I believe the best approach is to show people gradually that newer generation reactors are much safer and better than older generations. Just to give an example, the technology of reactors at Chernobyl is from 1953.
Newer reactor technologies are much safer and there are some types of reactors that they even use spent fuel rather than enriched fuel that all other types of reactors use. I believe Bill Gates also has invested some resources in this 'traveling wave reactors'.
Until we have a carbon tax or a massive policy shift in favor of extremely capital-intensive new-build nuclear, we will continue on our current path of renewables, batteries, and LNG dominating the grid.
I'm all for nuclear, by the way, but let's not pretend that cultural attitudes (which haven't dented GOP denialism) and misinformed lefty greens (which haven't ended fracking or coal) are to blame here. Nuclear is just way too expensive and hard to do in the USA, it's as simple as dollars and cents.
One of the crucial things to account for is that nuclear's cost is overwhelming overhead cost. So prematurely closing plants vastly inflates the price of nuclear power. This is why nuclear energy costs are so much more expensive in the US, Japan, and Germany. These countries prematurely closed nuclear plants, thus increasing $/MHW.
The real interesting part of this is that modern power is so much cheaper that it's less expensive to eat the capital losses and shut down nuclear plants early than it is to continue to operate them.
The former is intermittent, and the latter emits carbon.
> There is little difference in operational cost between running a nuclear plant at 50% and running it at 100%. So when they start losing key customers to cheaper power, pretty soon they're operating the plant in the red.
Yes, and we're replacing nuclear plants with fossil fuel plants because of it. When California shut down its second to last nuclear plant, it's carbon emissions from electricity generation rose by 35%. And now we're poised to shut down the Diablo canyon plant with solar during the day and natural gas during the evening.
If we cared about reducing carbon, we'd keep the nuclear plant operating and shut down a fossil fuel plant with the surplus energy.
But market forces disagree with me.
So what's the alternative? Crushing carbon taxes? That would eliminate the "intermittent" wind and solar solutions that are clean, safe, and cheap, because at the moment they need gas to balance the load. And it would effectively be doubling the cost of energy production in order to subsidize nuclear. And it still doesn't give us an exit ramp, so we'd have to build more nuclear and continue to de facto prohibit solar indefinitely. That's absurd.
What appears most practical to me is taking advantage of gas in the short run to load-balance wind/solar, and eventually moving to energy storage for the balancing, encouraged via increasing carbon tax.
At grid scale 1 access tracking is ~7% higher per watt which works out to about 2.14c/kWh in an ideal location. https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/06/28/los-angeles-seeks-rec...
However, these systems produces ~30% more power outside of the normal range for solar systems. This effectively squashes much of the duck curve and with the right mix and wide geographic distribution work well with nuclear power and modest energy storage systems.
"Following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Germany has permanently shut down eight of its 17 reactors and pledged to close the rest by the end of 2022." - Wikipedia
Edit: This might just be because Germany is as close to the Ukraine as California is to Texas. Also removed dumb sentence.
Solar and wind are great technologies, but they cannot be the sole basis for a power grid without positing some new energy storage technology that does not exist today and for which there is nothing on the horizon.
Nuclear technology has stagnated horribly because of the fears. Even the newest reactors are using old designs because it's impossible to move forward with new ones.
You have too generous a view of the ability of an average person to understand and think rationally about such concepts. In the absence of understanding, fear takes its place. This is TL;DR of why nuclear power stations aren't profitable in the US today.
This suggests to me that the regulations for the ignorant paranoid treehuggers are not actually the problem.
In investment and projects true, in technology no. It's just a bit expensive and politics..
Useful technologies (dramatic reduction of required storage):
* HV DC long-range transmissions (Russia)
* offshore wind (Hornsea)
* load scheduling (home dual tarrifs, remote-managed water heaters, regulated aluminum smelting, upcoming vehicle charging, ..)
* plain old overprovisioning
* electrolytic hydrogen stored in caverns (estimated cca 40% efficiency)
* automated train (cars) loaded with rocks on a slope (85% eff.)
* batteries (Tesla)
Not that useful for scaling:
* pumped / regulated hydro - currently very important but scaling limited by geography.
You could multiply the deaths-per-TWh by 100 from the stats quoted in the GP's link and still compare favourably to non-renewable options, or 10x and compare with renewables. That safety record is very clearly due to the public being (irrationally?) terrified of nuclear anything, and constantly ratcheting up the regulatory requirements.
Most people don't think about the world in this way though. Saying "we should increase the death rate of this technology by 100x" would immediately destroy the career of any politician. "Joe Politician wants 100x as many children to die" would be the obvious attack ad in response.
This is a shame, because if you could reduce the cost of nuclear by 10x by increasing the death rate by 100x (still ending up with a moderate death rate), and in so doing produce a radically cheaper and zero-carbon power source, then you might save thousands or even millions of lives from climate-related deaths over the next century. (To be clear, the "might" is important; I'm not making claims about how much of a win there is by taking this path. In this paragraph I'm making the meta-level point that no matter how much is to be gained from this path, we would not go down it.)
HN talks frequently about how opposed to NIMBYism it is, but I imagine they'd sing a different tune if the politicians told them "yo we ratcheted up the death rate 100x and we're building a new plant near you!"
Why? So it can finally be cheaper than wind and solar? What's the advantage of that?
I'm arguing that we should look at the cost-benefit of each marginal increment in safety, before dismissing nuclear power as "too expensive".
If you put in place requirements that wind power must kill no birds, forcing them to build expensive bird nets and other countermeasures, you could reach the same sort of conclusion that wind power is too expensive to be competitive.
> What's the advantage of that?
As I said, if nuclear was cheaper, and also not too dangerous, you would displace coal much more quickly (particularly in China). For some values of "cheaper" and "not too dangerous" you would prevent more deaths (by averting/reducing climate change) than you caused with such a policy change.
And yet, China is dominated by coal, and not building much much new nuclear capacity, really. That suggests that something other than treehugger political problems are causing the slow adoption. Meanwhile, they're building massive new wind and solar projects. Without checking the numbers, I expect those projects outstrip their planned nuclear in total capacity.
But the real cost of nuclear isn't the cost of safety. It's the cost of capital. And capital is sensitive to risk. So large scale projects with 30-50 year payoff schedules, in the face of new technologies that are already cheaper and continue to drop in cost, and don't have the political/social resistance nuclear does... well, that factors in to the risk. A little risk adds a great deal to long term capital cost.
You want nuclear to be super-safe? Great, we've achieved that. But we should then apply regulations to wind, solar, coal, etc. that lead to the same number of deaths per TWh as nuclear, including from installation, air pollution and disasters.
If we don't do that, then we're effectively subsidizing the ones with lower standards.
There’s publicly available government record of wheeling and dealing, leveraging public fear of accidents, and the US not being invested in nuclear weapons development, to regulate us in a direction of favoring weapons development, and abandoning subsidy of nuclear energy development.
As usual, the cost scenario is entirely artificial, existing only in deference to decades old political decisions.
Deference to allowing those decisions to continue to rule is a public apathy problem. The political class isn’t going to shift on such things without public pressure at scale.
It is irrelevant that the recent nuclear reactor projects in the USA and Europe are expensive. A weighted average of cost and completion times for global nuclear reactor construction would be dominated by the 90% of the nuclear reactors built by China, Russia, South Korea and India.
Do you based your analysis on the price cars based upon the price of a Rolls Royce? Do you price bridges based upon the cost of the Bay Bridge? Tunnels based upon the Big Dig? Rockets based upon the Space Launch System?
Also, nuclear got expensive because constantly increasing regulations and bureaucracy drove up costs in the USA. Reactors without accidents built in China and South Korea for 4 times less. Also, the systemic failure of large construction projects in the US. Skycrapers, bridges, subways and highway costs went up. High-speed rail in California versus China for costs and completions.
China generates as much electricity this year as USA and Europe combined. China will double again within 20 years. Natural gas will dominate US energy mix.
The solar and wind will not scale well beyond 10%. The US will need massive buildout of energy storage and massive energy grid modifications. This will run into the big project incompetence of the USA.
I would love to hear any theories or speculation you have on why this is the case.
It is baffling to me that LNG is often cited as a potential solution to the carbon crisis. It's not. LNG is a hydrocarbon, and burning it releases CO2 just like any other hydrocarbon.
Gas turbines revolutionized power generation in the 1970s and since because the power density is so much higher than steam turbines, greatly lowering the capital costs of a power plant. For a while coal still competed based on cheap fuel, but after fracking came along the fuel is cheap and the power plant is cheap so natural gas overtook coal quickly.
A reactor that runs at a higher temperature than an LWR can operate a Brayton cycle gas turbine using Helium, Carbon Dioxide or Nitrogen Tetroxide as a working fluid. Some possibilities are liquid metal reactors (metal coolant), liquid salt reactors (liquid fuel!), HTGR (carbide fuel) or GCFR (nitride fuel).
It is a lot of technology to perfect, but as long as a nuclear heat source is coupled to a huge expensive steam turbine, the economics are going to bad even if we learn how to build reactors right the first time.
Everyone pointing to nuclear power as the solution conveniently ignores how insanely expensive it is. New reactors cost many billions of dollars, and aren't cheap to operate either. We're at an inflection point where new solar and wind plus batteries is cheaper than new nuclear, so that's what's going to be built. It's a simple economic reality having nothing to do with whether fears of nuclear power are overblown or whatever.
Nuclear is currently the only technology that exists that can do this.
Nuclear power generation costs ~$6k per kW(1)
Solar power generation costs ~$1k per kW(2)
Solar capacity factor is ~25%, so ~4k/kW to compare with 24 hour baseload power.
Storing 3 kW for ~12hrs requires ~36kW-h storage.
Li-ion battery packs are getting to ~$100/kW-h (3)
36 kW-h storage is ~$3.6k
Nuclear cost: ~6k per kW baseload
Solar + battery cost: ~7.6k per kW baseload (~4k/kW generation, ~3.6k/kW storage)
Building enough battery capacity for the grid would be far more than current world demand for Li-ion cells. I imagine prices would skyrocket, throwing off your calculations.
> Solar + battery cost: ~7.6k per kW baseload (~4k/kW generation, ~3.6k/kW storage)
So nuclear is cheaper than solar + storage?
See e.g. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611683/the-25-trillion-re...
Batteries by themselves not enough. Need inverters etc... You cannot get to the cost of the car by only adding up the cost of gasoline used over its lifetime.
China's and south Korea and Russia have nuclear build costs in the $2k-2.5K per KW range. They make 70% of the world's nuclear reactors.
Don't just say "can't" without any justification except your sense of certainty.
I am not an expert at the engineering or physics, but I did work at a leading PV manufacturer for 8 years, and I was amazed at the effort required to coax even the tiniest improvements in conversion efficiency out of the devices in a way that is both manufacturable and a benefit to the cost-per-watt. Then after all that, every PV platform has a theoretical limit anyway. So the whole enterprise seemed like pulling teeth. Especially when you think about how demand will increase in the future.
On the other hand, it seems like with nuclear the potential energy is so overwhelmingly high that the primary effort is holding it back (hence the dangers) - not trying to squeeze out tiny drops. Given this, just intuitively, nuclear seems like the preferable starting point. We can deal with the obstacles as we go. Seems like humans have done a pretty good job at turning what once appeared to be insurmountable risks into things we take for granted. Skyscrapers and air travel come to mind.
Nuclear problems have been catastrophic black swans. A nuclear plant is mostly great. Unless it's not. In a way nobody expected, (that is probably obvious in hindsight). Whereupon the cleanup is huge, requires state intervention, and possibly decades.
When someone dies because of an accident in wind power the implications are far more local.
It is not entirely unreasonable to prefer more highly-constrained danger to a smaller risk of catastrophe.
Now, Chernobyl was a disaster you're not going to see with the normal operation of any class of power plant. But hydroelectric dams also have the potential and sometimes do fail in ways that kill thousands of people but I don't usually hear people oppose those power plants on these grounds.
I think that the real reason people have such a fear of nuclear power plants is that we use the same terms, "radiation" and "fallout," for the dangers from a nuclear reactor failure and a nuclear war when the magnitudes are as different as a pebble and a boulder. I grew up mostly after the Cold War and always associated those terms with nuclear power and never realized that if you're a hundred kilometers downwind of a megaton scale groundburst you can die puking your guts out from fallout a couple of hours later.
It is the absurd statistician's view of life. That is not what it actually feels like to people. People would rather have a shorter life span due to say unhealthy eating than having a higher expectancy of getting stabbed to death by a maniac.
Nuclear power is more like that latter. When it happens it is terrifying and scares the shit out of people. It is easy to be a smart ass in hindsight when you know all the facts
But when a nuclear accident happens you will not have all the facts. You will not know the severity. You will have to evacuate lots of people. And it is going to have a severe mental toll on these people. These are factors entirely lost in your statistical approach to looking at this.
Not to mention the Fukushima disaster cost a FORTUNE!! 182 BILLION dollars! That is not pocket change. Who pays that? Not the nuclear power generators. It is tax payers.
In other words Nuclear power is getting a huge subsidy because they don't pay for their own clean. They don't pay for any insurance.
Had they paid for insurance, they selling nuclear power would have been impossible. It would simply have cost WAY too much.
You mean the Tsunami is like that? Because as far as we know there is MAYBE only one death that was attributed to the Fukushima nuclear incident for example, while thousands lost their lives to the Tsunami in the matter of seconds. yet people still live next to the ocean in Japan as we speak. Completely, utterly irrational.
There's entire towns that are still part of an exclusion zone people can't live in and around Fukushima. Even if you live near the coast in Japan a tsunami isn't likely to make the town you grew up in not exist anymore, there'll just be a lot of damage to deal with.
I'm generally pro-nuclear, but pretending this difference doesn't exist is disingenuous, particularly since the cost is disproportionately carried by people in rural areas living near nuclear power plants, whereas most of the benefactors of the energy production live elsewhere.
Nuclear power still saves billions in health costs by preventing air pollution deaths. Remember, air pollution from fossil fuel kills 4.2 million people every year... year after year. Chernobyl killed up to 4000 total, Fukushima will kill up to 1.
But that is a pretty irrelevant comparison since there was an evacuation. Unless you are suggesting we stop evacuating people in case of nuclear disasters?
On today's news
> Brazilian authorities said on Monday that they have no way of knowing how much more oil will wash ashore the country’s northeastern coast, despite President Jair Bolsonaro’s ominous warning during a Sunday night TV interview that “the worst is yet to come.”
A nuclear accident is more like a terrorist attack, while deaths from other power sources are more like car accidents. Sure more people die in car accidents, but it does not have the profound psychological effect of a terrorist attack.
Nuclear accidents is like a terrorist attack. They cause massive panics and scare. Uncertainty roams. It is an invisible danger. I don't suddenly get sick from pollution from coal power. Radio activity can make me seriously sick in short time without realizing it. It is an invisible danger.
And even if nuclear accident caused as little health problems and death as the most rose tinted stories suggest, you still cannot run away from the fact that these accidents carry MASSIVE price tags. Chernobyl involved hundreds of thousands of people doing cleanup. It cost 235 billion dollars to do. Fukushima cost 182 billion dollars.
For my native Norway that is roughly a whole state budget. It would bankrupt the country having an accident like that. Or at least if we did not have a big fat oil fund. Most countries don't have a big fat oil fund to finance huge nuclear disasters.
Unless you nuclear advocates start talking serious about the cost issue, you are just glossing over the most serious issues with nuclear power.
That's exactly the pro-nuclear point; it's far less harmful in aggregate, and held back by irrational fears.
I don't suddenly get sick from pollution from coal power.
You just get suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer, and that's somehow better because you can't say for sure that it was due to exposure from pollution. But overall, it's over 200,000 deaths per year: https://www.nyp.org/cancer/cancerprevention/cancer-preventio.... That's a whole lot of Fukushimas.
It's amusing how nuclear power is the one place where environmentalists start worrying about fiscal discipline. Amortized over decades of nuclear power, those aren't that expensive.
The problem here is that pointing out that irrational fears are irrational, doesn't change them.
This is pretty basic human psychology, and it's not going to change in a decade. I really don't think there's time to change the publics view on nuclear (maybe if there was no Fukushima, but not now) in time to get a huge investment in nuclear going in time to save the planet. I mean, I'll defend nuclear any chance I get, I just don't think it's helping.
Personally I think, if you consider the momentum of the technologies, it's clear that renewables seem to be on a path where they can actually replace nuclear at a lower cost. And that further investments in renewables might be more likely to accelerate renewables, than investments in nuclear is likely to give us an actual nuclear renaissance (although the ideal is increase investments in both). In terms of R&D we should absolutely put more in nuclear, but in terms of actual commercial projects, we should probably build all the renewable we can until it's not economical anymore.
Lung cancer isn't a "sudden sickness"?
Hundreds of thousands of people a year are estimated to die from air pollution. Nuclear has killed far fewer over its entire existence, and it would be almost none without the criminal Chernobyl reactor design.
People are terrible at understanding risk, but very good at being influenced by propaganda. Anti-nuclear propaganda has been very effective.
I'm encouraged by the innovation around Gen 4 modular reactors. I think they'll end up being successful, pervasive, and cheap. ThorCon in particular looks strong.
Exactly! The money quote in this entire thread.
I agree on lot of the points on both sides, but once feelings get in the way, it's very hard to say anything to convince the other party. I'm pro-nuclear as long as it remains as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. If renewables get to a point where they can support all energy needs in every location on earth, great. Let's do that instead. But I don't really feel that much fear about nuclear power than a lot of these anti-nuclear folks. Maybe I'm just dumb, maybe I should fear. But it just seems so far-fetched, if it's maintained properly.
You may not suddenly get sick from coal power plant smog but your life quality degrades over time and you develop certain diseases. Even though smog is a visible danger, nobody cares about inhaling it with a great cost to their lives.
There is only one nuclear accident (INES > 3) that has happened in the past 30 years and that is the Fukushima. On the other hand there has been 142 oil spill accidents in the last 30 years. Several sources calculate that on average, cleanup of an oil spill costs around 5 billion dollars. So, in short, oil spills has cost us 710 billion dollars to clean-up in the last 30 years, not including any health or repair etc. material costs. I would also be curious to find out a similar cost calculation for coal related cleanups.
New nuclear plants should not be built blindly. Japan perhaps should not use nuclear technology due to being in a highly active seismic region. But this should not stop other countries from investing in nuclear energy. For example, France is generating 71.7% of their electricity from nuclear sources and they are 'almost' accident-free.
Not at all true, as there us a ton of research that all point to low levels of radiation having minimal risk. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model
The hysterics that surround nuclear accidents (like what happened in Europe during the Chernobyl disaster) were simply an overreaction.
It's not fully confirmed this was the only/major cause, but it seems very likely from the evidence.
> I don't suddenly get sick from pollution from coal power
Coal power is actually worse for health than nuclear power and releases more radioactive material into the environment.
No it is not. The ability to fairly precisely calculate cancer risk over time based on radiation exposure is exactly how we get the death numbers for nuclear. It's basically no different than calculating deaths from other airborne pollution except that radiation gives you cancer whereas coal soot (for example) gives you lung problems.
Flight crews get 3.1 milliseverts per year. About 50 days worth of Fukushima exposure.
Air pollution causes 7 million deaths per year. 4 million from outdoor air pollution. The hospitalization rate increases on the bad air days. The effect is immediate for many elderly and asthmatics. Air pollution levels in some cities in India, China and other parts of Asia is like forcing everyone (including babies and the elderly or asthmatics) to smoke 6+ cigarettes a day.
Being barely able to breath is very unpleasant and scary.
12,000 people died over 2 weeks in 1952 during the London Fog air pollution event. Atmospheric inversion trapped air pollution. People dropped dead with blue lips and their last few minutes to hours were spent gasping for breath.
144 people were killed in 1966. During the Aberfan disaster. Millions of tons of coal mine waste were left in piles on a mountain. A heavy rain caused the mine waste to slide down the mountain and into the town of Aberfan. It buried a school. 117 children dead.
Multiple incidents where over 100 people get burned alive in oil tanker spills. 150+ in Pakistan in 2017. Poor people ran towards on oil tanker spill to scoop up oil from a leak. Then it caught fire and they were burned alive.
8 billion tons of coal is moved every year. 1000+ die mining it. Many die underground slowly when they are trapped in collapsed coal mines. 40% of freight trains and trucks move coal. So almost all freight train and truck accidents in certain areas are people being hit by a vehicle loaded with coal.
5 billion tons of oil per year.
Norway is big into oil and gas.
$62 billion for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
There's virtually no radiation, but assuming there was some amount of dangerous radiation, we should also account for death caused by coal or oil pollution as well.
> Nuclear accidents is like a terrorist attack. They cause massive panics and scare
While oil spills cause death and destruction for hundreds of thousands, while also destroying the environment, but who cares?
> Chernobyl involved hundreds of thousands of people doing cleanup.
Hundreds of thousands sounds like a made up number.
But if we wanna talk about costs, the real costs are
The direct costs of the Fukushima disaster will be about $15 billion in clean-up over the next 20 years and over $60 billion in refugee compensation. Replacing Japan’s 300 billion kWhs from nuclear each year with fossil fuels has cost Japan over $200 billion
The cleanup costed "only" 540 million dollars, but
If you take into account all of the burning oil wells, it is likely that hundreds of millions of barrels soaked into the earth from January to November of 1991 (about the amount of motor gasoline burned in California in 1989
some of the oil spilled deep into the sea, burrowing up to 40 cm in the sand and mudflats. It remains there to this day. This disaster does not just highlight the responsibilities humans have in managing oil wells, rigs, pipelines, and tankers, it demonstrates how carelessness with a non-renewable energy source and pollutant, purposeful or not, can have devastating long-term environmental impacts that cannot be undone.
But radiation is very easy to measure. Coal pollution on the other hand is not.
So people have an inflated fear of radiation simply because it's so hard to measure.
It reminds me of how when Israel detected Polio in sewage, people said Israel is one of those countries with endemic Polio. Except other countries aren't even checking their sewage.
"We detected <tiny amount> of radiation from Fukushima in seawater, oh no!"
I've seen this many times: People notice when you measure some dangerous thing, and avoid it, while being completely blind to the fact that other dangerous things they do are not measured, so they think they are safe.
No one measured how much coal pollution was in sea water, so coal pollution is clearly safe, right?
Surely, if this is true, investors wouldn't sink a few billion into a project only to find that the politicians don't like it and shut it down? In Germany, a new reactor was completely built and ready, only to find that the government prevents them from ever taking it online. Investors saw money but the public perception in Germany (which is about as far from reality as anti-vaxxers are) changed it after all.
It's a shame that it had to be decommissioned entirely, though. I would've been okay with fixing it up. Alas, all that's left are the cooling towers; all the power generating equipment's long gone, so it'd probably be pointless to try to do anything with it now. It'll just have to loom ominously on the horizon. There's solar and natural gas generation there now, though, which is pretty neat, I guess.
But that's precisely the issue. The anti-nuclear lobby in the US isn't just hippies, it's the oil and coal industries. The hippies are just the face they put on the TV because "coal industry opposes nuclear" sounds like an advertisement for nuclear.
There are also plants in Greifswald and Stendal of Sovjet design that were completed or largely completed, but not put into use after reunification.
My source seemed relatively neutral if not friendly to the idea of nuclear power, so I don't think it's just a biased source, but would be happy to read about other analysis of the situation.
> Fast reactors aren’t becoming mainstream. One country after another has abandoned the technology. Nuclear physicist Thomas Cochran summarises the history: “Fast reactor development programs failed in the: 1) United States; 2) France; 3) United Kingdom; 4) Germany; 5) Japan; 6) Italy; 7) Soviet Union/Russia 8) U.S. Navy and 9) the Soviet Navy. The program in India is showing no signs of success and the program in China is only at a very early stage of development.”
Talking about rooftop solar in a safety context is very much a straw man argument. Putting stuff on roofs is dangerous, but you don't need to put solar on a roof.
PS: Concentrating solar is also very different from a cost and risk perspective than photovoltaic solar.
A death in a nuclear accident, or premature death from pollution, is not something the person doing the dying has much if any control over.
>In comparison, nuclear energy was considered the safest energy source
At the same time, their second source addresses that non-rooftop solar likely has a far lower mortality rate, and either way has 100x less of a mortality rate than coal.
Unfortunately the same holds true when it comes to many people's opinions of nuclear power.
Whenever someone says or implies that nuclear is safer than wind or solar it turns into this low-value debate that totally misses the point that nuclear, wind, and solar are vastly safer than our normal way of making power. The surprising bit is nuclear because most people think it's really dangerous.
Nuclear accidents in contrast are very hard to assess the deaths from because a lot of people don't die straight away.
You don't know how long these people would have lived otherwise. Not to mention many get sever health problems over many years. You don't get that kind of effects from wind and solar. It is far more clear cut if somebody died from it or not.
From the articles I've read it seems pretty clear that assessing the actual damage from Chernobyl is an utter mess. You cannot really put that much faith in any of the numbers.
The errors bar will be very large for nuclear power because you have a few massive accidents which are very hard to determine the full outcome of.
When a few people die from say solar power installation authorities have no interest in covering it up.
When huge number of people die from a nuclear accident there is a VERY strong incentive to downplay the accident and its effects, because it reflects very badly on the government.
There's a strong similarity between climate science and low-dose radiation science. Both have huge well-coordinated UN and WHO-organized teams of experts who have reached consensus (IPCC for climate, UNSCEAR for radiation). Both have passionate counter-advocates saying that the UN experts are in cahoots and lying (Breitbart for climate, Greenpeace for radiation). You appear to be referring to the Greenpeace side of the story (which is also who the recent Chernobyl HBO series listened to, unfortunately).
Let me direct you to the UNSCEAR side of the story: https://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html
Today, we understand that low-dose radiation causes very little negative health effects over the long term. It's not the boogeyman we're lead to believe by the opponents of nuclear power. Including all the long-term deaths caused by Chernobyl, nuclear has still saved over 2 million lives simply by displacing air pollution deaths. Nuclear is definitively a life-saver.
Most nuclear power deaths are ordinary industrial accidents.
When there's a nuclear disaster, it's difficult to estimate the death count. But two important points:
* The way we usually estimate it is likely very pessimistic, using a linear no-threshold model. Even so we come up with very low numbers.
* The fact that people die later is a benefit: if they died immediately there would be more loss of life expectancy.
I'm going to guess it was "how much does it cost"?
Because we all instinctively know that human life is precious but not priceless. even if we're not familiar with the economic scoring that's done on new projects that might save or cost lives.
If nuclear costs so much that we could save more lives by spending that money on something else, then it's not a good deal. Different people might die, but overall less people will die.
I know nuclear fans are a bit emotional and don't like dealing with hard facts and figures. The thought of a single person dying is too much for them to cope with and they can't make logical decisions as a result, but think about it for a while and you'll see that expensive but safe power isn't particularly helpful if there's much cheaper alternatives with only slightly higher death rates.
Plus I think solar and wind are actually safer than nuclear now, but even if they weren't, their cost would probably still edge it.
I don't have a dog in this fight, but comments like this hardly seem helpful and are very likely against HN rules.
Anyway, nuclear fans know about the trade off between safety and cost. It is the antinuke zealots who insists that near infinite amounts of money must be spent on making sure that not a single person who might live a million years from must suffer from a slightly increased risk of cancer because of stored fission products, and it is the same zealots who made reactors expensive to begin with by insisting that they must be guarded against events less likely than an asteroid wiping out all humans.
The only way to reconcile your cost-vs-safety reasoning with an antinuclear stance is by assuming that people who die of radiation induced cancer are much, much deadder than people dying any other way.
Ben Shapiro frequently throws out the adage "Facts don't care about your feelings." Unfortunately for a lot of people "their feelings also don't care about the facts".
The “Enemy Civilian Casualties” Column. In this column, written when I was 18, I suggested that civilian casualties in war were of no concern. While the larger point of the piece — that we must calculate the risk to American service members when we design rules of engagement — is partially correct, the piece is expressed in the worst possible way, and simplifies the issue beyond the bounds of morality (particularly by doubting the civilian status of some civilians). It’s just a bad piece, plain and simple, and something I wish I’d never written. It’s also good evidence that a lot of the stuff you think is smart at 18 is just you being an idiot at 18.
arguably, it's not the right technology to solve these human problems then. for that you'll need one with the highest death rate possible.
Please, stop doing that. It makes you sound like a jerk.
And just to be clear here... arguing "nuclear power is much safer than commonly believed" is perfectly reasonable. Arguing that "nuclear power is safer than solar and wind" strains credulity. Doing it with carefully groomed and overtly partisan "facts" is just a way of saying "Everyone who disagrees with me is stupid, hahaha!"
It's not stupid because it's wrong. It's stupid because it doesn't convince anyone on the fence about anything except that you're being a jerk.
It's a combination of politics and hysteria that has painted nuclear into a corner, not science or reason.
The Japanese have been researching micro-reactors for a long time - hopefully they can make it work. I'd love to have a refrigerator sized thing in my basement that makes my power and removes my dependency on the grid.
As of China, they are the dirtiest civilization in human history. Not an example to emulate if we are to leave our children and grand-children a livable Earth.
I love the idea of nuclear, but it just hasn’t worked out. Solar and wind already are cheaper than anything else out there, and they are still regularly falling in cost. We can invest our money better elsewhere.
The nuclear age has come and passed.
* Nuclear energy has received less than 50% of the subsidies that renewables have. Renewables only recently ceased to "need" this, and they've been under development for decades. Nuclear power hasn't had investment in significant research since about 1970.
* Nuclear reactors are competitive in many countries, and in fact they are too in the US. Nuclear is the cheapest power per kilowatt-hour except when direct access to nearby fossil fuel sources is available, even using 40-50 year old reactor designs. Newer designs would be even cheaper. In fact this is irrelevant, however, because we're not looking for the cheapest power, we're looking for a way to supplement renewables with always-on electricity that doesn't fuel climate change.
Newer reactor designs will be safer, cheaper, and less expensive to build. They may even use something other than Uranium as a fuel. They will not contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation and they will not produce large amounts of waste. They will release less radiation into the environment than current coal plants do.
If all the people who believe 40 years of propaganda and misinformation spread by self righteous willfully ignorant individuals can do so, we can work toward a clean energy future using renewables and nuclear in time to limit global warming.
If we can't, once we start having wars over water and the world starts boiling in the heat of rising seas, we'll start building nuclear reactors after the fact. Assuming we survive that long.
* What you mean, but conveniently left out, is that nuclear reactors that are written off are competitive. Until they get too old to fix, then they're closed. That's what's happening at the moment in the Western world whether we like it or not.
When you talk about newer reactor designs, you are not talking about commercial reactors, but research reactors, for which the true cost/potential is unknown.
Nuclear isn't a good match for PV and wind, as those are cheaper when they're on. So you have a huge capital investment but only a low realized capacity factor.
that's what will happen to the current generation of solar and wind power plants
That's the wrong conclusion. In a grid made of unreliables and nuclear power, electricity is worthless during the day and priceless at night. If you assume[^] cheap batteries, electricity is worthless in summer and priceless in winter.
[^] But remember, if you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.
The numbers for subsidies of nuclear power come with some many caveats that they are useless. It does not cover the cost of insuring nuclear power, so you can actually pay to clean up disasters. It does not cover the massive amount of money that went into it for military purposes that civilian nuclear power benefitted from.
I don't think it actually covers the decommissioning costs either, because these seems to typically be much larger than first anticipated.
The subsidies of renewables meanwhile give a false picture because the cost varies considerably depending on where you are in the world. Germany pushed solar into what it is today, but it is not a country well suited for solar power.
And unlike nuclear, these subsidies have lead to massive price drops. Subsidies of nuclear power has not led to any drop in price of nuclear power. In fact the costs keep rising.
> Newer designs would be even cheaper.
Eh... thus far newer designs have been massively more expensive to build and much slower.
> Newer reactor designs will be safer, cheaper, and less expensive to build.
Ah yeah.... how old are you anyway? I have been hearing this claim for something like 20 years now. I remember the promise of pebble bed reactors for probably 20 years or longer. They were invented back in the 50s I believe. Yet we are still not seeing them being built. At least not here in the west.
I am tired of empty promises from the nuclear industry. Wind and solar has succeed where nuclear has failed. They have been given there chance AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and failed to deliver.
> They will release less radiation into the environment than current coal plants do.
Ah yeah... until there is an accident. After Chernobyl we were promised nothing like this would ever happened again because that reactor was so bad, and bla bla bla. Oops then Fukushima happened. Always the same story "Nobody could have foreseen this!"
Ah yeah... that is kind of the point. That is why nuclear power is a terrible idea. There will always be something you did not think about.
This is remarkably sloppy logic. Chernobyl was a questionable design. Fukushima was a different design that's more common, but still old.
The two accidents had little in common. Did you really think when someone said that Chernobyl wouldn't happen again that they meant all reactor types everywhere would never have another accident of any kind? If so, you're pretty naive.
>There will always be something you did not think about.
True about every technology ever created, and not a good enough reason to avoid progress and invention altogether.
We’re seeing them be shut down because people don’t seem to want them.
> Ah yeah... until there is an accident.
Even with accidents nuclear has probably released less radiation than coal.
> * Nuclear reactors are competitive in many countries, and in fact they are too in the US.
Illinois has one of the largest nuclear deployments in the US. Our latest climate legislation was drafted by Exelon, and provides massive subsidy in the form of carbon credits to the nuclear industry. And yet even with this, they have no plans to replace their 50-year old reactor fleet and no projected path forward for them except seeking another taxpayer bailout in a couple decades to again extend the life of these obsolete reactors. Nuclear is not competitive, period, unless you choose not to look at the full life-cycle.
Here's what the collective of nuclear advocates at MIT concluded, but I'm sure that's just "propaganda and misinformation spread by self righteous willfully ignorant individuals", too.
For a large expansion of nuclear power to suc-ceed, four critical problems must be overcome:
* Cost. In deregulated markets, nuclear power is not now cost competitive with coal and natural gas. However, plausible reductions by industry in capital cost, operation and maintenance costs, and construction time could reduce the gap. Carbon emission credits, if enacted by government, can give nuclear power a cost advantage.
* Safety. Modern reactor designs can achieve a very low risk of serious accidents, but “best practices” in construction and operation are essential. We know little about the safety of the overall fuel cycle, beyond reactor operation.
* Waste. Geological disposal is technically feasible but execution is yet to be demonstrated or certain. A convincing case has not been made that the long-term waste management benefits of advanced, closed fuel cycles involving reprocessing of spent fuel are out-weighed by the short-term risks and costs. Improvement in the open, once through fuelcycle may offer waste management benefits as large as those claimed for the more expensive closed fuel cycles.
* Proliferation. The current international safe-guards regime is inadequate to meet the security challenges of the expanded nuclear deployment contemplated in the global growth scenario. The reprocessing system now used in Europe, Japan, and Russia that involves separation and recycling of plutonium presents unwarranted proliferation risks.
They have to keep extending obsolete reactors because they aren't allowed to build newer, safer, more efficient ones!
For a new plant type to be built, it first has to be approved by the US government. Then funding has to be acquired, insurance bought, permitting done. Unless the US government makes an effort to clear the way for new construction, all that overhead and cost makes new reactor types a non starter for any for profit business.
They could build more of the older types, but with the unreasoning fear associated with nuclear anything in the US population going on, the cost of doing so is ridiculous... and most of these companies don't much care about climate change anyway. They're about profit.
If you don't like those sources, look around. There are lots of government studies in many countries available.
If you are willing to read them, that is.
1) Nuclear, with the high building cost and externalization of spent fuel.
2) Renewable, with cheap building costs and externalization of variable production rate which is solved by burning fossil fuels like natural gas or coal.
If we look beyond current grids and look into the future there is solutions to those externalizations. Renewable could use batteries rather than burning fossil fuels, but the current best bet is to build enough hydro powerplants and dams to fully support the energy grid during low production periods, and pumping back the water during high production. This will cost a lot of land and put a lot of greenhouse gases into the air, in particular because putting a lot of land under water tend to create a lot of methane. The cement for the dams are just like the cement in nuclear plants a major contributor to greenhouse gas production.
Personally, I just would declare that the age of burning fossil fuel to manage the energy grid has come and passed. By 2020 we should not build any new natural gas power plants. by 2030 we should have decommissioned 90% of all fossil burning plants, and by 2040 a complete ban of burning fossil fuel for electricity for any scale larger than a hospitals backup generator. With those decision in place I trust that investors will figure out if nuclear is profitable or not, and I personally do not care. For the climate sake my only wish is that we stop burning fossil fuels.
It's true that to get to 100%, or to start a new grid, you need to have something to fill in the gaps. Here there's a wide array of options, of which the most deployed at the moment are hydro and biomass AFAIK. But there are other proposals.
In the past it mostly didn't make sense to store electricity, not when you are paying for coal or gas and could as well store that. So many of the latest proposals are not fully developed and operating at a massive scale yet.
Hydro as a natural resource is not a perfect fit to use in case like this as natural lakes can only take so much changes in water levels, and in many cases you have chains of hydro plants and lakes which mean dumping a lot of water in one place means you have to dump a lot of it further down without causing flooding. Hydro plants must also manage how much water they have available. Swedish power prices is notorious effected by how much water winter/fall periods produce.
1. Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, and we must make radical changes to our lifestyles and economies immediately.
2. Wind and solar are now so cheap that there's no need for nuclear.
How can both of those be true? If wind and solar are really that cheap, great! Build enough of them to replace all existing fossil fuels and nuclear plants, and we're done. The fact that this has not happened even in enlightened countries makes me question that claim.
Terrapower is one of Bill Gate’s active developments. There are immense amounts of depleted uranium that the gov thinks is waste sitting in fields. Terrapower can build nuclear reactors that can run and power the entirety of the US for 100 years. You’re right that most nuclear reactors haven’t made significant improvements which is why they’ve made considerable technological advancements for example no human operators (use AI like google to run their entire facilities) and liquid metal instead of water and disaster proof. Watch this documentary for more insight!
Yes if you conveniently choose to ignore the availability problems (in the night and in no wind). And that no scalable battery/storage solution exists yet?
Uhm, well, electrolysis and Sabatier reaction, and then you clean it up and compress it or something. Unfortunately, you need a source of carbon dioxide (no, not air, extracting a trace gas is rather impractical), and then the whole process has a round trip efficiency of certainly no better than 20%. Looks like we need a 4x or so overbuild of unrealiables so that methanation can keep the lights on in winter.
What confuses me is that there are much more practical chemical storage methods nobody talks about. Ammonia comes to mind. It's easier to make and easier to store. I can't help but think that the whole methanation idea is a PR stunt by the gas industry, intended to positively associate renewables with fossil gas in the minds of the unwashed masses.
(Iñigo Capellán-Pérez, Carlos de Castro, Luis Javier Miguel González,
Dynamic Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) and material requirements in scenarios of global transition to renewable energies, Energy Strategy Reviews, Volume 26, 2019, 100399, ISSN 2211-467X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esr.2019.100399.)
"Will EROI be the Primary Determinant of Our Economic Future? The View of the Natural Scientist versus the Economist"
Which actually answers why the point you bring up is not relevant:
"In a recent meeting of scientists and economists in London, economists raised eight points as to why it was not necessary to consider EROI in determining future energy availability or policy."
Now the above paper tries to refute those points, but using invalid logic, e.g. arguing that because EROI and costs are linked in oil and gas, then the same observation must hold across categories to renewables.
The red flag that stood out to me is that they show huge increases in tellurium, gallium, and indium demand in Figure 10. Those materials are only required for thin film solar technologies. But according to Table 2, their scenario includes one PV technology: fixed-tilt arrays of silicon PV. Where are the increased demand for tellurium, gallium and indium coming from? It reads like they copy-pasted information from prior studies without paying attention to their own scenario parameters.
But I don’t see them flagellating themselves over this flagrant mis-step they share responsibility for.
It’s unfortunate that people who become activists are often (but not always) more dogmatic than scientific in their approach to dealing with issues. I think, looking retroactively, that there was an opportunity to coöperate with industry to address issues and work towards a working solution. I mean Yucca mountain. Where would France be if they had capitulated to this thinking.
Even just heating cities could provide a huge saving in emissions. The reactor design simplifies and the whole facility simplifies even more massively if you forgo power generation. You can operate with low pressures and temperatures.
Usually they talk about how the newest reactors are more efficient and reliable than ever, but still cost billions to manufacturer and maintain, and only if liabilities are removed from those involved with building it.
Why would we need more than one waste storage site?
All the waste produced by power generating reactors in the US ever would fit on a US football field and be about 30 feet deep. That's less waste than one coal plant produces in a decade.
All that waste we can't figure out what to do with, that no one wants to store or transport? That's from making nuclear weapons. No one sane wants more of those.
Regarding the volume of waste, would you feel comfortable sitting next to even a gram of raw nuclear waste? Even if the volume is small, it still needs to be handled with extreme care. If the handling of weapons waste is any indicator, that level of care has yet to be demonstrated.
However I don't trust the corporations in running it. When profit motive rears its ugly head, bad semihidden shit happens.
I'd trust the military in running it. They do have operational nuclear knowledge.
You should not compare raw prices but what's required to use it for an actual load, those figures look pretty different.
The important points for our current problems is that it is low emission and that it can guarantee vast amounts of electricity 24/7.
In order to drastically reduce emissions while meeting demand, not least the upcoming demand from electric vehicles, there is simply no alternative.
This does not mean that renewables should not be pushed as much as possible as well.
Solar and wind have massive externalities specially when you factor in lifecycle of batteries.
There are several countries that rely heavily on nuclear today and have done so successfully and in a way that has helped curb their greenhouse gases: France being one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France)
Additionally, nuclear has unlocked insane potential in the military with nuclear subs and ships. They can go a whole year without refueling and at the micro level they are very effective. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_marine_propulsion)
So to your first rhetorical question. What lesson have you learned from Nuclear the last 70 years? What I have learned is that it's an incredibly effective and green source of energy. It's a type of power that we should invest more money into not only for green energy production, but also for the future potential derivative technology. We can solve climate change tomorrow (in the sense that next 30 years is tomorrow) if everyone made a conscious effort to adopt nuclear in all forms of energy consumption.
No one in Nuclear is saying no wind/solar/batteries, everyone in Nuclear is saying we should do everything that doesn't catastrophically harm the environment and we should invest more into a very powerful and ultimately useful technology.
Imagine a world where energy is functionally free and robots have enough AI to do most basic motor tasks, they can grow and deliver crops start to finish, run stores and shops, build houses and provide the materials necessary to do that. We're not that far from that reality and pushing the human cost to have basic living standards met down to near zero. We're also looking into nuclear as a primary fuel source for space travel, traveling to mars right now takes 9 months, that's an incredibly amount of time round trip for a human, just look up humans that went to the space station for 12 months, you need to spend about 3x that time to go to mars, that's incredibly harmful, if we had nuclear, we might be able to dramatically shorten that. (https://www.space.com/nuclear-propulsion-future-spacecraft-n...)
I know you think Nuclear is scary because sometimes things go wrong, we have to figure out a better way to deal with the waste, but in this science based community lets try to be the first to promote more science first and not let the fear of what could happen stymied the progress we all need.
But they can't provide stable baseline power without storage. Storage is not yet cheap enough to be cost competitive with fossil fuel solutions hence why we are still running old coal plants and building new natural gas plants. This is why people are still talking about nuclear. It can provide baseline power but without crapping carbon into the atmosphere. Yes we will have less use for power that cannot be throttled in the future as more of the grid is wind/solar but newer reactor designs can be throttled.
Edit: Yes I know that natural gas is traditionally for peak load but that is changing. See my reply to bryanlarsen's comment.
The bigger problem with solar and wind isn't baseline but rather the fact that they are variable in nature. That makes it harder to have a baseline power plant.
The reason natural gas is taking off is that it can quickly respond to differences in production vs demand (it's a peaker plant, as in it handles peaks in demand). Solar and wind make those peaks more pronounced while lowering what baseline can do.
This is why coal plants are dying, they are slow to respond to demand and renewables decrease the baseline that can run at (well, that and fuel costs keep rising due to inflation).
Storage solves both problems. Baseline can be higher, storage will consume it, and peaks are less a problem, storage can handle those.
Alternatively, load based demand would make sense (at least to solve the baseline problem). We could, for example, eat excess energy doing CO2 extraction (though, that only makes sense if baseline doesn't produce more co2 than what we are consuming).
This has less to do with electricity demand than with politics.
True, kinda, but that has more to do with there being no good reason to build a natgas plant that can't be throttled in response to demand. You can use anything for base load if you want but economically it makes more sense to use the cheapest stuff possible for base and more expensive stuff for daily fluctuations and peak. But coal is getting more expensive and gas is cheap so we see more and more base load taken up by gas. Instead of idling in off hours more and more gas plants are running at low capacity to provide a little bit of base power.
The whole base load/peak way of discussing things is slowly going out the window as more and more power comes from renewable since even base load is going to fluctuate around the grid based on the availability of sun/wind and something (currently gas, maybe storage in the future) has to absorb that load.
I really should have framed things in terms of stability rather than base load. With wind/solar you can't be sure you'll have wind/sun when everyone wants power some arbitrary date in the future which is where storage/gas come in. You have a base load but solar/wind can't be guaranteed to provide base power so gas/storage spins up. From a gas plant or battery point of view a dip in solar/wind capacity is no different than a demand peak on an otherwise coal grid.
The good reason not to build an OCGT if you're going to use it for baseload generation is that it's quite a bit less efficient than a CCGT. And the good reason not to build a CCGT for peaking use is that you probably won't recover the additional capital cost (because efficiency for a CCGT won't exceed an OCGT for several hours after startup).
I have gone the complete opposite and for GOOD REASON! I was a big advocate for nuclear power some 10-15 years ago, because we were promised that thorium reactors, pebble reactors and a whole host of other innovations were around the corner. Not to mention wind and solar at the time seemed to not have made any dent in electricity production.
But to suddenly abandon renewables now in 2019 when wind and solar is seeing staggering success and really impressive price drops while every nuclear reactor is profoundly delayed and over budget is simply odd.
We have been talking about nuclear power for decades and invested massively in it, yet got little to show for.
Prices are not dropping. When you bring up the safety issue advocates are quick to point out todays reactors are much safer. When you point out today's reactors are extremely expensive and slow to build, they counter with that is just because of safety.... eh well yeah. You cannot have a cake and eat it too.
Nuclear power is NOT CHEAP! No private company is willing to insure them. Hence governments have to give insurance for free. That means the tax payer. Chernobyl cost tax payers 235 billion dollars to clean up. Fukushima cost tax payers 183 billion dollars to clean up. Nuclear power is getting a free ride because they are not pay for this. That is a massive subsidy to nuclear power.
Solar and wind meanwhile is beating coal on price even without subsidies. Yeah sure... it doesn't always shine or blow wind. But we have a multitude of storage solutions: thermal, pumped hydro, flow batteries, gas-to-power and there are many good solutions for adjusting power usage on demand to fit lower production.
It seems like these nuclear advocates have not even investigated all the storage solutions that exist before going crazy about nuclear power. These solutions will only become more viable as we get a bigger renewable mix, because it will cause the spot price of power to drop really low, making it profitable for companies to buy and store power.
No one's suggesting abandoning renewables, far from it. Renewable use will continue to increase. They're simply not enough, because of their nature as a variable power source.
>Nuclear power is NOT CHEAP!
The power itself is cheap. The amount of regulation around 40 year old reactor designs is high, so that's expensive. Implementation of a newer design would be much, much cheaper.
>Chernobyl cost tax payers 235 billion dollars to clean up. Fukushima cost tax payers 183 billion dollars to clean up.
Source? Neither of them are actually "cleaned up", you know. Also, both of these are very old reactor designs. You're complaining that a piece of 1950s technology which qualifies as an antique has problems 65-70 years later.
> But we have a multitude of storage solutions: thermal, pumped hydro, flow batteries, gas-to-power
..none of which are scalable enough to meet the demand. We'd have to have a dedicated energy storage system for each house, school, factory and store in the world. That's not only not possible due to physical space constraints, it's disastrous in terms of carbon load.
Our power systems work from a central source. There is no technology that can replace the multiple fossil fuel plants that run the grid except nuclear, period.
>It seems like these nuclear advocates have not even investigated all the storage solutions that exist before going crazy about nuclear power.
I can't speak for other people, but I have investigated and I continue to research. No storage solution exists that even comes close to meeting the demand for power when renewables aren't generating on the scale needed. The individual ideas are good, but they can't match decades of investment and expertise in generating electricity from giant central sources.
To take advantage of the distributed nature of renewables and corresponding energy storage, we'd have to completely rebuild the worldwide electrical grid AFTER we research and agree on standards for control and maintenance. That will take decades, and we don't have time. It'll happen eventually as renewables continue their growth, and maybe a century in the future we'll use all renewable sources with distributed power storage and a fully distributed, redundant power grid.
But if we want to survive climate change, we need nuclear, or else we need to force every person on earth to accept a lower standard of living that uses far less energy than we do now. The latter just won't happen, our species isn't that advanced.
> Source? Neither of them are actually "cleaned up", you know. Also, both of these are very old reactor designs. You're complaining that a piece of 1950s technology which qualifies as an antique has problems 65-70 years later.
For Fukushima, the 200 billion figure came from opposition politicians who used the plant failure as part of their election platform. Japan has spent nowhere near that amount of money.
And the irony is that this decision to close nuclear plants likely killed more people than the plant failure itself: https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/11/07/was-shutting-japan...
You have of course to factor in the total cost for the power produced. That is building the reactor, running and maintaining it, disposal of the radioactive waste and dismantling of the radioactive reactor itself.
The costs for reactors currently built are ballooning, some have even been given up half finished. The dismantling is usually not calculated in and can approach the cost of building it in the first place - in most countries the cost of disposing the radioactive waste can't even be calculated as there are few permanent storage solutions and we only assume they are permanent.
And of course, the costs in case of a major incident are completely not covered.
Yes. Current reactor designs are a non-starter, especially considering the regulatory mess around them. Years of them being an easy target for new "safety" laws because politicians want to look good have left them too expensive to build. We need a simpler, newer design that works around that by needing less regulation.
Radioactive waste from power generation is simple to handle, especially when newer reactor designs can for the most part re-use fuel. It's the waste from nuclear weapons production that's the issue.
Which "new design" provides safe reactors that are cheaper to build?
Radioactive waste from power generation is simple to handle, especially when newer reactor designs can for the most part re-use fuel. It's the waste from nuclear weapons production that's the issue.
No, it is all nuclear waste that is a problem. There are no reactors which can re-use spent fuel. Fast breeders could theoretical do it, there is no one operational in the west.
A trivial Google search for "molten salt reactor cost" or "new reactor design cost" can find this. Here's an example:
By the way, this reactor can re-use spent fuel.
Distributed storage can make sense when it is colocated with a generator (like a wind farm) as it helps increase utilisation of the expensive grid connection.
You state that as if it's a fact.
> The amount of regulation around 40 year old reactor designs is high, so that's expensive. Implementation of a newer design would be much, much cheaper.
That regulation is the price paid for insurance by the government. It's the only control the public have with potentially disastrous plants.
Go to a private insurance company and try to get an insurance for your new plant design, if you succeed I'm sure a government somewhere will be willing to look at the regulation.
Because it is. If you Google it, you can find plenty of sources that state exactly this. Even anti-nuclear activists generally agree that economically nuclear power is cheap per kilowatt hour simply because of the capacity of nuclear plants multiplied by their longevity. They just argue that the cheap power isn't worth it because of the "other down sides" surrounding nuclear.
>potentially disastrous plants.
False. No electrical generating nuclear plant in the US has had a "disaster" associated with it. The closest was three mile island, and that had no injuries or negative health effects other than psychological.
Only nuclear weapons manufacturing has had a significant environmental impact.
The regulation around nuclear reactors is insane, and much of it doesn't add in any way to their safety. That's what you get when big, scary reactors become an easy target for politicians who want to look like they're doing something for a change.
None of which scale well. I'm kind of baffled by this approach, I would assume that posters here would be hyper sensitive to the ability of technologies to scale and as such would immediately point out the issues here. Solar and Wind prices have dropped substantially, that is true. However just like coal hides and exports it's true costs (carbon emissions and general air population), variable production renewable energy hide their true costs to an energy grid. If renewables are so cheap then why is German and Californian electricity costs so damn high considering their respective investments into them? It's because they're paying more on other parts of their grids to keep everything stable. And those costs only increase as percentage of renewable increases. Choosing a solar plant over a equivalent nuclear because construction costs are 1/5th only to get hit with 10x costs on keeping your grid stable is not a wise decision.
>It seems like these nuclear advocates have not even investigated all the storage solutions that exist before going crazy about nuclear power. These solutions will only become more viable as we get a bigger renewable mix, because it will cause the spot price of power to drop really low, making it profitable for companies to buy and store power.
And had you really investigated all those different storage solution's you'd see that there aren't panaceas. Quite the opposite. And to suggest that they will become more viable as you get a bigger renewable mix is ludicrous. A bigger renewable mix means that your production is becoming much more variable. Which means you need more and more over capacity storage in order to smooth out greater lows and highs. Worse of all the best and highest efficiency storage solutions, Lithium Ion batteries, are consumables and would need regular replacement.
There is a startup that has developed a battery that was designed from the start to scale as much as possible for grid level storage.
So far I've seen no reason to think that we won't be able to solve the energy storage challenges over the next 10-20 years.
To be clear, I'm talking about smoothing out the power over hours and maybe days. If it's suddenly windless for a couple of weeks for some reason, there's no battery that will cover that. But we could just keep gas power plants around. They're great for that, and running them a few times a year is not gonna make a big dent in emissions. If they're used that rarely, we might even be able to use renewable gas.
The other challenge is seasonal variations. But Northern Europe has ways to deal with that. Norway has massive amounts of hydro power, and is building new power lines to help nearby countries. Sweden has built a lot of trash burning facilities that also supply heat to nearby areas. I think I read these run mostly in winter. Not sure what the solution for northern North America is.
I'm not sure that necessarily follows. It seems just as likely, at least in California's case, that high energy prices are due to our stringent emissions standards. If fossil-based power plants are required to invest more in exhaust scrubbing technology or cleaner-burning fuels or more efficient processes to keep the air clean, that raises prices.
Possibly relevant that this fellow just took a new job as President & Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Nuclear Association.
The wind may not blow all the time in New York, but it's blowing somewhere in North America. You can average down fluctuations in wind power by building wind turbines on the East Coast, in the Midwest, in the West Coast, etc., and linking everything together.
That reduces the need for storage. You can even further reduce the need for storage by working on adjusting demand dynamically, based on the price of energy. Big office buildings can go for an hour without A/C without people noticing much.
It would be interesting as well to see what the overall variability of wind + solar + hydro generation would be for various distributions of wind + solar plants over North America.
But dollars and the attention that produces them are finite. In that light, nuclear has to compete on its merits with the alternatives.
As you correctly point out, that's not going to cut it. However, there's an easy solution that has been suggested by various people for at least the past 50 years: Lower consumption, lower energy requirements, halt the desire for infinite growth.
US/EU energy consumption has been relatively flat despite population growth. The increase in energy consumption is largely in Asia.
Expecting these societies to limit themselves with your "easy solution" shows a lack of realism.
See also  for a counterpoint to your claims of increasing efficiency.
Solar is especially good at this, because with the right incentives you can have people put it on their roofs - it's the sort of scaling that's impossible to achieve in megaprojects like nuclear power plants.
That said, if you look at the total amount of energy consumed worldwide, the grow rate of this energy consumption, the amount currently generated by renewables, and the growth rate of renewables, it's pretty obvious that there's no realistic way to cut emissions 50% in a decade. Absolutely none short of a global war that devastates both modern society and reduces world population by 25%.
However, that framing is de-emphasized in favor of politicizing the issue, imposing guilt on those who consume resources, and trying to alter the way billions of people live through coercion or decree.
We're screwed until the modern-day luddites yield that all of humanity wants, needs, deserves, and can sustain effectively endless economic growth and prosperity as long as the universe's limitless resources remain uncaptured. To think that at this junction we should consider the boundaries of human activity are now fixed is to just continue the endless tradition of doubters and cynics who have lacked imagination over the centuries, and held back all good things.
Safety is still a concern, and don't let anyone tell you it isn't. Simply look at Brownsferry Nuclear Plant. One of their three reactors was shut down for decades due to a fire, another reactor had a turbine blade break off and hit the reactor wall in the 2000s, and the reactors themselves are an old Boiling Water design where the radioactive water runs the turbine (newer Pressurized Water Reactors use transfer pipes for heat so the steam generator isn't radioactive). Newer reactors like Bellefonte were almost complete, but never went online after Three Mile Island brought the industry to a standstill. TVA also has bought up more land around Wattsbar nuclear to hide the fact that they couldn't find where a tritium leak was occurring.
The biggest problem with nuclear reactors is the waste. Most of it is still stored at nuclear sites. I use to think the protesters at Yucca Mountain were being overzealous and non-nonsensical, until I stayed a week with a friend of mine who was a newspaper editor out in Vegas. They had published several stories about existing facilities leaking radiation into the environment.
There are a lot of reasons to avoid nuclear. Honestly if we want to be serious about pollution in general, we have to consume less power. Each renewable takes metal, dirt, oil and various hydrocarbons to make. We can't consume out way out of, not only CO2, but all the other massive amounts of pollution that go into all our construction effort. We can't buy ourselves out of environmental disaster. We have to consume less; and that takes much bigger changes in the way we live our lives and look at the world.
Compared to what though? Sending it up into the atmosphere - in far larger quantities - like we do today with the alternatives?
This seems inane. Keep the nuclear plant running, even if it's more expensive, and shut down a gas plant instead.
We need them all for base load. But new ones should not be built, we simply don't have time and the resources should be better spent on a massive increase in solar and wind.
Batteries, hydro and pumped hydro can follow the demand curve, nuclear should be viewed as strategic.
Solar is so ridiculously cheap and easy to run, we should drop a trillion dollars and build as much as we can, as fast as we can.
Asking an expanding population to "consume less" is a nonstarter.
This is a human problem that doesn't have a human solution. It has to be a tech one.
Edit- This comment is not meant to be pro or anti-nuclear.
We need more power, as carbon clean as possible. Any talk of reducing usage is naive at best.
The kind of massive overhaul/re-de-regulation it would take to bring back a nuclear manufacturing capability and functioning market in america today would be much much harder than simply running HVDC between the grids and building twice as much wind.
It just doesn't pencil out anymore. It used to. But even optimistically going forward I don't see it. The curves have crossed.
edit: here's a source for all the downvoters
Nuclear: $118 - $192
Solar + 4hr: $102 - $139
Wind: $28 - $54
Newer plant designs will be cheaper to build and simpler. They will need to be regulated differently as a matter of course because they're fundamentally different designs.
What you're saying here is that building a 1960s nuclear power plant design with modern regulation is expensive, which is true, but that's like saying that driving a 1955 Ford Thunderbird is expensive when compared to a Tesla S. That's true, but you're comparing apples and rocks, here.
Sure, we have some research reactors which use (the now meme'd by armchair scientists) thorium reactors but we need power today, not in 2035. Why pour billions into unproven technology when we have proven technology that gets cheaper every year. Additionally, Lazard just put out their LCOE report for 2019 and for the first time new-build unsubsidzed wind can be cheaper than the marginal costs of a fully paid-off nuclear plant.
Molten salt reactors, traveling wave designs, even thorium energy amplifiers.
You're right, though, we need new reactors now, which is why we're looking toward the designs already tested.
It's true that no significant research has been done for decades and no new designs approved for commercial use, but that's something that can be changed, and changed quickly.
In any case, we don't have a choice... it's renewables+nuclear or renewables+a cut in standard of living for the world... or else climate change we can't survive.
Again... we're not substituting nuclear for renewables. That wouldn't work any more than substituting renewables for nuclear. Neither one is enough on its own.
It's not a matter of what power is cheapest, it's a matter of what serves the needs of the population without generating fuel for climate change.
Renewables aren't enough, period, because of their variable nature, and "running HVDC between the grids" won't fix it. It's not that simple.
Studies of existing systems and projects under development
demonstrate that HVDC can be effective in mitigating these
impacts [intermittancy] on non‐dispatchable generation.
There is a huge difference between mitigating the present uneven implementation of "non dispatchable" renewables and in providing sufficient capacity and stability to power literally everything in the world from renewables by shipping power from point A to point B using any technology at all.
The problem is that whether you take renewables in individual installations or in aggregate over a region they're still variable sources of power. The storage capacity to turn renewables into 24/7 power sources at a scale large enough to supply all needs doesn't exist.
Using small scale energy storage widely would require a completely different power grid structure that doesn't exist yet.
Given the needs of our civilization and the prerequisites that we don't have time to build out a power grid centered around distributed energy generation and storage before irreversible climate damage happens, our options are limited.
Renewables aren't enough on their own, simply because they aren't constant.
Or how about Miami when a slow moving tropical storm shuts down wind and blocks solar for a few days? You do know wind turbines get shut down when the wind is too high, right?
Now consider seasonal differences and you're going to need even more to compensate.
- Gas cooled high temperature reactors
- Gas cooled breeder reactors
- Liquid metal fast breeder reactors
- Molten salt thorium breeder reactors
In the intervening 36 years, none of these have reached commercial/industrial operation in North America, France, Japan, India, South Korea, or China. Russia has one industrial scale liquid metal FBR , and it has indefinitely suspended plans to build successors .
Any new approach to nuclear power that promises to be "cheaper, faster, safer" than boring old light water reactors should be evaluated with extreme care. These aren't new ideas. Why didn't anyone build them up in the past 40 years? If your answer is "blame the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," keep in mind that most of the world is not under the thumb of the American NRC. But e.g. India didn't build out MSRs either, even though they have fully domestic nuclear technology and thorium resources plus a vast need for more electricity.
The chances of a revolutionary new reactor design actually powering a grid near you appear, empirically, to be about as poor as those of the Battery Breakthrough of the Week ending up in your next mobile phone.
What will happen to the EPR in Europe after Flamanville 3 and Olkiluoto 3 are finally complete?
The faithful would say "build more EPRs. Future ones will be cheaper due to lessons learned on these original projects." And they might well be correct. Unfortunately, the Flamanville 3 and Olkiluoto 3 projects were also touted as affordable and predictable to build back when they were originally started. How do you convince buyers that the lies and/or irrational exuberance that lead to bad predictions in 2005 have been tamed, and that the next reactor project will be the real affordable, predictable reactor project?
The reason why new plants are more expensive is that they're often not part of serial production runs. When France put big investment in nuclear and built 170 reactors mostly of 6 specific designs, the per unit cost was much lower. Newer reactors are usually unique or part of only a single digit production run.
So we're back to the question: do you keep pushing forward with more EPRs? How do you keep pushing forward with EPRs if there is a credibility gap on cost and schedule predictions? Or if you choose to standardize on a different reactor than the EPR, how do you estimate its cost and construction schedule?
That said, I just don't believe it can be part of a realistic solution to the climate crisis. Not anymore, at least. These things are very difficult to design, engineer, and build, and the costs of a screw-up can be so high that taking things slowly and methodically is imperative, much more so than with most other alternative energy options. Combine that with decades of divestment in nuclear, and it just doesn't seem realistic to think that this is a solution that can be brought to bear quickly enough to count as a serious option for diverting a climate crisis. The time for using nuclear to stave off climate change was a quarter century ago.
Not to mention you need a lot of metals (which emit co2), other resources (and energy) to build those renewables. Installing wind turbines is no easy task either.
It's crazy how the interests of coal/gaz would intersect the arguments of greenpeace, but it actually does.
1. Keep existing reactors running as long as it's safe to do so. Nuclear that goes offline is generally replaced with fossil energy.
2. Don't invest too much in building new nuclear with current designs. They take a long time to come online and we have cheap and fast pathways available with renewables.
3. Invest much more in R&D for new designs. They will be important once the low hanging fruit of mitigation is already dealt with. They will also probably become more important as energy demands for things like manufacturing synfuels and DAC become important around mid-century.
This is probably helpful to evaluating his arguments.
(My view, if it matters: we can put inexpensive solar and wind in the field today, the best nuclear plant comes on line in ten years, and we need action today, so: forget nuclear, it's too slow. But no, don't decommission nuclear plants as long as there are fossil fuel plants to decommission.)
but let's not consider only his personal bias. Gorman bases some of his assessments on a report by the IEA - International Energy Association. Consulting the Wikipedia article about it:
we read that:
"In the past, the IEA has been criticized by environmental groups for underplaying the role of renewable energy technologies in favor of nuclear and fossil fuels. In 2009, Guy Pearse stated that the IEA has consistently underestimated the potential for renewable energy alternatives."
Indeed, it is quite possibly the case that renewables _can_ entirely replace fossil + nuclear - e.g. in the USA - soon. See here for example:
I have not read the arguments on both sides, but the article we are commenting on simply makes the assumptions convenient for Gorman's support for nuclear technology.
On the one hand, you get much higher energy density. Earth has 2-3 billion people coming online with higher standards of living, greater needs for (desalinated) fresh water, etc. Do we have enough space for large-scale wind and solar to address this? And do we truly understand the local effects of wind farms, like less surface wind?
Against nuclear, when we see statistics like "nuclear has fewer deaths" I sense that there's a snow job taking place. How do you measure the public health effects of radiation? Do these really account for that?
When there's an accident, clean up costs are socialized but when things are going well, profits are private. Maybe that's worth it for carbon-free energy, but if the costs of a single accident annihilate the entire economic value of the industry, I scratch my head.
The silver bullet would be if there were truly economically viable and safe reactor designs. How scalable are the former, and how confident we can be of the latter?
However you do it, be sure to measure the public health effects of radiation emitted from coal plants, which is far higher than that of nuclear.
How often does a typical nuclear plant emit nonzero levels of radiation? How does this compare with normal background levels?
Germany would need 50% more nuclear energy than France to completely replace all other power generation. This would cost €600 billion if Germany could match France’s build from the 1980s. Costs and safety regulations have increased even though France’s nuclear power has operated without incident for over 30 years. 80 nuclear reactors would now cost €1600 billion euros for Germany. This would still be cheaper than the estimated costs for the solar and wind buildout that is underway.
Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside.
Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2019, to increase solar and wind three to five-fold by 2050.
Between 2000 and 2019, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 35% of its electricity. And as much of Germany's renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from solar.
Germany gets 33% of its electricity from solar and wind.
The reason why this is so expensive for Germany is the political decision to subsidise renewable energy generation by guaranteeing energy purchase prices for 20 years via the EEG law. This led to a lot of the non-competitive inefficient early-gen solar and wind being installed in Germany, which will continue to receive subsidies for another 5-10 years; for new generation being installed, the subsidies reduce every year.
One of the intended effects was that the solar and wind industries had income that they could invest in research to improving the cost and efficiency of solar and wind generation. IIRC an article that I'm sadly unable to find now claimed that this accelerated the development such that today's very competitive costs would only be achieved 6-7 years later if there had never been an EEG, which I find a remarkable achievement. Of course if you're installing solar or wind in your country today you'll benefit from these improvements.
> Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2019, to increase solar and wind three to five-fold by 2050.
Assuming this is the article you mean:
What the article actually says:
According to ESYS, [...] by 2050, the costs would add up to 2 to 3.4 trillion euros, depending on the scenario. Other forecasts fluctuate between 500 million and about 2 trillion euros.
I'm thinking 500 million has to be a typo and should be 500 billion; still that's quite a range of estimates.
This technologies have the killer attributes of almost no externalities, incremental investment and very short implementation horizons.
Sure, countries will still like to keep training physicists in nuclear fusion to maintain a skilled group for nuclear weapons which is fine.
My impression so far is that offshore wind, onshore wind, and solar are promising solutions for doing the bulk of the heavy lifting for energy production. Of course it isn't an all or nothing, but scaling up nuclear isn't 'vital'.
One such location exists on the Columbia River and is being considered for development.
It is also possible to modify existing damns to have pumped hydro capacity. One under consideration is the Hoover damn.
After the disaster the true-believers will have a million and one reasons why it shouldn’t have happened; but it will.
Not worth it.
France has done so.
As opposed to a nuclear explosion delivered by an ICBM?
The strike price of offshore wind in UK energy capacity auctions came in at less than half that of prospective nuclear plants.
Only one nuclear plant is going ahead, Hinkley C.
I guess that countries without plentiful renewable potential have no choice though, its nuclear or nothing.
it is only late because the managers insisted on marketing and building it on 5 years while the engineers knew that it would be 10 years from the beginning. Pretty sure most people here know this exact situation from their job :-)
That being said all I know about the project comes from the news on the French radio... What new regulations are you talking about?
More clean energies and products won’t save us. The usage of earths resources is now roughly double of what the planet could sustain long term and it is still growing and I am afraid more cheap energy won’t help to solve this very systemic issue.
Todays teenagers are consuming more than teenagers ever before, mostly due to availability and online shops. Three decades ago you had to go to the next city and find something, nowadays you just order the thing and it is in your doorstep next day.
Adding cheap and clean energy into this mix is like taking painkillers when you have a open fracture so you can keep going. Might soothe your short term pains, but is ultimately a counter productive thing if applied just on its own.
Based on what data exactly? Mankind has only ever scratched the Earth's surface for resources, and still only on land. If you imagine the Earth is a perfect sphere, we have far from used much resources at all.
> or oil, which has been getting harder and harder to extract.
Harder to extract but still in much larger abundance than what was predicted by mostly everyone back in the 70-80s. I don't know if you were around then, but you may have heard of "peak oil". It never happened (as in, not yet, and that was already a long time ago).
The utter demonization of nuclear for the last 50 years is beyond criminal. Many in Germany probably regret their recent knee jerk reactions. Should be a fun winter for them (not!)
Germany phasing out nuclear and opening new coal.
Business as usual.
If you haven't figured it out yet, if you still believe in the government's figures, I've got one thing to tell you: pull your head out of your ass.
For one example, the leaders of the free world are now leaving the so called Paris Agreement, because they believe anthropogenic climate change is a hoax.
Are they still telling you the truth?
Okay, back to nuclear now for a second round. We are likely to see a worldwide collapse due to many reasons, but lets blame a lot of it to the actions of the government's mentioned. Before you dismiss this premise I would like to inform that this is a major fear, and therefor a major field of research for the nuclear industry and is a major reason to why we even care about long term storage of the waste – if everything "went well", why would we care about a thousand years? if we can manage "it" now we for sure can in the future when our GDP is like risen by a gazillion percents.
We must pause here, this is the thing: we are talking about waste that is extremely insanely dangerous if it would "leak" out, if this would happen our civilization would be finished, life could die out (not like we are not killing of 100-200 species a day already, but hey, gotta go faster!)
Where were we now, right: can you imagine this planet in five hundred years? and the nuclear waste has to be securely stored for hundreds of thousands of years. This is the reason they try to universal signs instead of writing the warning in plain language .
I am way off the article now, so Sweden and France has a decarbonized their economies? Where a the figures? I would guess without looking into any numbers, that both Sweden and France has in fact increased their carbon output since they started using nuclear power, I would go so far that I would argue that they have in fact increased their carbon output because they have added nuclear. By using nuclear power we grow our economy, the larger the economy the more carbon output.
Modern nuclear reactors don't use plutonium or weapons grade uranium. The ratio of U-235/U-238 is only 3~5% unstable in a nuclear power plant (where weapons grade is over 95%).
Thorium rectors have been experimented with in the US, but they do have problems with corrosion.
Using MOX in conjunction with thorium is also being tested to improve the void coefficient, making reactor operation more stable and safe.
Molten salts in tubes. They claim "cheaper than coal" can be realistic again.
I would imagine that if we really cared about climate change the best approach would be maximal effort on all fronts. So build renewables as fast as we can and build nuclear as fast as we can. That would be the quickest way to get carbon emissions to 0.
We could always spend the latter half of the century decommissioning the nuclear again.
1) Do we build exactly enough solar to meet our average power needs but have to build several-month-long battery storage capacity to bring summer sun into the winter,
2) Or do we build enough surplus solar so that we can run 100% load for 24 hours on a cloudy winter solstice, and just need big enough batteries to get through the longest night of the year, and under every other circumstance just be wildly over-provisioned
#1 is probably impossible with current technology. But our solar installations already produce surplus power during the summer that we don't use ("curtailment"), even at today's prices. It doesn't seem out of the question that we'd just build much more absurd extra solar to make up for our lack of storage. And then maybe we'd find a use for the excess summer electricity, like desalination or hydrogen production or bitcoin mining. It's technically possible, but it does increase costs - twice as expensive? three times? That might still be economically viable, if solar costs continue to fall or if the cost of natural gas spikes upward
Solar and wind will be integral to the overall mix, but unless there's a wild breakthrough in battery technology we need to be building nuclear to replace fossil fuel power generation.
If people are uncomfortable with the word "nuclear", let's go with isotopic batteries.
How about a 80% power-to-gas-to-power roundtrip efficiency?
For those who want to know more: https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/wind/norway-wants-to-be...