amazed about the action on the NPP in the Rhone valley).

            *) They won’t have the burden of the early start of the Germans, who still pay FiT’s of >30cent/KWh for electricity produced by old solar installations.

            **) Assuming 30% cheaper due to economy-of-scale, while I do not see them sell another EPR in W-Europe after Hinckley point C (which seems to stall).

          2. I do not know much about French politics …

            Bas – That is clear.

            But I understood that the reduction of nuclear towards 50% by 2025 is an election promise from Hollande, their president, who stays in office until May 2017.

            It was an election promise to gain support from his Socialist base. The woman who ran in 2007 on the Socialist Party ticket also made similar promises. Unlike her, Hollande actually managed to get elected, and since then, he has been rather quiet about this campaign promise, except to mention briefly his intent to “reconsider” this issue. Hollande is a politician, and like all good politicians, he knows that campaign promises are meant to be broken.

          3. @Brian,

            …he has been rather quiet about this campaign promise..

            If you want to take off ~20% of the electricity production capacity, then it is sensible to start creating alternative production capacity.

            As far as I can see he is quite busy promoting renewable.
            The first step…
            France now even has decent FiT’s.

      3. Why must we always be first with nuclear power? If we strive to be first with math, science, engineering, economics and other disciplines we can be first in many areas including the energy costs, transportation, quality of life and many areas that affect people.

        1. @Susanne

          You can choose your discipline. I choose to focus on nuclear energy because I have determined that it is not only fascinating, but extremely important for the future prosperity and possibly even the future survival of the country that I love. It will also help make the rest of the world a more prosperous and less conflicted place.

          The incredible abundance available from tapping into the emission free energy stored in uranium and thorium is worth pursuing with diligence and passion.

          I believe it is the best available way to allow us to make improvements in energy costs, transportation, water quality, clean air, quality of life and many other areas that affect people.

  4. Rod,
    Thanks you info regarding American Atomics.

    While expected,
    it is still a sad tragedy for all concerned staff, etc.

  5. A French comedy and double farce: the Social Democrats pretend to take the Green’s absurd anti-nuclear demands seriously, in order to retain their voting support, necessary for a parliamentary majority. The Greens pretend that they are not being treated as voting cattle, and pretend that they will not be cynically tossed aside later, in order to retain the fiction of their importance.

  6. The legitimacy of American Atomics was questionable from the beginning. The “company” was an LLC on paper with no real plans for anything. I saw through this farce on day one. No surprise here.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts