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.
Your wind and solar + gas solution is not a solution. We're still going to be emitting carbon of we are burning gas during the evenings. Energy storage at the necessary scale has not been demonstrated. Nuclear power is known technology. By comparison, solving the energy storage at this scale amounts to saying, "well... we'll figure it out eventually but until then we'll keep emitting carbon."
This rather impacts the risk of the up-front capital investment. Which affects the cost of the capital upwards. Which in turn makes building new reactors that much more expensive.
We should be building renewables because they're cheaper, safer (please, don't waste breath with nonsense arguments), and far more politically palatable. "Energy storage at the necessary scale has not been demonstrated". Of course it's been demonstrated. It's a problem with a thousand solutions. It's just a matter of getting costs down and production up (which in turn drives down cost). Batteries, thermal, compression, gravity storage... there are so many ways to store and release energy.
I see the "can't store at scale" argument everywhere, and it's utter nonsense, and it never comes with supporting math or facts.
The Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors believes the following countries are building nuclear reactors: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, China, France, India, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
> That requires predictable energy prices, in a market where solar prices dropped over 80% in a decade. There are three different major energy sources all running half the cost of nuclear right now
And how many of those sources emit no carbon, and deliver power all around the clock? Geothermal and Hydroelectric can, but those are geographically limited.
We could wait for solar thermal to get cheaper than nuclear (and assume that the cost of nuclear also remains static). Or we could just build nuclear power. The latter has the advantage of having consistent generation regardless of weather and time of year, and consuming a fraction of the amount of land.
Wind power has consistent output over long periods of time. But we still need to make the power grid resilient to fluctuations, which would require immense amounts of energy storage. To put it in perspective how infeasible energy storage is, take a look at California's latest energy projects. The current largest storage plant has 183MWh of capacity, and a planned one has a predicted 300Mwh of capacity. By comparison, the Diablo Canyon plant generats 2,2000MWh of energy every hour . These two energy storage plants can only store 5 minutes and 9 minutes worth of power generated by the Diablo Canyon plant respectively.
Cost is a factor but not the only factor. Intermittency is a factor. Geographic limitation is a factor. Land consumption is a factor.
Cheap intermittent energy is an okay supplement, but cannot reliably deliver when it is needed. Hydroelectric and geothermal are great, non-intermittent clean energy but are impossible to build without the right geography. Fossil fuels are cheap, and deliver power anywhere but emit carbon. Nuclear power isn't as cheap as fossil fuels or intermittent sources. But it's the cheapest non-intermittent source that isn't geographically dependent.
If our goal is to fully replace fossil fuels, then nuclear is the best option (besides building geothermal and hydro where we can). Sure, solar thermal can deliver clean energy without the need for additional energy storage. But we could build twice as much capacity with nuclear and use a fraction of the land, and avoid having to build larger plants in the north and south, and avoid seasonal output fluctuations.
Noor II CSP delivers 0.66 TWh and is 6.8km2 (200 MW - peak?)
Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant delivers 23 TWh annually (3955 MWe)
A solar plant using the tech of Noor II and the power delivered of Ringhals would be 237km2 - twice the size of Paris.
Can you source this? I heard of molten salt, gravity storage etc... but I have not read any paper stating we can scale those solution to 50% or even 20% of our current grid usage
The problem isn't "can't". Storing energy is trivial. The problem is cost. How much storage is required, and how much will it cost to build it, and how much will that make the total cost of a new energy system?
All this "can't" stuff is, frankly, reactionary bullshit by some very emotional people who are rather in love with the idea of nuclear energy. That's why you never see hard numbers attached to it.
Electricity to gas conversion has terrible efficiency. 30-40% for the electrolysis and Sabatier process, and then ~50% efficient for the gas combustion engine. Net efficiency is in the 20-25% range. Hydroelectric storage is geographically dependent. Most of the US is in flat terrain.
California said they would do solar and wind plus storage. Then they realized storage was not possible, and they used fossil fuels instead. Similarly, Germany closed down their nuclear plants, saying they'll build intermittent renewables plus storage. And then they ended up building fossil fuel plants when they realized storage could not fulfill the base load they lost from closing nuclear plants.
If most of the energy consumption is supplied directly, the storage part need not be overly efficient as long as it can cover the slack. 40% seems good enough. Even 20% is workable, if need be, just need to over-provision enough PV / wind and the over-provisioning itself significantly reduces needed storage.
If combined with capacious long-distance electrical grid (e.g. HV DC), load scheduling, high-uptime offshore wind, some PV in deserts, maybe thermo-electric solar, some batteries for rapid load following, etc, we really can supply enough power even with 0 coal, gas and nuclear power plants, and it wouldn't even bankrupt us. All we need is will. The technology is already sufficient and with improvements it won't be even that hard.
For example, one estimate is that for Germany to rely on solar and wind would require about 6,000 pumped storage plants which is 183 times their current capacity:
>...Based on German hourly feed-in and consumption data for electric power, this paper studies the storage and buffering needs resulting from the volatility of wind and solar energy. It shows that joint buffers for wind and solar energy require less storage capacity than would be necessary to buffer wind or solar energy alone. The storage requirement of over 6,000 pumped storage plants, which is 183 times Germany’s current capacity, would nevertheless be huge.
They just cost more than market rates.
The only possible way is if the alternative is massively funded by debt, and the "cost" is based on historically low interest rates and a repayment timeframe in the decades.
Even then, given the ongoing cost of nuclear is relatively small, how is it possible that the capital expenditure of solar + natural gas is cheaper than the running cots of nuclear? Can someone show me that maths?
This caught my eye when a nuclear plant in Iowa (near friends, including one who retired from working there) got slated for shutdown, over a decade before end-of-life. They'd lost a key industrial customer that consumed 30% of the plant's output to much cheaper wind/gas. At that point, operating costs went into the red. The plant was no longer generating the revenue to pay off its own debt. It was a purely economic decision.
And yes, the wind and gas that ate its lunch are also capital expenditures, amortized over time. But they're still much cheaper.
Want nuclear to win? Interest free loans.
Want wind/solar to win? Subsidies.
Put a thumb on the scale and make it say whatever you want.
Nationalization of all energy generation?
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.
But, the duck curve isn't a real problem anyway. Worst case scenario, some solar gets curtailed , creating an opportunity for storage solutions.
That’s a nice way of putting it.