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No money going towards nuclear....

If people were serious about ACTUALLY reducing carbon emissions, then baseload power production would be nuclear.

Please look at France as an example.

France: 5.0 metric tons per capita (2013)

US: 16.4 metric tons per capita (2013)


Nuclear power is the largest source of electricity in the country, with a generation of 416.8 TWh, or 76.3%[2] of the country's total production of 546 TWh, the highest percentage in the world.


With the staggering drop in the cost of renewables and grid-battery storage I just don't see how nuclear has a bright future in any regard.

They're unbelievably capital intensive and have a mean construction time of 7.5 years [0]. I'm from the UK so it's easy to point to Hinkley Point C as an example of this. It's been in planning for a decade and certainly won't be in operation for a similar amount of time, and the currently proposed strike price is around £90/MWh, compared to the ~£60/MWh we've seen from offshore wind projects. Let alone mentioning those have the advantage of being independently deployable with how developers can generate income on a per-turbine basis rather than waiting for the entire farm to be constructed.

And while nuclear is certainly much less CO2 intensive than any fossil-fuel source even a pro-nuclear body's publication shows that wind produces approximately as much CO2/GWh over an installations lifetime as nuclear does [1].

[0] http://euanmearns.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-build-a-nucle... [1] http://www.world-nuclear.org/uploadedFiles/org/WNA/Publicati... section 4

Friend of mine's dad is a retired college professor that taught nuclear engineering for a couple of decades. Last time I saw him he mentioned natural gas killed nuclear and coal fired plants and he's glad he retired when he did. And also solar and wind are going to kill natural gas fired plants.

> I just don't see how nuclear has a bright future in any regard.

How about in space or on other planets?

> And while nuclear is certainly much less CO2 intensive than any fossil-fuel source even a pro-nuclear body's publication shows that wind produces approximately as much CO2/GWh over an installations lifetime as nuclear does.

And what if it's not windy?


Keep in mind, almost ALL the nuclear power plants built are based on 1950-1960s technology (designed for naval applications). That would be like comparing solar panels from that era with the panels designed/produced today. There is no comparison.

The seas around the British Isles, which the poster is talking about, are _always_ windy. Plus this can be mitigated with the battery storage the post you replied to mentioned and solar - it's unlikely to be both still and overcast.

Offshore wind farms around the UK have capacity factors around 40%; the seas are certainly not always windy.

Solar struggles to provide a significant amount of energy in winter. Wind tends to blow or not for a few days or more at a time - meaning you need much more storage than just to carry you from one day to the next as you might in places with consistent solar.

I can't find any good source of UK historical generation data, but from looking at gridwatch the UK patterns tend to be similar to those in Germany, the data for which are available here: https://www.energy-charts.de/power.htm?source=solar-wind&mon...

There's a slight inverse correlation between solar and wind, but not that much.

I'd love to see a lot more renewable capacity installed as soon as possible, but I don't see how we can move away from needing a lot of backup conventional capacity in the near future. This is okay by me; let's halve our emissions and then see what we can do next.

But how high is the cost of generating the energy _plus_ the cost of storing it? And does the wind always have the same strength or do you need to build additional wind farms for times when the wind is weaker?

> With the staggering drop in the cost of renewables and grid-battery storage I just don't see how nuclear has a bright future in any regard.

Exactly. Nuclear plants are done, at least for the next 50 years.

People don't want nuclear plants, whatever the reason. I can see the case for continued nuke research, but the negative PR and scare factor is pretty insurmountable.

The coal industry had decades to invest in technology to make clean coal happen, and decided margins were more important.

Fracking will be the next victim, as more communities start to ban it and understanding of the negatives grows.

Same with hydro, at least in the US. We're only starting to understand the long-term effects of large dams.

I know there are tradeoffs with solar and wind. The eco cost of solar isn't zero from a production standpoint. There are downsides to living directly under a wind turbine. But the decreased cost and increased adoption of solar and wind give me hope that we have a chance at staving off cataclysmic climate change.

Nuclear is unpopular but is still extremely important to a low-carbon future. I recently wrote a fairly extensive primer on the current energy situation [1]. Key points are that battery backup of renewables is extremely challenging (even Stanford's 100% renewable superstar Jacobsen does not include them in his plan) and that the standard go-to plan with pumped hydro is potentially very flawed due to only-recently-understood biogenic methane emissions from reservoirs [2].

Also, this past December, the entire Pacific Northwest experienced a 10-day total wind lull and the 4GWe of capacity in the Bonneville Power Administration generated ~0 kWh. Backing that up alone would require a battery facility covering a football field 100 stories high and costing $90B that has to be replaced every dozen years. Now scale that by a few thousand and see how it looks. Baseload carbon-free energy from nukes is very valuable.

[1] https://partofthething.com/thoughts/a-medium-length-primer-o...

[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

Do you have any thoughts on the benefits of decreasing the fragmentation of the US grid? Presently it's some 3000 utilities who don't have much of an incentive to work together, but you could imagine a future where regions of the US with excess generation transmit to areas at a deficit to diversify the energy supply of any region. This is roughly what's happening in China with their single public utility and usage of HVDC to source renewables from provinces with surplus generation to those operating at a deficit (i.e. the most populous).

HVDC interconnects are a reasonable way to help with regional intermittency. The cost of any necessary interconnects should be considered in the total cost evaluations going into our low-carbon system plans.

There are billions upon billions of dollars spent on nuclear, it just doesn't produce any new capacity.

Look at the failure of VC Summer, and what seems to be the imminent failure of Vogtle.

Since no private company is willing to take on the financial risk of building nuclear power, the federal government provides massive loan guarantees. For the "nuclear renaissance" to take place, state governments passed special laws so that the utility's rate payers took on all the risk of the failed builds. And the failed VC Summer build in South Carolina accounts for double digit percentages of current electricity bills for the utility's customers.

If somebody can figure out how to do project management, engineering, and the logistics of construction, there are lots of communities eager to welcome nuclear. But the industry has failed to deliver capacity even when given every opportunity to build.

Today's Russia and South Korea, and 1970s France all figured out how to do serial nuclear construction. The key is to standardize the design. Here are some numbers [1].

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030142151...

The two financial disasters I mentioned were the US's attempt at standardized design, and it failed miserably.

The best bet for nuclear in the US seems to be to have South Korea take over entirely. But they will then have to manage a US construction force, with all those risks. I really don't see how the industry is ever going to build a new big reactor ever again in the US. That's why nuclear fans are looking towards small modular reactors, an idea that in the past was considered less economical than the big ones.

The other risk of putting all your eggs in one basket by large deploys is the same design is what's happening right now in France with the "carbon segregation" problem:


20 plants are down, on the suspicion of a potential problem in the future. These types of problems are expected for any technology, but by having a very little variety in generation, any such small problem gets hugely amplified.

In general I have not found anybody who sees a path to building new nuclear in the US that does not simultaneously require a huge advancement in new tech. Solving the construction problem and the bad management problem is something that's swept under the rug and ignored in order to promote a favored tech.

Nuclear may be a good idea but that comparison with France is misleading. Electricity accounts for only 29% of US greenhouse gas emissions. [1] We could make our entire electrical generation carbon neutral and still have twice the per capita footprint of France.

[1] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emis...

No one wants to put up the money. Inevitably it's governments that are on the hook, because they're the insurer of last resort. The builder and operator insist upon that. And then for some reason in the U.S. we see the same kind of explosion in cost during construction that we see with NYC's 2nd Ave subway line, and that turns people off even more.

The only plant being constructed in the U.S. right now is fraught with cost overruns; the builder, Toshiba, nearly went out of business. A plant that came online in Tennessee in 2016 was started in 1976.


According to the World Nuclear Association, there is approximately 5.7M tons of recoverable uranium globally. [0]

The Minerals Council of Australia shows that the current worldwide uranium usage is increasing by about 4.8% p.a., projected to hit 97,900 tons in 2020. [1]

This will give us a little over 60 years until almost all of the economical sources of uranium are consumed, assuming conventional reactors.

Considering that timeframe along with the fact that plants take 7-15 years to bring online if they're started now, and the fact that they have dismal returns on investment, means there's little appetite for nuclear for economic reasons.

[0] http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fue... [1] http://www.minerals.org.au/resources/uranium/uranium_nuclear...

It's unclear if decommissioning costs are properly priced.

Also there hasn't been a lot of success with building any modern plants (technical issues and massive cost overrun, check the "Technical overview" section of the wiki page).

> France: 5.0 metric tons per capita (2013)

There's a lot of irrational fear about nuclear energy. An example is Germany (9.2 metric ton per capita) which decided to shutdown their nuclear facilities.

> An example is Germany (9.2 metric ton per capita) which decided to shutdown their nuclear facilities.

Yes, they replaced it with coal plants...


Nuclear isn't the only option for replacing base load production. Natural gas and renewables+pumped hydro are also good options. Though none of them are popular.

(1) Nat. Gas causes much more deaths per PWh produced (5 vs 0.1 for the US) and still produces quite a lot of CO2.

(2) Renewable + pumped hydro is much more expensive that just producing electricity directly from nuclear. The environmental impact of dam failures is also bigger than that of an nuclear accident.

For example the Banqiao+Shimantan dam failure killed 110,000, displaced 6,000,000. For comparison Chernobyl killed 9,000 to 93,000 (probably closer to the lower end) and displaced ~130,000.

Pumped hydro may be associated with surprisingly large biogenic methane emissions [1] which potentially might take the option off the table for a low carbon future.

[1] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

I use to be a Rad worker and have even cleaned up a few "spills". Nuclear accident fears are based on accidents that occurred in plants that were designed with primitive nuclear technology by people who were just starting to understand the technology. Innovations like pebble bed reactors make release of fission particles highly unlikely. Just like rocket technology though nuclear technology has advanced leaps and bounds. It's also the only power source that could get us to Mars.

Nuclears problem is not accidents but irrational fear. For comparison here are the deaths per PWh produced¹.

  Coal       100,000 (US: 10,000)
  Nat. Gas     4,000
  Hydro        1,400 (US: 5)
  Solar          440
  Wind           150
  Nuclear         90 (US: 0.1)
Nuclear is the safest option available and at the same time the only energy source that is stable and scalable. [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents

Accidents occur but this needs to be compared with alternative sources of energy. Even dams cause much more environmental issues and casualties than nuclear [1]. And let's not even talk about coal.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dam_failure

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