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Donnernv's Nuclear Report

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September 14, 2008 – Comments (9)

Donnernv wrote this post promoting nuclear power as an answer to the USA energy problems.

I had some questions which he has taken substantial time to answer, and which he has e-mailed to me. He will also e-mail it to you if you offer him your address with the word "report" in the title. Because he offered it freely, I will also forward it to you, if you e-mail me with the word "report" in the title also.

The first portion of his work concerned the failings of continuing the use of oil, primarily because he believes in peak oil, as do I. Frankly, in order to advocate for a change away from oil to any other resource, you need a reason. Whether your reason is peak oil, peak affordable oil, global warming, air pollution caused asthma or, heart disease, preserving our shores or open spaces, or national security doesn’t matter in your decision to move away from oil, but only in deciding which alternative to use.

 Next he describes current energy uses and sources using Wikipedia for information.

 He eliminates as solutions for transportation, coal, hydro, in vehicle nuclear and renewable and hydrogen fuel cells, leaving us with electricity or natural gas. To have not even considered bio fuels, which is not necessarily ethanol, is short sighted as significant progress is being made, including algae based fuel. However close it is though, it is not here yet, although I believe it is close enough to deserve mention. He considers that natural gas fueled vehicles are a waste of a precious resource with many other uses. I do not disagree with that perspective and I apply it to oil also. That leaves him with electric power as his best option, “whatever the source” of its generation.

He also points out that replacing oil imports with nuclear power would save us from exporting 438 billion dollars annually and save each of us $1430./year. While this is an excellent reason for weaning ourselves off imported oil the same results could be achieved from any comparably priced domestic energy source.

 While I do not necessarily agree that electricity will be the best fuel for transportation, I do agree on the need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels for electricity. Clean coal is the fantasy which is not solved, renewables such as solar and wind, are here today. Donnernv offers us nuclear.

 Donnernv as part of his argument for nuclear suggests that since we have to scale up renewable electricity generation by a factor of 13 to replace our current transportation related oil costs, makes it unattainable, and prefers to scale up nuclear by a factor of only 6. I would like to suggest that how far we have to scale up is not an issue. If it were cheaper to scale up renewables by 13 than nuclear by 6, cheaper is better. In my opinion due to the many other risks associated with nuclear a tie goes to renewables. I think Donnernv agrees with that sentiment.

According to Donnernv building the 624 nuclear plants we would need would cost 4-5 billion each for a total of 2.34 trillion dollars. Unfortunately he did not size these plants in terms of megawatts so it is difficult to compare costs. All that really needs to be done here is to compare costs of building nuclear electric generation vs. renewable energy and then decide if any savings from nuclear outweighs any risk from nuclear.

So let’s have at it.

 Most comparisons of generating costs I could find were 2 or more years old and the data was even older. Since solar is being installed every day and 34 nuclear plants are being proposed I thought I would just find some current costs from todays power plant proposals. I investigated Florida Power and Light who are proposing building three photovoltaic solar plants that will generate 110 megawatts at a cost of 688 million dollars ( www.tampabay.com/news/environment/article644444.ece ). This gives us a cost of $6,254,454/ megawatt. Ouch. Florida Power and Light also estimated building a 2200 megawatt nuclear plant that will cost $12-18 billion dollars in 2007 (www.climateprogress.org/2008/06/13/nuclear-power-part-2-the-price-is-not-right/ ). Let’s use $15 billion and it gives us a cost of $6,818,181 / megawatt. Ouch. Please bear in mind that they reserve the right to increase the nuclear cost if necessary, the solar is a contract.

Florida Power and Light is also proposing a 1000 megawatt wind farm in North Dakota at a cost of 2 billion dollars ( www.wind-watch.org/news/2008/08/25/nd-gov-candidate-proposes-wind-power-goal/ ). This gives us a cost of $2,000,000 / megawatt.

Now at least for me, at this point, nuclear is a non-starter because it costs too much. I know concentrated solar plants are less expensive than photovoltaic and the generated heat can be stored for nighttime use and rainy days. FPL has applied to build a 250 megawatt  concentrated solar plant for $1 billion dollars. This gives us a cost of $4,000,000/ megawatt.

Another expense issue for nuclear in Florida, is that Florida has passed regulations that allow every resident to be charged $9.00 / month until the plant is completed. So you pay for nuclear before you save on oil. Your State may be different. With renewable you are not asked to pay in advance because you get the power much more quickly.

So we learn that building nuclear power costs more than renewable. It costs you before you get any savings. It still has additional issues which Donnernv also addresses.

1) What are we going to do with waste fuel?

Donnernv spends a page describing reprocessing which works, to the point of reducing the volume of waste substantially and to the point where it needs to be separated from the environment for 500 years. www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf69.html which is a much better pro-nuclear source than Wikipedia. In mid 2006 (not more expensive 2008) Areva determined a 2500 ton/year reprocessing plant would cost $12 billion with total costs at $16 bil. By 2030 60,000 tonnes / year are estimated to be needed in North America, without Donnernv’s 650 plant bonanza. That cost is not included in Donnernv's estimates and is an essential part of his argument for waste disposal. So nuclear just got more expensive. Also please note that reducing the radioactivity 99.9% in 40 years does not make nuclear waste safe to put in the garbage pail, however reassuring a statistic that might sound. Reprocessing also cannot begin for 5-25 years after removal from a power plant. All other reprocessing is experimental. France’s vaunted reprocessed fuel is not being used because nuclear power plants that can use it cost 3 times as much to build as FPL’s plant. So it sits in storage for at least 500 years. Donnernv, thanks for your efforts in getting this started. Time constraints prevented me from answering sooner and I will also adress my questions as time allows.

 

9 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On September 14, 2008 at 9:41 PM, LordZ wrote:

DEv where are you coming up with these bogus hypo numbers.

Anyone can come up with numbers to show bias towards one solution.

From my understanding one nuclear plant can easily power the entire state as well as power nearby states, with no rolling black outs or brown outs or whatever other shortages.

650 nuclear plants, are you on drugs ??? that capacity would enpower the entire world 24/7 over and over again.

But hey why don't we just make bigger and bigger atom smashers.

 

 

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#2) On September 14, 2008 at 9:48 PM, Gingerbreadman55 (26.51) wrote:

Does the space required for wind power factor at all into your startup costs?

 I imagine the vast land use for the kind of power needed would be a HUGE lease bill

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#3) On September 14, 2008 at 9:53 PM, Gingerbreadman55 (26.51) wrote:

Oh, and LordZ, here are some "biased" facts courtesy of wikipedia

As of 2005, nuclear power provided 6.3% of the world's energy

As of 2007, the IAEA reported there are 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world

 

so... assuming the same ammount of energy will be generated per plant... 650plants / 439 plants = 1.4806

so if nuclear power increases by 50%... and its world contribution is only a measly 6.3%... how does it power the world many times over? 

 

 

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#4) On September 14, 2008 at 10:17 PM, LordZ wrote:

Ging,,, its stupid biases facts and assumptions off of faulty numbers that can have any proposed actions seem plausible, regardless of the stupidity and inefficency.

Nuke power is among the safest and most powerful in creation of power, up until it becomes unsafe.

Most of the world has to rely on oil, coal, and other fuels to generate power.

If we can create a gigantic atom smasher, surely we can create super safe nuclear plants.

 

 

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#5) On September 14, 2008 at 11:00 PM, RainierMan (75.83) wrote:

I wouldn't write off fuel cells just yet. If Honda can lease hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in California, then I suspect they have a fighting chance.Yes, I know, they are not ready for mass market, but neither is nuclear if we are truely going to supply the national grid with it.

Plug in hybrids are probably next up on dealer lots. Most people will be able to drive them every day and the engine will never have to run because they can be charged at home overnight. When the driving range exceeds what the batteries can provide, the engine would then be used. Vehicles like that make the oil-auto connection a lot less of an issue. Again,  I'm not saying we'll be selling 15 million of them a year tomorrow, but nothing is going to happen overnight in the energy transition.

I spoke with an engineer who works in the nuclear field, and I was sort of stunned to learn that in general the half-life of nuclear waste is thousands of years. So it's essentially deadly for thousands of years.

I think storing all that nuclear waste would be a total disaster waiting to happen. You only need to see what an endless money pit Hanford  has become to see how difficult it is to try clean up nuclear waste contamination.

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#6) On September 14, 2008 at 11:28 PM, FoolishChemist (97.08) wrote:

From my understanding one nuclear plant can easily power the entire state as well as power nearby states, with no rolling black outs or brown outs or whatever other shortages.

LordZ, that is hilarious.  There are at least 6 nuclear plants just for Illinois The entire planet consumes energy at a rate on the order of 15 TW or 15,000 GW.  The average nuclear power plant produces 1-2 GW, so to power the entire world on just nuclear would need more than 7000 nuclear power plants.

Just the US is 3.3 TW, needing more than 1000 reactors for our little country.  The amount of energy the world uses is really hard to grasp.

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#7) On September 15, 2008 at 12:02 AM, dinodelaurentis (75.42) wrote:

yes, nuclear power is the best way to solve enegy needs given existing technologies. yes, the fuel at the heart of nuclear power is one of the deadliest substances known to man. and yes, the waste product of the nuclear power generating process is deadly as well and can be placed in containers buried away for thousands of years.

have faith, our technological umbrella will keep the deadly nuclear rain off of humanity.

until there's a leak from a less than perfect weld or valve.

or an unreplaced embrittled pump or pipe.

or an unplanned for weather event like a hurricane or tornado.

or a terrorist action.

or a  less than perfect human operator.

or an earthquake or tsunami.

or a crucial area less than perfectly executed by an unthinking or unscrupulos contractor who doesn't think his shortcut will matter. or one of his employees.

or any one of a myriad of unforseen combinations of unknown factors. The Great White Factor is out there...

 and then it's a big problem for a LOT of people. maybe for your children and grandchildren. how do you know that they won't live in a plume path of a radiological event? do you know if you do now?

it's all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out.

if ya really want to see what your dealing with, watch john cussack's death scene in the movie "Fat Man and Little Boy".

or read "The Night We Almost Lost Detroit". good book. that's where i was living when they had a partial core meltdown at the Enrico Fermi plant. i was 8 years old. never heard about it until the mid 90s.

the greatest differance between the 1970's and today is the skill gained in operations. that is not a comforting thought. a nuclear engineer told me this year that in a century's time, what we are doing today with nuclear power will be looked upon as alchemy. he is a very smart guy with 35 years experience and i believe him.

there was one singular event that put the kibosh to nuke construction in the 80's. what was the name of that place?

i understand that they are still trying to deal with the core  because it's on fire twenty years later. one day it'll hit the ground water and everyone will understand. not out of sight, out of mind!

the only reason i mention it is because IT HAPPENED IN A BIG WAY!

i actually think that nuke technology should be explored but not in a wholesale way. it should be part of a wide spectrum of energy solutions. it is A card in the deck, not the ONLY card!  i wouldn't mind if we bulilt one each of several different designs. hell maybe we'll discover cold fusion! we may discover something even better. don't give up, look at all of it. an "apollo program" for energy! lets try many approaches to independence including renewable, clean technology on industrial scale.

but to go whole hog into nuclear power plants isn't the best idea IMO. not good risk managment, yes?

oh yeah, i almost forgot. when nuke power was first proposed to the public, they said that the electricity would be so cheap, it would cost more to moniter it.

THAT did not work out either.

 

 

 

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#8) On September 15, 2008 at 2:10 AM, Donnernv (< 20) wrote:

Some good points.  Some silly.  If anyone is serious about discussing this on an informed basis, read the analysis first.  Then, we can comment/argue on the individual assumptions in an intelligent manner.

I'll send it to you.  Email me at aol with the subject REPORT.

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#9) On September 15, 2008 at 7:47 AM, devoish (98.03) wrote:

lordz,

let the FSM guide you through the words in my post and the links therein.

Gingerbreadman,

Good question. The fourth link (ND wind) discusses leasing and compares it to the prices charged for the electricity. Land area required is an advantage to nuclear depending on how close you want to be as it pertains to your assessment of the risk of leaks. Also consider land used as it applies to dotting the landscape with oil/gas wells, 450 missing mountaintops for coal, and the land now under water behind the Hoover damn.

Donnernv,

Thanks again for the report. To everyone else who would like to read it: I would prefer you e-mail Donnernv for it. It is his work.

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