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Canadian provinces band together to develop nuclear reactor technology (cbc.ca)
372 points by frabbit 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 310 comments





A few years ago Toshiba was going to build a small reactor in Alaska. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galena_Nuclear_Power_Plant

But it got canceled, and for the life of me I can't understand why anyone thinks its better to truck in heavy fuel oil for generators vs having a small reactor buried in the ground for 30 years.

I've been saying for a few years now that green energy only advocates are basically on the side of coal and natural gas plants because they scream "green energy" and end up with a few MW of wind (ignoring the hydro built 50 years ago which to this day is still the majority "green energy" source) and a bunch of natural gas or in the past coal plants.

If they said yes to fission 40 years ago we wouldn't be having the climate crisis discussion today. We don't have 40 more years to overbuild wind/solar and perfect battery technology at 2-5x the current price for natural gas. Because if people don't start saying "yes" for carbon free power sources like this we _WILL_ be trying to figure out how to built them in 50 years to recapture all the carbon we burned into the atmosphere while trying to avoid more and more of the forests/etc from burning.


People underestimate how much of the opposition to nuclear plants in the past was due to the "dual use" nature of the technology, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In the 80s it was hard to care about the effects of climate change in a mere hundred years when global policy was to keep civilization-destroying quantities of weapons on hand that could be delivered in 45 minutes.

The war between nuclear weapons and environmentalists went "hot" when the French DGSE sank the Rainbow Warrior and murdered a photographer in retaliation for trying to stop their nuclear testing.

If you think the question is solved, ask yourself this: would you prefer that Iran solve its energy needs from a fleet of nuclear reactors or a fleet of solar panels?


In 90s, if I remember correctly the Clinton administration even offered to built nuclear reactors in North Korea, if they would only bother to stop their weapons program.

Sort of, but not exactly. They already had at least one reactor[0] and what you are referring to is the Agreed Framework[1][2].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyongbyon_Nuclear_Scientific_R...

[1] https://www.history.com/news/north-korea-nuclear-deal-bill-c...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agreed_Framework


They already had one , but US did offer them to build two more LWR reactors, and even I think some work on these reactors had started before being abandoned.

People also underestimate how much the push for nuclear plants was due to governments trying to sugarcoat nuclear technology, to make it seem less frightening, and to try to make the trillions of dollars spent on nuclear arsenals seem less egregious.

Iran has a nuclear plant and enough uranium that the bottleneck to weapons is enrichment.

I’m not sure what choice of power source has to do with weapon proliferation.


AIUI, one concern with nuclear reactors is what to do with the waste.

A 'breeder reactor' is a type of nuclear reactor that makes more efficient use of uranium than 'light water reactors' and with less left-over radioactive waste.

Sounds great, so why do we build anything else? Well, once you've got a breeder reactor it's a very short step to making weapons-grade plutonium. Whereas with light water reactors, this isn't the case.

So the choice of breeder vs light water reactor has pretty big impact on weapon proliferation.


No, not really. Historically, weapons grade Pu has been produced in dedicated (graphite moderated) thermal reactors, not with fast breeders.

Fast breeders create Pu, yes, but the isotopic composition is poorly suited for weapons.


Actually, Pu from fast breeders is better than the Pu from thermal reactors, since (n,gamma) reactions are less likely on Pu with energetic neutrons.

>one concern with nuclear reactors is what to do with the waste.

Actually, no. The reactor designs in use generate very little waste, just spent fuel rods that have to be kept in safe storage until their radioactivity level goes down to something reasonable. That doesn't take decades, either. The big problem with nuclear waste is the waste from weapons production, and people don't differentiate just like they don't for reactors vs. bombs.


I'm pretty sure I've read articles saying America doesn't currently have a permanent storage facility for nuclear waste such as spent fuel rods, and that the creation of one is politically controversial - have matters changed since I read those articles?

Not really, but bomb waste and spent fuel rods are separate subjects. The volume of fuel rods we're talking about here is small enough that for the most part the spent fuel rods are stored on-site at the plants. Not a great long term solution, especially since the plants don't have facilities designed for it. They're in above ground casks that are lined up in the open spaces around the plant.

However, long term interment isn't what's planned anyway... the fuel rods can be reprocessed into new fuel, and they aren't much of a storage concern anyway... they can actually be stuck on a truck and hauled away in their casks down the highway.

We need somewhere to store the fuel assemblies that's safe and secure (or better than putting them in casks in the open) but we're not looking for a dump site. More like a warehouse facility, where they can sit until reprocessed or dismantled.


Every technology has pros & cons, effects & residues.

Coal : Effect/Pros - Energy/Cheap. Residue/Cons - C02/GlobalWarming

Nuclear : Effect/Pros - Energy/Clean. Residue/Cons - RadioactiveWaste/Contamination.

Where do the nuclear byproducts go currently ? Into the earth? Rivers? Oceans?

30 years ago, we switched from paper based products to plastic, to save trees. Today, we want to switch from plastic based products to paper, to avoid pollution.

Every 'switch' will come with side-effects that the current generation is fine with, because they're not going to be ones dealing with it.


>Where do the nuclear byproducts go currently ? Into the earth? Rivers? Oceans?

No where, because there aren't any. If you meant spent fuel if it's not reprocessed it's stored as long as needed to be less dangerously radioactive. If it's reprocessed, any radioactive elements in it that aren't useful are stored and left to decay. Present storage of things like this is on-site as mentioned above, because reprocessing mostly doesn't happen.

The amount of unusable material from reprocessed fuel is tiny, by the way.... even less trouble than storing the spent fuel rods, on the order of a handful of material from a whole fuel rod assembly.

Power generating reactors don't give off anything but electricity, heat, and spent fuel, they are zero emissions.


I think it gets dumped off the coast of Somalia, actually.

Obviously, capitalism isn't very good at accounting for externalities, whether they are measured in birth defects, or in degrees centigrade - but I think global warming is a bit more extreme in scale than your typical pollution issue.


Mostly that for it to matter with any urgency, we'd need to actually be building new reactors. We aren't building them, so we aren't focusing on it and are instead just ignoring the issue. It's not the best decision, but given the problems of today this seems comparatively easy. It just doesn't have much urgency compared to actually building green generation capacity and batteries at scale.

Yet. If we do start building them, they'll probably be small modular reactors instead of the giant old tech ones, and those are both faster and cheaper to build.

I find it very hard to imagine that a 74 years old technology remains complex enough to be available only to governements.

It's not. Nuclear fission reactors are built by large corporations like General Electric and Hitachi. If these companies wanted to they have the expertise to build a nuclear bomb but why would they unless their governments asked them to?

A huge number of 74 year old technologies are available for $0.75 direct from China.

The fact the nuclear reactor hasn't been miniaturized to the size of a coin and included in every $15 childrens toy to power lights is in large part because of public perception and government regulation rather than real safety/health concerns - there exist plenty of typical household materials that are more dangerous than the safest nuclear materials.


Nuclear technology scales horribly downwards so even in a world that fully-embraced the technology you won't have pocket reactors that do anything more than maybe a power some gimmick accessory. The true power potential of nuclear only comes into affect with full steam boiler-turbine infrastructure, which are large, heavy, and maintenance-intensive beasts; a good comparison would be an early-industrial coal steam boiler from the time before we really understood metallurgy. You'd have those boilers in factories, ships, and trains, and maybe even a small crappy one if you were rich for the home workshop, but nothing you'd carry around.

RTGs can be made small, but they also completely sacrifice the power density of nuclear due to their abysmal efficiency. Their main advantage is maintenance-free longevity more so than compactness or anything.


I think with investment nuclear technology could scale down - the full steam boiler design could maybe even be miniaturized via silicon micro machines type technology, but there might also be avenues for using the photoelectric effect for a more direct nuclear to electricity conversion.

Either way, I can totally imagine someone saying "punch cards and relays scale down horribly - you could never make a small computer".


> Nuclear technology scales horribly downwards

A small steam turbine is an apparatus with about the size and complexity of a car engine. But if it has to be licensed and inspected by the NRC then you can forget about it.

And you could make a little RTG that could power a phone for a decade. Even with the terrible efficiency of thermoelectric generators it would still be much smaller than a lithium battery that could store the same number of kWh, because it's ~10% of the efficiency multiplied by much more than 10 times the power density. The main limit you hit on size is practicality -- why make a tiny, tiny, tiny one that lasts for a month when you can make an only marginally larger one that lasts for ten years?


I'd accept a thick phone if it had a huge battery life. But then how do you perform waste disposal? People are, largely, irresponsible jackasses who would think nothing of throwing old RTGs into the ocean / landfill / other improper decomissioning methods.

Also the potential damage is a lot higher e.g. if you're in a car accident and the RTG gets punctured vs. just a Li-ion battery catching fire. In terms of cleanup and containment.


Using an RTG to power your phone isn't a real suggestion. Lithium batteries can last for a day (especially if you're willing to accept a thicker phone) and the inconvenience of having to charge it while you're asleep is minimal. A more realistic application might be something like military radios where you may want them to keep working for extended periods of time in areas where electricity is not available, and then you have an organizational structure that can take care of proper disposal.

The point is that it's not a scaling problem. It's practical to make an RTG that small as a technical matter.


>The fact the nuclear reactor hasn't been miniaturized to the size of a coin

But it has, or at least close to:

RTGs[1] weighting a couple dozen kilograms are used in space exploration and in rare cases in cold climates. Their main problem is low power density.

Nuclear pacemakers[2] of just a few centimeters across used to be a thing - long lasting and reliable. Also used thermoelectric generators. Replaced by cheaper lithium-based batteries due to high costs of making the nuclear capsule resilient against various possible sources of damage - like body cremation, car accidents, etc.

Nonetheless we have reached certain natural limit of nuclear fission, and only use of nuclear fusion[3] (or major scientific and engineering break-throughs) could change the status quo. The three main unsolved problems for wide scale commercial deployment of fission power:

1) radiation shielding - right now we only have passive shielding via use of structural materials, weights a lot

2) critical mass for active chain reaction (heavy and requires active management) vs passive generation via spontaneous fission (low power density)

3) operational safety and non-proliferation issues: a fission device requires radioactive material, and radioactive material is by its nature dangerous

Notably all three issues are either minimized or entirely absent for nuclear fusion.

Lastly, in typical nuclear power plant, the power generation facilities are usually of comparable size to, or even larger than, the nuclear reactor building itself - so miniaturizing the reactor would yield only diminishing results. High-temperature superconductors ought to be of some help here.

--

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

[2] https://www.medicaldesignandoutsourcing.com/medtech-memoirs-...

[3] "Typical fuel pellets are about the size of a pinhead and contain around 10 milligrams of fuel." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inertial_confinement_fusion


> 2) Critical mass:

Can be dramatically reduced with a neutron reflector [1]. Bare Sphere's [2] can be as small as 6.9cm diameter, and use of a neutron reflector could perhaps reduce that by half or more. 3.5cm is pretty small. Research is still ongoing into reflecting neutrons, and it's possible that some clever arrangement of neutron 'lenses' might allow criticality with almost no mass.[3]

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

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_mass#Critical_mass_of...

[3]: https://www.isis.stfc.ac.uk/Pages/neutron-reflectivity---int...


Has magnetic shielding been tried for fission? I guess it wouldn't work on neutrons, the same as fusion.

On the other hand, a child swallowing a tiny nuclear plant in the shape of a smiley would be an entirely new experience in the A&E department but that would never happens? would it?. I could see from here the lawyers salivating with a case like that.

Not to mention that those toys would end in a few days in the garbage, ready to be shipped by volume to be burnt ("recycled") in some other country.


False dichotomy. Iran can solve their energy needs with a new type of reactor that cannot be used to produce weapons (like the Thorium based reactors being developed). On the top of that, you cannot solve a country’s energy need purely with solar. Finally why picking on Iran? As far as history goes there is only one nation that deployed nuclear weapons in a war situation. This same nation wanted to deploy nuclear weapons few more times, the only reason why they did not is public outrage. You can check these since the records were declassified.

The idea that Thorium reactors cannot make weapons is a persistent myth propagated by an overenthusastic group of non-expert internet thorium proponents. It is part of a wider (and in my opinion misguided) scheme led by Kirk Sorensen to rebrand advanced nuclear as "Thorium". Thorium reactors necessarily breed Uranium 233, which is a phenomenal weapons material. In fact, in 1994, the USA declassified a memo from the country's top weapons designers that you can now read for yourself here [1].

[1] https://www.osti.gov/biblio/79078-fGfEfw/webviewable/

Key quote from the weapons folks is: "If the existing weapons were based on uranium-233 instead of plutonium-239, Livermore would not be interested in switching to plutonium."

See also Kang and von Hippel's famous report (pdf) on Thorium weapons potential: https://www.osti.gov/biblio/79078-fGfEfw/webviewable/


Are you saying that in theory they could switch to uranium-233 based on a single study sponsored by the US government. On the other hand there is overenthusiastic (fixed spelling) group of non-expert internet thorium proponents. This includes Ede Teller, Richard Martin, Alvin Radkowsky and some more.

Wikipedia:

It is difficult to make a practical nuclear bomb from a thorium reactor's byproducts. According to Alvin Radkowsky, designer of the world's first full-scale atomic electric power plant, "a thorium reactor's plutonium production rate would be less than 2 percent of that of a standard reactor, and the plutonium's isotopic content would make it unsuitable for a nuclear detonation."[13]:11[19] Several uranium-233 bombs have been tested, but the presence of uranium-232 tended to "poison" the uranium-233 in two ways: intense radiation from the uranium-232 made the material difficult to handle, and the uranium-232 led to possible pre-detonation. Separating the uranium-232 from the uranium-233 proved very difficult, although newer laser techniques could facilitate that process.

Summarizing some of the potential benefits, Martin offers his general opinion: "Thorium could provide a clean and effectively limitless source of power while allaying all public concern—weapons proliferation, radioactive pollution, toxic waste, and fuel that is both costly and complicated to process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power

We should stop going after the potentially cleanest source of energy because a single US government study claims it is possible to produce weapons out of it. Coincidentally the same entity that owns the most nuclear weapons on Earth. Luckily non of the world leading Thorium researchers that stupid the stop the progress, hopefully this way of energy production becomes a reality in our lifetime.


No, I'm not saying that we should not use Thorium at all. I'm saying that the internet claim that thorium reactors cannot be used to make bombs is patently false. It bothers me that there is misguided understanding of thorium that ends up trashing advanced nuclear in general in favor of thorium.

There are 2 true benefits to thorium over thorium: less long-lived transuranics (but more deeply-penetrating 2.6 MeV gammas from Tl-208) and the ability to have a breeder with slow neutrons (less specific fissile inventory, but more problematic graphite).

The major health threat from any nuclear reactor is large early release dose, which is proportional to power level and power level alone (Watts is proportional to number of atoms fissioning per second). In this, Thorium fuel is very similar to Uranium fuel. Long-term waste ends up in a deep geologic repository in any case. Uranium-Plutonium cycle can breed as well or better than the Thorium-Uranium cycle.

I like thorium a lot. I just don't want people relying on stuff that is factually incorrect to promote it. It's easy to promote without being wrong.


If you want a fission weapon, its easier to start with raw granite than convert Uranium from Thorium into a weapon.

Only if the “green energy” people actually had that much power...

In reality there are 2 forces that have stopped nuclear. NIMBYism. And terrible economics.

But the green energy people are an easy punching bag for the nuclear advocates who are simply unwilling to face up to the reality of why nuclear keeps failing to take off.


The current energy discussion in Swedish politics is Green vs Nuclear. No one is discussing a stop for burning fossil fuels in power plants or banning the import of coal/NG energy from neighbors. Not even a suggestion from the green party at a total stop.

Instead we get a bunch of political tricks. If we export more green energy than we import coal energy then we can pretend that that the coal did not actually get released into the air as pollution. We plant trees and talk about carbon capture, and then we discretely cut it down and turn it into biomass fuel and call it carbon neutral. Somehow that turn into negative carbon, while at the same time the old coal power plants can be reused to burn biomass and natural gas.

In the latest political debate the green party representative came with this great comeback. People who want to reduce global warming with nuclear are wrong because that side want to lower taxes on gasoline. Thus nuclear is bad.

I would like to think that this is isolated to the Swedish green party but somehow I doubt it. No one want to talk about a complete ban on burning fossil fuels for power. I don't have much hope with nuclear advocates, but the current data is hard to dismiss. Looking at EU the lowest gCO2eq/kWh emitting energy grids are Norway, Sweden, Iceland and France. Norway has more hydro than they need. Iceland got plenty of hydro and geothermal. Sweden got nuclear and hydro. France got nuclear. Every other energy grid in EU, regardless of political alignment, is dirtier. Even Denmark with it amazing investment into wind is at this moment (https://www.electricitymap.org/?page=country&solar=false&rem...) 400% more polluting than Sweden.


Norway sells most of their green energy and buys fossil fuel energy in return. 98% of their energy production is renewables, but only 9% of their consumption is. A solid 58% of their consumption comes from fossil fuels.

Source: Norway’s department of energy. https://www.nve.no/energiforsyning/varedeklarasjon/nasjonal-...

This isn’t just accounting pedantry: the countries they sell their renewables to use those, to (rightfully) claim green energy consumption. Norway then does the same, but based on their production.

Reminiscent of the expression “success has many parents, but failure is an orphan.”


That's how it's supposed to work. A country like Norway producing 100% green energy and having 100% coal or other non-renewables on the books is the system working as designed.

It means that countries who actually use non-renewables to power their grid effectively subsidize the Norwegian energy market and pay a fine for their own use.

It's amazing how common the misconception that this is somehow nefarious is. I encourage you to read up on some of the published material about energy certificates, certificates of origin etc.


The issue isn’t green energy production and resale, but double counting of credits. Multiple players claiming “green energy” (leaving out whether it’s production or consumption), while none take responsibility for the fossil fuels.

Energy is fungible, meaning they only sell the credits and use the green power internally. Now suddenly they use originally “green” power, never mind that the credits have been sold and someone else is doing the same.

Google “Norway green energy” to get a feel for what it looks like in the media.

There is no need for them to sell many of those credits, as evidenced by the fact that they don’t even transfer much of that power. Don’t forget that they lower that penalty by increasing supply. If they went off the market, other, domestic players would get more money for their own production. And Norwegians are lulled into a false sense of green compliance, thereby being less incentivised to root for reduction of fossil fuel consumption.

It’s a great example for the expression “having your cake and eating it, too.” If you ever need to explain that one :)


Respectfully, you're continuing to entirely misunderstand how this works.

There isn't double-counting, that's the entire point of the system where "green" producers end up with "dirty" credits, because a "dirty" pays that "green" provider to take its credits in exchange, to prevent double counting.

But the notion of which sort of credit you buy and what sort of energy you actually produce are two separate things.

As an example Iceland is exempt from certain EU/EEA energy efficiency regulation because of its near-100% use of green energy, even though its power companies have something like >80% "dirty" energy credits on hand.

This is because the regulators can distinguish between a "dirty" power plant with 100% green credits on hand (i.e. they've subsidized a "green" power plant) v.s. a "green" power plant with 100% green credits on hand.

    > There is no need for them to sell
    > many of those credits, as evidenced
    > by the fact that they don’t even transfer
    > much of that power.
I think this is the crux of the issue and shows just how thoroughly you're missing the point of this system.

The electron that comes through your socket doesn't need to be generated by a "green" power plant for you to consume "green" energy, this is because electrons are fungible.

Of course we also want to shift to 100% green energy power plants, but in the meantime energy demand is also elastic. The point of the energy credit system is to shift electricity demand from areas that supply real "dirty" energy to those that supply "real" green energy.

This happens because a "green" power plant in Norway might sell its energy for 20 cents/kWh, which would be the same as a "dirty" power plant in Denmark. But if the "dirty" plant needs to buy "green" credits from the Norwegian one it might have to raise its prices to 25 cents/kWh, and the Norwegian one can lower them to 15 cents/kWh.

This would then have the effect that an energy consumer (say a factory) might move its operation to Norway to benefit from cheaper energy, or consumers would buy the subsidized Norwegian product over the Danish one.

Except for the small detail that it doesn't actually have much of an effect from a macro-economic point of view, but that's because we collectively think this whole climate change thing isn't really all that important, and thus the energy credits are relatively cheap and add almost nothing to the end-user price.

But that's the fault of political priorities, the system itself is relatively elegant and would have more of an effect if its designed was backed up by larger political commitments.


You don't need to prepend "Respectfully" in order to insult. You can just go ahead and say it directly, and what you are doing is helping climate change skeptics by hiding the fact that coal that was once in the ground is now being burned and released into the air as pollution.

If you dig out coal and burn it in a power plant then you are producing pollution and contributing to global warming. No amount of exporting green energy changes that fact.

You are trying to dodge the question why there is a big whole in the ground where the coal once where. Someone mined it. Someone burned it. Someone bought it. Each and everyone involved are partly responsible for the harm this act caused to the environment. It is a bit like thief stealing, a fence reselling it and a customer buying it without asking questions of why it is so cheap. It is not an elegant system because in the end a crime occurred and real harm has happened.

If you want to produce green energy or run a nuclear plant then do what ever feels best, but the coal stays in the ground. No amount of misleading can hide the fact that digging it out is harmful to the planet, both on a macro and micro level, and if you fund coal mining by buying their energy then you are part of the problem.


It's not being hidden, it's being exhaustively documented.

Of course burning coal sucks, and we should replace those power plants.

But until then we can also discourage their use by subsidising clean energy at their expense. That's what this system is meant to accomplish.

It's beyond me how someone can look at what's effectively a tax on non-renewables as whitewashing those energy sources. You tax behavior you want to discourage.


When society collectively decide that something suck we have a simple mechanism to fix it. We make it illegal. Theft suck. We have thus laws against it.

A carbon tax in the energy sector helps but it is a rather inefficient method compared to simply keeping the coal in the ground. People keep finding ways to make profits from digging the coal out and burning it, and Sweden is currently a customer to those people.

The system has not been successful in keeping the coal in the ground. What it currently accomplishing in Sweden is the opposite, as Swedish use of coal energy has increased. A simple law would fix that, and it doesn't require a discussion about what energy should be subsidized. The only thing required is a stroke of the law writers pen. It is the easiest, simplest and most efficient solution in keeping the coal in the ground and the only reason people are not doing it is that people want to keep buying the energy produced by burning coal.


The energy credit system accomplishes some things that your proposals don't.

It's not realistic to make burning coal and other non-renewables illegal in Europe, less than 20% of the grid has been transitioned[1]. You can't just shut off 80% of the grid without European civilization as we know it coming to an end for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime there's plenty of uses of energy that can be built in one EU/EEA country or the other, or shifted between countries, and which will respond to price incentives.

E.g. a data center that's not ping-time sensitive or bulk bandwidth sensitive is probably better placed in Iceland than The Netherlands from an ecological perspective.

The impact of the energy credit system is to shift that sort of use between countries and energy providers, to the extent that their use will respond to price incentives.

It is relatively ineffective in the larger scheme of things, just like our buildup of renewable energy is proceeding at a relatively slow pace. But that's not an argument against the systems in place per-se, just like some country setting their VAT at 1% isn't an argument against VAT structurally.

The EU/EEA agreement doesn't have explicit tax-raising powers, so it's really not the case that a simple law could do the same thing. This system is effectively a way to create a new EEA-wide tax through a back-door mechanism.

Any national tax policy wouldn't be as effective, because individual countries in the EEA market can't or aren't going to enact law that mandates that some of their companies move abroad because their own energy market isn't renewable enough.

It also gives individual consumers a way to vote with their money to increase the buildup of renewables.

As an example, I live in Amsterdam where (as far as I know) I have no choice but to consume electrons sourced by burning fossil fuels[2].

However, I have opted to pay extra to buy "green" (wind and solar) energy, but the energy that comes out of my power plugs as I type this comment is still sourced from burning coal/gas.

Am I just participating in a gigantic sham? No, because what I'm doing is buying the production of energy capacity corresponding to my own use for use elsewhere on the power grid. So I'm taking part in reducing the overall demand for fossil fuels, and thus doing my own small part in reducing pollution.

By the way, from a cursory glance the current Swedish carbon tax is at best around 1/4 per-ton of the cost of sequestering that CO^2 back into the ground.

If that's the case of course it's not really all that effective, but just like in the case of the energy credit system the problem there isn't with the very concept of the system of a carbon tax (which is probably the single best way to deal with the overall problem), but with the value that tax is set at.

1. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...

2. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrale_Hemweg


> You can't just shut off 80% of the grid without European civilization as we know it coming to an end for the foreseeable future.

Good thing the Swedish energy grid is not made out of 80% coal and other fossil fuels. It is a strawman argument to talk about shutting down 80% of the whole European energy grid in the context of the Swedish energy grid.

> As an example, I live in Amsterdam

Netherlands power grid only utilize 5% nuclear power. It has no hydro. If you made fossil fuels illegal than that would indeed make civilization as you know it coming to an end. Your power grid is wholly depended on fossil fuels for keeping the light on. Even if more wind farms and solar plants was built the coal would continue to burn during still nights.

It would not however be very hard to change that. A nuclear plant, or if you prefer an experimental battery dam would solve the issue quite fast. Just a simple matter of money and political will. Given the knowledge and experience in flood control it would even be quite suitable placement batteries, pumping in water when wind production are high and the price is cheap, and producing energy when the wind is still. At most 10-20 years, and faster if the incentives were right.

Putting pollution in the sky is not morally defenseable just because you paid a higher markup on the power bill. The markup should only exist to incentivize people to invest, and the cost should be increased until it accomplish this. Since people like to claim that nuclear is currently unprofitable, the solution then is pretty simple. Raise the tax on coal energy so that even just buying coal energy during still winter nights is still more expensive than building the nuclear plant. At that point it is no longer unprofitable to run the nuclear plant. If wind+solar+battery is cheaper then go with that, just as long as the coal stay in the ground.

But for Sweden it would just be easier to ban fossil fueled energy as we have enough hydro and nuclear to get us through still winter nights. It would however force a choice between wind+solar+battery vs nuclear, rather than the current wind+solar+coal vs nuclear. The later is unacceptable from an environmental perspective.

(I will note that a law banning fossil fuel is indistinguishable from a carbon tax that is high enough to make it more profitable to build non-polluting alternative to burning fossil fuels. The fact that people still burn fossil fuel is thus a proof that the tax is not high enough).


> It is a strawman argument to talk about shutting down 80% of the whole European energy grid in the context of the Swedish energy grid.

Yeah, it would be if we were discussing Sweden's energy grid. You're commenting in a subthread about the EEA-wide energy credit system in general. You're the one who brought up Sweden in the context of an unrelated point.

But even if we were only discussing Sweden the same point would apply, there's that 20% of the grid that's still being transitioned. The energy credit system is a way to shift power demand to the other 80%, to the extent that such demand is say location and not capacity-limited within Sweden.

> A nuclear plant, or if you prefer an experimental battery dam would solve the issue quite fast. Just a simple matter of money and political will.

Sure, and if someone made me emperor of Europe that's one of the things we'd be running a Manhattan-level project to accomplish.

But to present that as a counterargument to energy credits is to miss the point, these are different issues. Even in such a scenario it's still going to take some years to transition the grid due to manufacturing and logistical issues.

In that time period you'd want to give consumers in the EEA-market a price incentive to build their factory next to a solar plant instead of a coal plant. The energy credit market is a way to work towards that.

To say we should do away with energy credits entirely because, and I'm really not sure I understand your argument, but you seem to be saying that they're they're morally indefensible or not an elegant solution?

Anyway, that's going to result in needless pollution while we build up renewables. Now who's taking a morally indefensible position?

I'm not claiming sainthood by electing to pay a slightly higher energy price. Could I do more? Yes. I am saying that you're fundamentally misunderstanding how price incentives and elastic demand factor into the equation.

It's not the case that my local coal plant is running at 100% capacity all the time, and by electing to buy "green" energy I'm making the coal product more expensive than the renewable product.

Thus while I keep the lights on with coal, me and a bunch of other people in the are area doing our part to shift new demand for energy out of the area. There's going to be a price point where e.g. someone thinking of installing a server rack that consumes as much energy as me and all my neighbors elects to install it near a "green" plant, not near a coal plant.

Do you feel similarly about other harm mitigation that's part of public policy? E.g. do you think because we should switch to near-100% electric vehicles the EU's increasingly strict regulations on catalytic converters is pointless? That's what the energy credit system is, it's a transition and harm reduction mechanism.

> I will note that a law banning fossil fuel is indistinguishable from a carbon tax that is high enough to make it more profitable to build non-polluting alternative to burning fossil fuels.

No it's not. Even if fossil fuels were prohibitively expensive for energy production we'd still have things like airplanes that are going to be paying for the energy density in fossil fuels way past the price point where a proposed CO^2 tax matches the cost of cleaning up the pollution involved.


> Even if fossil fuels were prohibitively expensive for energy production we'd still have things like airplanes

For someone who speak about off-topic, since when did we, the article or anything in this thread talk about the transport sector? A few other sectors we also never talked about is space travel, the military, and agriculture.

The claim is that a law banning fossil fuels in the energy sector is indistinguishable from a carbon tax that is high enough to make it more profitable to build non-polluting power plants alternatives to power plants burning fossil fuels.

> Anyway, that's going to result in needless pollution while we build up renewables

How is keeping the coal and natural gas in the ground going to cause needless pollution? Nonsense.

> It's not the case that my local coal plant is running at 100% capacity all the time, and by electing to buy "green" energy I'm making the coal product more expensive than the renewable product.

And yet the coal is still cheaper because otherwise you would not continue to buy it, and people would not build new natural gas plants unless they thought it would pay. It illustrate how well the shift of new energy is incentivized.

Naturally people will build wind power. It is cheaper than coal when it is blowing, and it makes the coal energy more expensive when burned. Everyone wins, except that the coal keep getting mined and burned and this thing called global warming is happening which people prefer to ignore.

You accuse me of not wanting harm mitigation, but that is completely wrong. I don't mind at all the wind and solar plants being built, but I can fully see the data which says that the fossil fueled pollution in the power grid is going up, not down. It pretty basic logic that when the method which claim to decrease pollution is increasing it then the method is flawed.

Denmark is a pretty good example where peak wind has been reached. At optimal condition their whole energy grid can be produced from wind. Wind farm operators want to be paid so they build farms until at peak they still get sell the energy, as overproduction is not just wasteful but costly.

How often do a wind farm produce 100% of maximum? Not often. we can make a simplify statement that on average they produce about 50%, which mean the other 50% must come from somewhere. Primarily fossil fuels.

So what is Denmark average gCO2eq/kWh? Better than some but far from competing with countries like France, and even if everyone other country in EU copied Denmark it would not be enough in order to prevent catastrophic global warming.


>If we export more green energy than we import coal energy then we can pretend that that the coal did not actually get released into the air as pollution.

That exchange is plainly not carbon neutral. Exporting green energy does usually contribute to reducing fossil fuel usage at destination - that cant reasonably be denied. It sounds like you believe the figures are being officially "double counted". But I'm quite doubtful that international agreements really allow for such plain mis-accounting , the idea more likely comes from the kind of confused climate skeptic literature, which imagines that climate science and whole green energy movement is a scam.

> We plant trees and talk about carbon capture, and then we discretely cut it down and turn it into biomass fuel and call it carbon neutral.

That is plainly carbon neutral. If you plant and grow trees sustainably, cut them down and burn them, it is absolutely carbon neutral. It can even be carbon negative as rootmass is left to build soil, and benefit wildlife too - depends on how intelligently its done.

If you phrase your statement more succinctly its easier to see the plain sense in it:

> We plant trees ... and then we ... turn it into biomass fuel and call it carbon neutral.

In a bit more detail:

  Grow trees and turn them into fuel - that's carbon negative. 
  Burn the fuel - that's carbon positive. 
  Do both together - that's carbon neutral.
Perfectly elementary really \"/

> the idea more likely comes from the kind of confused climate skeptic literature

https://www.svtplay.se/video/23437510/agenda/agenda-18-nov-2...

Political debate from 2 weeks ago. Green party spoke person vs moderate party leader. It beings at 35m. The moderate describe multiple times that Sweden buys dirty coal energy when the wind is now blowing, and the green party spoke person repeats the argument of being net exporter of green energy in response.

> It can even be carbon negative as rootmass is left to build soil

Areas where we plant tree and don't cut them down has a name: nature sanctuary. There has been plenty of initiatives to plant trees in order to create official carbon sinks on the books, so how many of those are nature sanctuary?

> It can even be carbon negative as rootmass is left to build soil, and benefit wildlife too

https://www.forskning.se/2019/09/20/tradplantering-ingen-uni... https://www.svd.se/plantera-trad-loser-inte-klimatproblemen

Counting tree planting initiatives as carbon sinks when there is no planning for what happens afterward is simply wishful thinking (quote from the study).

Criticism of the green movement is not automatically climate skepticism. How many climate skeptics want a complete ban of power generated from fossil fuels in the energy grid? If the green movement just would adapt that stance then I would not care. If people want to use other technologies in a non-fossil fueled world then good, just as priority one is a non-fossil fueled world. Sweden could adapt a ban on fossil fuel produced energy tomorrow and it would mostly only be a bit more expensive (some infrastructure to Norway might be needed in order handle still winter nights).


> the green party spoke person repeats the argument of being net exporter of green energy in response.

I think its a valid argument or caveat to the undesirable coal burning. That's a spoken debate, open to interpretation and misunderstanding, not evidence of carbon trading actually being gamed.

> where we plant tree and don't cut them down has a name: nature sanctuary. Sure, or let the trees seed themselves but I said cut the tree and leave the roots (they have considerable mass and hard to harvest) Then you got a partial natural habitat, carbon sink and fuel source, you've got a mix - that's an option. Plant more trees than you need - never sure how many you'll need anyhow, call it headroom. The object is to reduce net carbon emissions as fast as possible and improve habitats as much as possible, the objectives conflict a bit and can compliment a bit, ecology is complex like that.

> Counting tree planting initiatives as carbon sinks when there is no planning for what happens afterward is simply wishful thinking (quote from the study).

So get planning - because it can work, and it could be done to some extent if you want to decarbonise -according to the IPCC at least. Whatever renewable power your country is generating, if its traded and used then it is cutting carbon, either within your country or another destination - thats not imaginative accounting, its situational awareness.

You are talking like this is all a sham, like your greens are saying they don't need to do anything more about carbon reduction because they're exporting some renewable generation - I dont believe that and expect they're actually just arguing their progress so they can make more progress. Then you say it wouldn't be too hard to just ban fossil fuels tomorrow, so are you annoyed with greens holding things up then ? That sounds like a "super green" policy, do many people believe in it? Because it wont be able to happen till then. Maybe you've got low quality green politicians carrying the banner, that can sure happen.


> I think its a valid argument or caveat to the undesirable coal burning.

If I was doing some tit-for-tat argument I would ask what kind of confused climate skeptic literature says that its a valid argument for importing coal energy in 2019.

The green party used to say that the coal belong in the ground. It was one of their slogans. Being a net exporter of green energy does not make it suddenly valid to dig up the coal and burn it. The coal belong in the ground and should stay there.

> So get planning - because it can work

Claiming something to be a carbon offset in the books and telling the public misleading information is not acceptable. If they want to put things that "can work" then they can put down "could be a carbon offset" in the book rather than "is a carbon offset". Then the "could be" calculations could be compared to the factual climate change data.

> That sounds like a "super green" policy, do many people believe in it?

And there we have it. Not burning fossil fuel for power is apparently a fantasy?

But that is not true. There are countries today which operate with no or close to zero fossil fueled energy grids. Places like France does it without even calling it "super green". They just did it because they didn't want to be dependent on other nations after the second world war. Iceland just use geothermal and hydro because it was cheapest and available. Norway and Sweden could do it but doesn't for political and economical reasons.

It also a bit silly to argue that it must be done tomorrow. They could set up a goal like they did for 2020, 2030 and 2040 and so on. A lot of green politics is about putting down goals and focusing the political discussion. Banning fossil fuels in energy production has yet to be part of any such discussion, and the green party just dodges the question when ever the issue of still winter nights comes up.

It is also a bit funny that we are defining nuclear as a super green policy. Its a label that sounds like a insult but really, is it? Personally I don't care much either way as my goal is that the coal and oil stay in the ground, the natural gas don't get fracked, and the biofuel production don't get double counted and presented as a carbon offset. I just wish that the green movement would be behind that.


I'm certain that in general you are a very coherent thinker, but in this discussion I cant make coherent sense of your criticisms :

> it wouldn't be too hard to just ban fossil fuels tomorrow

That sounded a "super green" idea to me - with no idea myself how you thought that could be done. Nuclear ?! How can I tell to what degree your writing is to be understood as exaggeration - affordable nuclear supply by tomorrow? by next year? by next decade? When you have a rational case, you should be able to promote it with accurate rational language. Sorry but I cant tell what you are really intending or concerned about, because your case has not been coherent. Perhaps examine whether you have a prejudice towards the idea of "green" policy (sounds like an insult?) and prejudice allows one to be hyper critical while inattentive to the coherence of ones own convictions.

The green movement has harbored some prejudice towards nuclear power, but nuclear power is not more expensive now than renewable options because of green prejudice. Its just an excessively complex, resource and high level human attention demanding industrial process to safely generate large amounts of heat from radioactive materials, besides the normal expense of cooling and extracting power from concentrated heat. Sure nuclear might have not been the monster which many greens have pictured it as, also consider whether it is the affordable suppressed magic which nuclear has promoted itself as in the preceding decades while spending many billions on undercosted projects which where delayed to the point of never producing any power. That doesnt happen with wind and solar so even if they foist "misregulation" and fear on nuclear - at least they have shown that they deliver !


I think OP means by "We plant trees and talk about carbon capture", to offset some another carbon positive activity, trees are planted, then they are turned in to fuel, which in the end makes total system carbon positive. This is the "double counted" part.

In the first quote yes, but who is really doing that talking and double counting? I suspect some strawpersons.

In the second quote the op is clearly complaining that schemes growing trees and burning them for fuel cant be carbon neutral, which is plainly false.


btw. the map data is from 2014. the last 4-5 years basically changed a lot.

The costs to built the plants dominates the price. Once built the actual operation and fueling costs are best in class https://www.expressnews.com/business/eagle-ford-energy/artic...

The majority of the cost to build the plants are due to the crazy uncertainty about the design/build timeline every-time one is built. Given that conceptually they aren't any more complex than your average coal plant those costs are massively over inflated by a number of factors. Frankly if there was a COTS design pre-certified, then it might be possible to wipe out a huge fraction of the built cost.


>> NIMBYism

> The majority of the cost to build the plants are due to the crazy uncertainty about the design/build timeline every-time one is built. Given that conceptually they aren't any more complex than your average coal plant those costs are massively over inflated by a number of factors. Frankly if there was a COTS design pre-certified, then it might be possible to wipe out a huge fraction of the built cost.

NIMBYism is a large reason why the risks are so uncertain and the costs so high. When dozens of judges at several levels have jurisdiction to require expensive and time consuming state/federal EPA, zoning, air quality, shading, etc. reviews and plaintiffs can use delay tactics to block appeals to those rulings, you get lots of uncertainty and expense.


Reading the article (and hoping i didnt just read over the part), they never mention the word waste once when it comes to the cost calculation. Thats rather convenient seeing as the number of functioning deep repository sites today is rather limited. What good are small operating costs when the build costs are this expensive and we dont have a viable solution for waste management (yet?). In practice these costs are externalized to the tax payers and next generations of tax payers. As long as we dont have a functioning waste management, waste is a constantly running cost that wont stop at the end of the reactors lifetime. As long as we dont realistically factor in the waste management cost, nuclear is highly subsidized by the following generations who have to pay for the running cost of waste management. That just doesnt make sense.

Dont get me wrong, i am not anti- nuclear. It just doesnt make sense to me at this point from an economics perspective. When factoring in the cost of waste management and decommissioning the power plants after the end of its lifetime, they are absurdly expensive. All this not to mention the absurd follow-up costs of having to dig out collapsed long time storage yet again. I dont see how nuclear today is not just another technology that offers a unsustainable, quick and cheap energy source that externalized the costs to the next generations. The running costs of all those waste management failures is starting to add up, and when looking at Germany, who set an exit date for nuclear power, the cost of decommissioning the power plants themselves is going to be a massive loss for the tax payer, even if everything would work as planed. Which, when looking at the history, we can be sure it wont.

I am not convinced yet that nuclear doesnt just look good on paper. Get me a realistic calculation for the actual energy price without externalizing the cleanup costs to the tax payer and we can talk. Dont factor in waste management at a fixed price the state offers and dont just assume that no meltdown cleanup will ever be necessary. But i have yet to see anyone make the argument that way, which lets me assume, that nuclear is a wonderful technology to research until someone finds out how to run plants economically viable without just externalizing costs.


Let's put some numbers to the initiation of this. The entire fleet of reactors in France will after 50 year of operation have produced 5300m3 of high-level waste (the kind you need to store long term). That amounts to less than 400 boxes able to contain a Tesla Model S. 50 years of operation generating 300-400 TWh yearly.

I'm not saying it's not problematic, but it's minuscule compared to all forms of power. Even wind power have a serious waste problem when the blades need to be decommissioned. It's not radioactive, but it needs to be stored, and there is a lot of it.


Sure sounds great, what are the best and worst case costs of storing that stuff for how long? And yes i know dry cask storage is much less problematic, but i would still want a realistic plan of what is happening to that stuff and what this is going to cost. What irks me so much is that i am not simply told, look here it what it currently costs, how it would scale and what the realistic liabilities are. If you were a nuclear lobbyist and those numbers would make sense, all you would have to do is to argue with them. I, and i think most reasonable people, would likely agree with you. But the problem seems to be that the devil is in the detail, and while nuclear makes sense with the best case, we dont seem to be at the best case most of the time. We regularly have major fuckups when it comes to long term storage that are incredibly pricey and just accepted as the cost of doing nuclear. All the while nuclear is sold and profited on on a highly subsidized price.

So the question whether we should go full nuclear is, what is the real price on nuclear per kwh with what liabilities? How does it scale? I think the post i responded to first was on an excellent path if it hadnt ignored the waste management problematic. I think research into bringing down cost of power plants is a field worth researching, as well as how to drive down the price of long term storage. But first we have to actually decide on the basis of realistic data and not just hope the future will figure it out for us.

edit: My comment is coming across a bit to hostile, just so there are no misunderstandings, i dont think this societal discussion can be approached by convincing individuals on the internet who are to lazy to google themselves(meaning me), but in parliament. I wasnt really trying to start a discussion but giving my 2cents of where i think the problem in the discourse we currently have lie. And thats more the lacking factual basis in arguments on the topic then the actual costs.


> We regularly have major fuckups when it comes to long term storage that are incredibly pricey and just accepted as the cost of doing nuclear

When a nuclear plant releases radiation into the atmosphere we call it a major fuck up. When a coal plant releases dangerous pollutants (including radiation) into the atmosphere we call it normal operation.


From this https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.2968/065005003

> A typical dry-storage cask holds 10 tons of spent fuel and costs about $1 million–$2 million each. (The CASTOR is at the upper end of that range.) This translates to a cost of less than one-twentieth of a penny per kilowatt-hour—about 1 percent of the cost of generating nuclear power.

They last for anywhere between 30-100 years and I assume to be be processed and put into new casks after that. So "less than one-twentieth of a penny per kilowatt-hour" every 30-100 year.

Note this is for the worst of the waste. There is still low level waste and long lived waste that need not be stored in dry casks. It still doesn't sound as problematic. I think the main issue is finding a site and protecting the casks/waste.


But it is of course not only the price of buying a couple of those containers, you also need a facility to store them, you may have to move them around, you probably have to guard them, you have to monitor them, ...

Of course it isn't, but at least the CASTORS can be safely transported by train, and a processing facility is not orders of magnitude more expensive than the power plants themselves. If we could forgo the nimbyism, we already have a technical solution and a reasonable estimate of the cost now and in the next 100 years. It could easily be factored in the cost of electricity from nuclear and put in a fund for when it's needed.

I think one additional factor here is that storage isn't the only option. Once a larger amount of waste needs to be managed the attractiveness of fast breeder reactors starts to increase. These reactors can then extract more energy from this high level "waste" (really fuel for fast breeder reactors). These reactors would then reduce the volume of this waste by a factor of about 100. So in the end, those 400 car-sized containers of waste per 50 years becomes 4. One hundred years worth of energy for an entire country producing about a house's volume of waste, total.

That is still theoretical so for any reasonable waste model, we cannot factor that in. If it turns out to be the case, we might be able to channel a lot of the money set a side for waste management, into other things such as better energy options.

Are we all aware that nuclear power plants pay for waste disposal as part of their electricity sales cost in a trust fund called the Nuclear Waste Fund that has a balance around $50B in the US at the moment?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Waste_Policy_Act#Nucle...

As far as I know, nuclear is the only energy source that pre-pays for waste disposal.


I am not familiar with the US system. The problem in Germany is they pay a lot less then what it actually costs to "dispose" of the waste, since we dont have a method to dispose it. Hence the subsidizing, allowing it to buy out of the waste they created and which will likely have running costs for a very long time. The same could be witnessed on a larger scale when it came to the decommissioning of nuclear power plants in Germany due to the exit from nuclear energy. It was immediately clear that the to be collected funds would not suffice.

And we are far from just storing that stuff cheaply in a safe and secure storehouse we have moronic ideas like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asse_II_mine where we have to dig out old longterm storage.


I ran the numbers on nuclear waste generation awhile back and 7-billion people's worth of power needs (assuming western lifestyle) came out to like 1.x times the capacity of the worlds largest container ship worth of waste. That's nothing compared to the waste generated by literally every other method of power generation (except maybe hydroelectric but that has its own environmental trade-offs). We could just dump that in a hole somewhere geologically boring and concrete over it but nobody wants to own the hole.

The other part is some of that "waste" has industrial uses. Think medical isotopes, RTG's, clocks, etc.

> It just doesnt make sense to me at this point from an economics perspective.

What are you comparing it to? Are you factoring in economic costs of continuing to release carbon into the atmosphere?

(I don’t want to excuse lazy/bad accounting... but traditional power plants don’t factor in the cost of the carbon they release, so basically everyone is ignoring long-term costs.)


Its exactly that point that we are currently working on with fossil fuel, and we are failing. But thats no reason to just blindly accept a few trillion in public risk and actual losses. "Since we are fucking up majorly already" is not a justification to burn through even more tax payers money. Differently put, just because someone steals from the shop and wasnt caught yet doesnt mean everyone should just start shoplifting. We cant keep adding more longterm problems for a quick profit.

We are currently looking for a replacement that doesnt externalize costs through environmental damages. I dont think nuclear is an alternative here today from a price point, and looking at the few times pro nuclear people talk about waste management costs, they dont seem to think so either. They mostly tend to give the same answer you did, which isnt an answer. Even if we were to decide today that nuclear would be the lesser evil, we cant do that without a cost overview. We have to at least understand what follow up costs we are leaving the generations after us and look what alternatives we have at that price point. And i dont think many taxpayers understood that Fukushima was an actual liability of more then half a trillion dollars and to how much that adds up to for nuclear all together.

And again, we are in an emergency situation with fossil fuels, and sure, we can talk about how much it would cost in liabilities and actual damages to switch completely to nuclear. It might be worth it for all i know. But if you arent even gonna give me an approximate cost to the taxpayer i will assume you are trying to scam me out of money. Unless we can have an honest discussion on a societal level about the realistic costs on taxpayers its an absolutely horrible idea to build even one more nuclear power plant. While i would love for the German nuclear power plants to run till the end of their planed lifetime to not waste the initial investment into relatively safe reactors, not allowing the building of new ones is the right decision as long as the costs are not transparent. If we should have learned anything from fossil fuel and all the other horrible side effects of technological development, we should at least have learned to make a proper technology (consequences) assessment (Technikfolgenabschätzung) and deliberately act on actual data instead of doing stuff that seems without alternative.


>they never mention the word waste once when it comes to the cost calculation

Because they don't need to. Power generation plants of any reasonably modern design don't generate lots of waste, just spent fuel rods that can be reprocessed and a tiny amount of non reusable radioactive material that needs to be stored until it's less radioactive.

All the mess regarding storage sites like Yucca Mountain relates to waste from bomb production, not from power plants.

Even if we had a storage facility like that operating in the US, spent fuel assemblies from power plants wouldn't be permanently interred there, that would be a waste.


Capital costs matter. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have mortgages or lease cars.

This is missing the point.

The point is that your house or car would be outrageously expensive too if the engineering cost of the design was amortized over very few units.


That's precisely the point. Once the direct subsidy of nuclear via the military's nuclear weapons buildout went away, new plant construction... went way.

The capital costs of any traditional power plant are massive, and fix high costs of goods sold for the life of the plant. This Canadian effort may find a way to build more smaller units, which will be great if they succeed.

Solar and wind are disruptive because the cost to add a marginal unit of generation is near zero. A marginal add of a natural gas power plant in my US state is nearly $100M and several years. Nuclear is probably 10x that.

I understand why nuclear is an appealing technology. Its magical in a way, but it doesn't make sense when engineering a power grid today. It is an awful business with high fixed costs getting disrupted by smaller, cheaper, lower friction alternatives. Again, in my state, New York, despite higher than average rates, nuclear operators like Excelon claim to be losing money operating old plants, and NY ratepayers will be providing $7-10B in subsidy over the next 10-12 years.


> Once the direct subsidy of nuclear via the military's nuclear weapons buildout went away, new plant construction... went way.

This is easily false. When you look at historical nuclear powerplant construction via the NRC, you see a flatline of new reactors starting 1979: Three Mile Island accident year.

In fact, Ford and Carter (a nuclear engineer himself) banned reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels even before that! Due to nonproliferation concerns (NPT had been around since 1970).

The USA kept building nuclear weapons through the 80's, so where were those "subsidies" for civilian powerplants?

The answer is the strong anti-nuclear movement in the 80's society that was the culmination of several different political, disaster, and cultural events. Not because we stopped building nukes in the 80's (we didn't stop).

Edit: One of the defining features of the US's civilian power fleet of reactors is exactly because of its adherence to non-proliferation, independence of military, and economic viability of "standing on its own two legs". Contrast the PWR designs with the power+breeder designs of the RBMK, the Soviet design to accidentally produce power while also producing weapons grade materials. This is why, in contrast, in the USA the reactors at national labs and military sites are so secure and secretive, and why the fuel used in US civilian powerplants are very tame in comparison: only the military is subsidizing it's own reactors for its own weapons grade fuel.


Swedens (huge and successful!) push for nuclear power began in the 1950s with very much an idea to also produce weapons. Politically the weapons program become obsolete in the 1960s but without it I doubt the power generation program would have went underway.

Where did the fuel come from?

A: US Government enrichment facilities built to support nuclear weapons programs. https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-pr...


Sure, today, military-grade plutonium is down-blended in MOX fuels. But your own source backs up the fact that from the 1950's to the 1980's (the time period we are talking about) the USA was the world's leading uranium ore producer.

One could argue that the mines were subsidized by the federal government (so they could enrich and breed nuclear-grade materials), but that is a far cry from GP's claim that "Once the direct subsidy of nuclear via the military's nuclear weapons buildout went away, new plant construction... went way", which is incomparable to the degree of subsidization as the USSR and their dual-use for RBMK reactors (why else design a reactor with a positive void coefficient).

EDIT: I'm not sure whether you're really concerned about the buildout of nuclear powerplants or the evolution of the USA's policy with regards to the nuclear fuel cycle, but I hope I addressed both.

EDIT2: Also: The "big 3" enrichment locations that the military used would also sell to civilian nuclear powerplants. But that's a far cry reason to "subsidize" the construction of nuclear powerplants. This "fuel subsidization" goes on today (MOX fuels) and the American monopoly of uranium enrichment has been broken since 1970 with the formation of Urenco, so the commercial civilian powerplants have always had other places to purchase from (if a regulatory hassle). There's really not a lot of strong evidence that the mining and enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons somehow subsidized the construction of civilian nuclear powerplants.


>Solar and wind are disruptive because the cost to add a marginal unit of generation is near zero.

Can you elaborate here? Solar and wind are relatively cheap, and falling, but a long way from a near zero marginal cost. According to a quick Google, the capital-weighted costs of solar, hydro, wind, geothermal and some newer natural gas plants are similar.


> Once the direct subsidy of nuclear via the military's nuclear weapons buildout went away, new plant construction... went way.

I don't think there was ever a direct subsidy of civilian nuclear power for weapons production. The ways in which military reactors are run to produce fuel for weapons is different than that of power plants. There are dual use technologies involved, shared R&D costs, and so on, but there is no direct subsidy of civilian nuclear power the way you are implying.

> The capital costs of any traditional power plant are massive, and fix high costs of goods sold for the life of the plant.

I'm pretty sure you are in fact missing the point. The costs of building a modern nuclear plant include a huge amount of one-off engineering because we build so few of them. If we swapped the numbers of units built of coal and nuclear power plants, the cost structures would (probably close to) swap as well, which was the original parent of this thread's point.

Look, I'm not here to advocate for nuclear power. I think renewables + batteries are likely to win on economics in the near future, but with some major challenges (building enough batteries for the long tail of intermittent production lapses seems really difficult to me).

But that doesn't argue against the fact that we shot ourselves in the climate change foot by not prioritizing nuclear over coal power for decades, and I think a big part of that is based on a mistake ("nuclear is expensive") is because of this inability to amortize costs over more units.

edit to add: I think your singling out of capital costs is a strawman of the original comment ("Frankly if there was a COTS design pre-certified, then it might be possible to wipe out a huge fraction of the built cost."). It's unclear whether you are including certification and engineering costs in "capital costs", but the intention of the original point was to include those costs.


> I don't think there was ever a direct subsidy of civilian nuclear power for weapons production.

Most subsidies are not direct and called "subsidy". But as long as nuclear weapons production was a priority, the US had an more of an incentive to research decommissioning, funding final disposing sites, have more people study nuclear engineering, creating job opportunities for nuclear engineers to build up an ecosystem, funding basic research in the area, researching and providing the logistics for transporting waste to disposal sites etc.


Solar and wind aren’t disruptive to base-load though, which is the problem. You can build all of the solar/wind you want, but you’re just falling back to fossil fuels at night and during less windy days.

Solar and wind most certainly do disrupt baseload, and they can do that even if they are not themselves providing a constant output of power. All they have to do is drive the price of power down often enough to ruin the economics of the expensive baseload plants, which depend on there being sufficiently high average prices.

This is simply false. First, "base load" powerplants are actually the most troublesome, because they don't adjust for load and predicting base load is actually hard (except when you just use a very small fraction of overall load). Second if you have a large grid (like the US) that is connected (and modern,) you could run the whole grid of variable loads like wind. This would require investment into the grid which nobody seems to want to do. However the technology is there

Expensive to build and cheap to run ignores the high decommissioning and long term waste management costs (both financial & practical impacts). If you add that to the kilowatt price, nuclear tends to end up more expensive than most other options.

Citation needed. Also, don’t try to include plants that were shut down early or plants built on designs from the 50s.

Your oblique point that the costs for newer reactors are probably going to be less than older reactors is acknowledged, but it's still a cost consideration.

https://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2016/7201-costs-decom-npp....

A lot of this report seems to indicate that estimating future decommissioning costs is hard. The costs are estimates, often created by those with a financial incentive to keep the estimate low. In 50 or so years time the reality of decommissioning might be very difficult.

On the waste aspect: "The cost of managing spent nuclear fuel ... is not always included in the cost of decommissioning, but is often treated separately. This is even more the case for the final disposal of fuel or related waste, which is a major source of costs in waste management, particularly for high-level waste."


The trouble is that some markets will operate at a loss due to the glut in Natural Gas. See the northeast reactors.

Nuclear energy languished largely because of fear, I think.

Our failure to invest in nuclear the past several decades was a huge mistake that future generations will rightfully scorn us for.


After a bunch of mishaps (Fukushima being the more recent) it becomes more and more difficult to pretend that nuke plants aren't dangerous.

It justifies fear.

Moreover the waste management problem is not solved.

During the last decades more and more citizen are less and less willing to pay for nuke plants.

In democracies imposing is pretty difficult, and IMHO it's a good thing.

In the same timeframe wind, and even more during the last decade, solar plants costs quickly declined, and even more so nowadays.

Meanwhile nuke specialists experienced in building and running plants retire.

https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/May/Renewable-power-...


> more difficult to pretend that nuke plants aren't dangerous.

Nobody can pretend that nuclear plants aren't dangerous. The argument is that a Fukushima somewhere in the world once every 20 years would be substantially less dangerous than a coal fired plant in every country operating for 20 years. And it doesn't seem to be likely that we get a Fukushima every 20 years. So why is Fukushima used as a reason to use coal plants??? The logic is barely coherent, and even then only assuming that someone has no understanding of the background risk they face every day.

I've lived in a coal mining region. I would have statistically better health outcomes if I had lived next to Fukushima.

EDIT And you linked the Fukushima outcomes page - it says that even only considering Japan the lives saved from not using coal probably outweighed hypothetical maybe-deaths from Fukushima that cannot be detected. Footnote 75.

> Moreover the waste management problem is not solved.

It is kinda difficult to describe a scenario where nuclear waste causes much more damage than say a tailings dam failure at a heavy metals mine. Or a gas leak in a built up area. Or a bad wildfire. There is not a lot of nuclear waste and there is a lot of desert out there if it comes to it.

People have largely been ignoring the waste for 40 years and that strategy is working pretty well.


So, we should stop both nuclear AND coal plants and use solar, hydro and wind plants. What the problem with that? Batteries? Let's spend cost of 1 nuclear plant at electric batteries or pumped-hydro or compressed-air storage units and solve this problem.

Solar probably has a worse waste problem than nuclear (and probably a higher risk of actually harming me in the case of retail solar). Batteries and storage do too. The damage from a hydro failure is higher.

Wind might be a solid par technically. It does kill more people than nuclear though; that is a big negative. Better displaced than dead.

There isn't an option here that is obviously better. It would be pretty sensible to loosen the environmental restrictions on new nuclear plants, protect them from NIMBYs and then leave it to the market to go with whatever is cheapest. Could be anything, I have no particular horse to back as long as the race is fair; although I would like to see more nuclear because it just looks to me like the technically best option.


Except nuclear energy is the safest form of power: https://ourworldindata.org/what-is-the-safest-form-of-energy

As for Fukushima, more died as a result from it being shut down than in the disaster: https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/11/07/was-shutting-japan...

Furthermore, it lead to a surge in imports of dirty fuels. More coal and oil.


Once the last reactor decommissioned and the last nuke waste inert we may try to evaluate the impacts. Until them everything can happen, even the worst.

As for Fukushima there are many hypothesis about the real impact until now, and even more for the future. Believing the effects are already fully known is at best 'weird'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disa...

Thinking that we can only replace fossil fuel with nuke is not even funny, as solar and wind soar. In Europe solar and wind already produce as much electricity than nuke plants, and sail around while nuke plants are shutting down.

Storage is indeed a challenge, and the real choice is between our capacity to lower nuke-induced risk (waste, disasters...), which seems low after decades of efforts, and on the other hand our capacity to further enhance existing other energy 'sources', which are progressing at a very fast pace.


Stop comparing solar and wind to nuclear. That’s a cudgel to ignore the fact that being anti-nuclear means being pro-fossil fuels. Bringing online solar and wind does not displace nuclear because they do not provide a stable base.

You highlight that storage is a challenge, but it’s the entire blocker at this point. Until storage is solved, solar/wind do nothing more than displace some peaker plants.


> That’s a cudgel to ignore the fact that being anti-nuclear means being pro-fossil fuels.

I dont think so. We may have a common competitor yet also be in competition. Solar and wind have very complimentary output patterns (combining two variable sources produces a less variable source even without the modest degree of anti correlation which is present between wind and solar). Nuclears output pattern really begs to be constant, it never wants to ramp down because there is almost no savings, whereas solar and wind can clash but also leave each other demand windows.


You quoted and then ignored the entire reason they don’t compete. Nuclear is great for base load because it’s not very reactive as you pointed out. Solar and wind are absolutely terrible for base load (see Hawaii).

I didnt vote that down since I can explain - base load is a theoretical fraction of electricity demand, not a separate physical entity. Renewable supply competes for whatever anyone wishes to categorize as "base load" the same as it competes for "peak loads" and "moderate loads" - renewables sell when they make power for any load.

You have no "base load" once such competitors are involved because half the time they are bidding for all of the load. Separating off a base load deal is then an artificial arrangement. Your supplier who can only economically supply a certain level is no help when your renewables fall short, and they are an expense when your renewables surge and offer cheaper power. Once renewables are in the mix you want economical dispatch-able supply. That means batteries for frequent sub-daily power deficits, and existing fossil moving to carbon neutral fuels for less frequent deficits.

There is no effective nuclear construction industry today that can stop renewables getting big in the mix, and the bigger renewables get into it, the less attractive "base load" power purchasing contracts become for buyers. There is talk about making nuclear competitively dispatchable with molten salt reserviors - that's just a nuclear plant and molten salt battery. The battery is the economical part. Nuclear will continue to be an expensive side project for many governments which can afford it, sometimes completing a project, sometimes giving up as they do after multiple cost increases and delays, but it is practically finished in competitive industry by the arrival of advanced solar and wind.


Nuclear power generation also implies using fossil-fuels powerplants.

Even in 'all-nuke' France 7 to 11% of the powergrid is produced by fossil-fuel plants.

This could be alleviated thanks to decentralized production (small units). Granted, this is theoretically true for nuclear and solar/wind alike, however civilian practical small solar/wind units do exist, nuclear units don't.

Many write just as if nuclear plants may really solve our climate-related problem. They neglect that gridpower is a small portion of the total energy (about 17%), therefore a fully 'cleanly'-produced gridpower (by whatever method, nuclear and/or other) lets us, on the sole 'energy' side of the matter (there are other ones), with at the very least 60% of the climate-related problem at hands.


> Even in 'all-nuke' France 7 to 11% of the powergrid is produced by fossil-fuel plants.

Yeah, they're not 100% nuclear. In any case, their results are far better than countries who eschewed nuclear.

France produces one-tenth the carbon pollution from electricity [compared to Germany].

French electricity costs are just 59% of German electricity prices. As such, according to the prevailing economic wisdom, French electricity should be far more carbon intensive than German's. And yet the opposite is the case.[1]

So it seems France made a good decision. Their electricity is both cleaner and cheaper...

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/02/05...


It is apparently cheaper because in France, as in many countries, the nuke was and remains heavily subsided, decommission costs under evaluated, mishaps hidden...

The French public financial auditing institution (la Cour des Comptes) published in 2012 that public nuke investments are opaque, and that it costed around 228 10e9 euros, plus nowadays 3.4 10e9 euros per year for the sole maintenance. Nuke risk is what it is, and even financially it is not sound. Read there, starting folio 269: https://www.ccomptes.fr/sites/default/files/EzPublish/Rappor...

It is so expensive it cannot be hidden anymore. Electricity in France is absolutely not cheap, its price there is average in Europe. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...

Germany now pays in order to solve the problem.

France isn't completely dumb and a state law (2015-992, from 2015, the "loi relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte") states that the part of nuke-produced electricity must fall to less than 50% in 2025, from 72% then, and that renewables must replace it.

However those are only words, until now.

Meanwhile... Germany solves its problem.

Comparing France and Germany when it comes to industrial and technical problems is not fair, as Germany is so far ahead we don't see them anymore (and yep, I'm French, but facts are facts).


What you wrote is so disingenuous it is unbelievable.

So 228B€ for 50 years of 85% of the electricity consumption, and decarbonised. When with the push for renewable, it will cost 121B€ for currently 5,1% of wind and 1.9% for solar. Currently nuclear electricity is bought 42€/MWh by the useless competitor thanks to the ARENH, when wind cost us 89.4€/MWh and solar 294€/MWh and are not dispatchable, uncorrelated with consumption, intermittent, and will also add 30B€ to the grid because of the decentralised organisation. Also renewable made us build a gaz plan in Landivisiau because Brittany opposed the Plogoff nuclear plant and renewable are unreliable.

Also you failed to mention, that what droved the rise in French electricity is solely because of the renewable.

Germany didn't solve it's problem its electricity is still heavily carbonated.

https://i.imgur.com/zatyuXX.png

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EK2NouwWkAERV5V?format=jpg&name=...

https://www.ccomptes.fr/sites/default/files/2018-04/20180418...

https://www.cre.fr/content/download/19506/file/Annexe%201_CS...

https://www.cre.fr/content/download/19600/file/Calculs%20Tar...

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacte_%C3%A9lectrique_breton


> So 228B€ for 50 years of 85% of the electricity consumption

Nope. Nuke plant did not provide 85% during those 50 years. It even doesn't today (only about 71%). In 1971 approximatively approx 5% of the French gridpower was produced by nuke plants. Source: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrie_nucl%C3%A9aire_en_Fr... How exactly do you think it may have produced 85% of the gridpower for 50 years? This is inept and misleading.

Moreover 228B€ is an estimation, the report states (folio 270) that the information is not available, mixed up with all other activities of EDF. The real cost may be superior. Everyone is free to interpret such opacity as good or bad sign.

Even worse, the report explicitly states that it completely neglects the first batch of R&D, when civilian and military domains where not clearly separated, which was a major effort. Source: (folio 36) https://www.ccomptes.fr/sites/default/files/EzPublish/Rappor...

Therefore a fair part of fundamental research isn't accounted in those 228B€.

Also: nuke energy is not (completely) decarbonised. Fuel extraction, transport... aren't.

> When with the push for renewable, it will cost 121B€ for currently 5,1% of wind and 1.9% for solar.

This 121B€ budget is not spent, as it starts in... 2018, ending in 2047! Putting it in front of the production right now is at best 'disingenuous', it is in fact a huge lie. You can't read the future, you can't know what renewables will produce in the 2019 to 2047 timeframe and afterwards, therefore there is no conclusion to draw, no way to consider this investment as a bad one.

> Currently nuclear electricity is bought 42€/MWh by the useless competitor thanks to the ARENH

Only 100TW (about 1/4 of the production), sold by specification at a price equal to the nuke official production price. Given the credits nuke engulfed and the decades of monopoly, this is a very low-key counterbalancing measure.

> when wind cost us 89.4€/MWh and solar 294€/MWh and are not dispatchable, uncorrelated with consumption, intermittent, and will also add 30B€ to the grid because of the decentralised organisation.

Germany chose this horrible wind/solar/biomass path. Poor Germans, they don't know that those challenges have no solution, that they are doomed to fail. You should inform them. An EPR or two may save them!

> Also renewable made us build a gaz plan in Landivisiau because Brittany opposed the Plogoff nuclear plant and renewable are unreliable.

A transition costs. At its very beginning nuke was engulfing huge amounts of money without producing anything significant during the 1950-1970 period.

After 70 years, right now, nuke isn't a newborn, however new projects are very (very!) overbudget and late (Olkiluoto, Flamanville).

> Also you failed to mention, that what droved the rise in French electricity is solely because of the renewable.

Source?

> Germany didn't solve it's problem its electricity is still heavily carbonated.

This is a work in progress. At least do they really search for an elegant (non polluting but also not risk-inducing) solution, instead of raising the risk by letting aging plant run after their planned end-of-life date.

French vs. Germany, on an industrial challenge. Lemme try to guess who will win...


>Nope. Nuke plant did not provide 85% during those 50 years.

That's a fair point, but it doesn't change the argument, the cost is over a long period with a big part of the electricity mix.

>This 121B€ budget is not spent

But locked in with feed in tariff form the pre-2017 poorly functioning 5.1%/1.9% mix. You seems to think that more solar and wind will come with that, no new solar panel and wind turbine will be build with that.

https://www.lemonde.fr/blog/huet/2018/04/19/la-cour-des-comp...

>this is a very low-key counterbalancing measure

No this is a useless way to create an artificial competition, and a disgusting way to kill a company, when EDF OA is forced to buy solar and wind, uncorrelated with usage, at an expansive price.

>Germany chose this horrible wind/solar/biomass path. Poor Germans, they don't know that those challenges have no solution, that they are doomed to fail. You should inform them. An EPR or two may save them!

They have coal, lot of coal and only a plan to close them in 2038 and to replace it with russian fossil gas when France will have the latest closed in 2022 and since long barely used them.

>Source?

Look on your electrical bill the CSPE line, and Turpe because of decentralised renewable.

https://www.uarga.org/downloads/Documentation/2019_09_12_Sou...

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contribution_au_service_public...

http://www.leparisien.fr/economie/les-prix-de-l-electricite-...

> Lemme try to guess who will win...

France already won in decarbonising its electricity. Why would Germany win all industrial challenge, what are you a German supremacist ?


EDF (French power company) enjoyed a monopoly lasting 50 years, massive research paid for by the military sector, no real accounting of the public funds they spent (at the very least 228 10e9 euros), the waste problem is not solved, real decommission (nearly all yet-to-be started) costs are unknown and will probably be vastly superior to the budget, the grand total cost must take into account any boo-boo made by a wandering waste during some 10000's years... and for all this they have to concede 1/4 of their current production at cost price. Granted, this is not a total waste because they did and do provide gridpower (given that its price is average in Europe, absolutely not a bargain). In any case this is a superb gift, many industrialists would kill for such a deal. EDF complains w/o any shame!

On a more fundamental viewpoint I think that subsidies are always at best inadequate, especially because they establish such vicious circle (subsidizing leads to a problem apparently solved by... subsidizing).

This 121B€ budget will be invested ('till 2046) to dynamise applied renewable energy. It has to offer some benefit to anyone investing and therefore accepting the risk inherent to any new and quickly developing tool, it is about long-term effects. You quote a blog, which is an immediate interpretation, not the intent and even less the (future) result.

Yes, Germany chose to kick out the bad nuke habit as fast as possible, maybe indeed too quickly for the short-term sake. On the other hand France tried to act slowly... and now its renewables program, not very ambitious, already is wayyyyyy behind previsions.

Yes, establishing new production sites implies new connections, and therefore investments. Connecting a new nuke powerplant also costs. Yes, connecting renewables globally cost more given that nukes needs less sites (intensity). However renewables don't blow up, don't produce hot waste, are easy to decommission, create jobs, create know-how and product which are more and more marketable (much more than nuke plants!)... Total lifecycle cost+risk is key.

France is indeed right now more efficient than Germany when it comes to decarbonizing gridpower production. However this is a snapshot, while the whole subject is a process. There is no finish line, and if in a pair of decades may Germany lead on all accounts, free of nukes and continuing to be a leader in a growing renewables market. Then we will once more conclude that they adopted an industrial approach much more adequate than ours, as in many other sectors.


France could have gone 100% nuclear, french nuclear reactors can adapt their load to the demand intra-day. It is not a technical decision.

No, nuke is for base-load, it cannot be started/stopped in 10 minutes (in France, as in many countries, hydro dams are used as buffers).

Parent is talking about load following. Nuclear power plants can absolutely load follow the diurnal predicted demand closely. Most power demand is forecast very accurately with only small amounts of new generation dispatched or load shedded to account for the smaller variances, or when outages happen on some part of the grid.

Indeed, however all this neglects that solar produces during peak hours, and that multiple production sites are possible (benefiting from various meteorological conditions).

The huge powergrid it implies isn't very different from the one nuke powerplants already need (given that many cannot sit nearby huge cities), that both wind and solar in such a wide area not producing enough is a rare occurrence.

Transporting energy far away causes losses, but we already do it, and who cares if its TCO is very low (solar and wind are progressing quickly), and its production not dangerous?

Add geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass, then better global efficiency and energy savings.

Then a pinch of very small complementary units (already available).

... and we are better set for so many more scenarios, at a globally lower cost and without any serious risk.


Solar doesn't product for french peak hours (8h and 19h) it is uncorrelated (Pearson correlation) with load. And solar is also auto-correlated on France scale, same with wind.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EJuknaqXkAAwbWn?format=jpg&name=...

https://twitter.com/hokkos/status/1196564989022220289


Are solar and wind correlated? Adding other minor 'sources' (biomass), progressing on efficiency and storage, and also saving energy isn't as foolish than hoping that nuke plant and their waste will no commit another major boo-boo, and waiting for those supa dupa absolutely sure nuke plants architectures promised since the 50's.

French nuclear can make varies its plant at 3-5 %Pr/minute, when cumulating 53 reactors, it is a lot.

Also nuclear is 20% of the marginal electricity (the one that varies).

http://www.oecd-nea.org/nea-news/2011/29-2/aen-infos-suivi-c...

https://www.tmrow.com/static/c90a14e6fe7e73b4c60963818f9041e...

https://www.tmrow.com/blog/marginal-carbon-intensity-of-elec...


Nuclear plants doesn't have enough flexibility, therefore thermal (non nuclear) power stations are necessary. In France they produce about 7% of the gridpower.

"Not enough flexibility" isn't specific to renewables.


Renewable have no flexibility, that can't ramp up on demand, they can only be curtailed, which is stupid. Nuclear have a lot of flexibility, as I showed you, the spikes are already dealt with by hydro and reservoir.

We just need moar nuclear plants and we can eliminate the few remaining coal and gas plants.


> does not displace nuclear because they do not provide a stable base.

If we put the money we put into building nuclear plants into energy storage, then that would likely change pretty quickly.


No it wouldn’t. It’s not a money problem, it’s a tech problem. You can pour 50 billion into storage and it won’t make a dent in the base load.

50 billion would fund a lot of R&D into energy storage (I'm guessing that's probably more than the total amount that's even been spent on such research to date). And it's not like it's a crazy unsolvable problem. There are lot's of promising avenues that just need to be developed, and not even that much. Our current tech isn't that far off being able to support what we need.

That report excludes renewables like hydro, solar, etc.

Coal kills far more people than nuke does - both from direct accidents - and secondary effects.

[flagged]


Not really bold at all. The climate change we are on track for is very disruptive but even the worst case doesn’t show anything that would threaten civilization itself.

We could lose 90% of the human population and be back to the numbers of when the US became a country.


Probably file under "economics":

The nukes and communists share the No True Scotman's defense: the prior failures weren't true communism, err, nuke power. If only we had clapped louder, Tinkerbell would fly.

Maybe only Tennessee was more pro nuclear than Washington. Alas. Incompetence, corruption, delays, and cost overruns aborted the nukes under construction, which then killed all hopes of building more nukes.

For decades, WPPSS (pronounced "Whoops!") was the punchline for local jokes about government, waste, bureaucracy. My favorite was a two-billed baseball hat that said "WPPSS", kinda like this: https://www.villagehatshop.com/photos/product-alternate/gian...

--

https://www.historylink.org/File/5482

"Several factors combined to ruin construction schedules and to drive costs to three and four times the original estimates. Inflation and design changes constantly plagued all the projects. Builders often got ahead of designers who modified their drawings to conform to what had been built. Safety changes imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission increased costs too,

but the biggest cause of delays and overruns was mismanagement of the process by the WPPSS.

The directors and the managers of the system had no experience in nuclear engineering or in projects of this scale. System managers were unable to develop a unified and comprehensive means of choosing, directing, and supervising contractors. One contractor, already shown to be incompetent, was retained for more work. In a well-publicized example, a pipe hanger was built and rebuilt 17 times. Quality control inspectors complained of inadequate work that went unaddressed."

(Attempted emphasis mine.)


> Only if the “green energy” people actually had that much power...

> In reality there are 2 forces that have stopped nuclear. NIMBYism. And terrible economics.

This is a huge misunderstanding.

It was the "green energy" people who first fought nuclear power. Go look throughout the country where nuke plants have been taken down. It's because they were leaking and polluting and were ticking time bombs.

The greens have been fighting against nuclear power since day one.

There is an underground current of manipulation in online conversations trying to make nuclear power look green. It has only one element of green, that is low carbon, everything else about it is the absolute worst of all power sources.

I hope to never see anything but fusion nuclear power come back, and all fission power fade away.


> . It has only one element of green, that is low carbon, everything else about it is the absolute worst of all power sources.

Pretty blatantly false. Nuclear kills fewer people most, if not all other sources of power, per unit of energy generated.

There are significant pollution issues from mining and burning coal and from manufacturing solar panels. Hydro produces ecological disruption on par with non other. Wind power has significant and downplayed effects of wildlife.

The comparison of these factors is complicated and 'best' depends on what you specific environmental agenda is, but your rhetoric is flat out false.


There is toxic waste leaking into the Columbia river from nuclear storage in Washington. (only one example) Everything else you described has a solution and can be cleaned up.

The nuclear waste is so tragic and horrific and the effects so egregious I can only imagine you are grossly misinformed or a paid troll.


> The nuclear waste is so tragic and horrific and the effects so egregious I can only imagine you are grossly misinformed or a paid troll.

More horrific than the millions killed by air pollution?

This is not to say that nuclear waste isn't a significant problem and one we can do a much better job dealing with, but spreading blatant misinformation does not do anything to help anyone.


It's amazing how little news there has been reported about all the nuclear waste disasters in our lifetime, and the near permanent disasters they create. But the news came and went and you can't find it online as real data to argue against the army of "nuclear is the future" mob.

Gulf war syndrome is another example of head-in-the-sand behavior of the public regarding nuclear waste caused diseases.


I am opposed to depleted uranium armaments, and while they have been shown to have significant health effects (especially on the populations stuck living in the areas where the amunition was used), it has been ruled out as a likely cause of gulf war syndrome which is linked to the use of non-nuclear toxic chemics.

Indeed, while I don't have specific numbers to prove this, I highly suspect that the health risks of non-nuclear toxic waste (by products from chemical plants and manufacturing) outweigh those of toxic nuclear waste and the release of these chemicals are often far less regulated than nuclear waste.

In terms of nuclear waste disasters, the Marshall Islands is the most significant example (that I know of) of a nuclear waste problem that the US needs to step up and address. [0]

[0] https://www.latimes.com/projects/marshall-islands-nuclear-te...

I not saying that nuclear is the future, but it is a important amd relativly safe source that we can use as stop gap to limit our use of more dangerous power sources while we fight global warming and find safer and cleaner sources of energy. We need to consider all of the risks of our power sources and not spread misinformation and fear.


You've been very reasonable with your arguments. I appreciate that. We obviously aren't going to solve anything on a comment board.

I would argue that the effects on US soil, the leaks into the Columbia river from Washington are incomparable to the Marshall Islands. But I feel we may be moving the goal posts in our discussion.


Funnily enough depleted uranium, the testing site in the Marshall Islands and the Handford plutonium production site are are military uses of nuclear technology and don't really have much at all to do with nuclear power.

I'm sure its three since fossil fuel lobbies are certainly involved.

> And terrible economics.

I think you mean "terribly inflexible regulations".


The green energy people have massive amounts of power. They are the reason solar and wind is being built all over the world at an astonishing rate. Their lack of support for nuclear as a base-load is a major factor in its stagnation.

In the US a Democrat at the federal level who doesn’t support green energy will be sentenced to the gas chambers. That’s more than half of the House of Representatives and nearly half of the Senate. It has a strong chance of being the next presidency as well. If nuclear were actually supported by green energy people there would be a new plant going up in every state.


Solar and wind took off when their prices became competitive, then more than competitive, against the alternatives. You would have us believe this didn't matter, and their growth is instead caused by the greens suddenly acquiring political power, and that the simultaneous drop in prices was just an irrelevant coincidence.

Small nuclear plants are actually something that can possibly help (differently from the large ones). But I doubt anybody will get the costs down enough to make them viable, wind and solar are power horses. It's like creating a non-mainstream computer architecture at the 90's and early 00's, it won't improve fast enough to even match their speed.

About emissions, coal is responsible for a huge share of emissions on electricity generation. If you replace half of it with a 0 emissions source, and the other half a source 4 times more carbon efficient, it does go a long way to help. If we are luck, this will give us enough time to develop batteries, because that is very likely what will happen.


> But I doubt anybody will get the costs down enough to make them viable

[citation needed]

This was discussed recently and I really down understand the immense skepticism exhibited on HN (and in general) towards nuclear energy. Sure it's expensive now, but it's been misregulated into a pulp and all extant nuclear reactors are using decades old designs. AND you need to compare the cost of nuclear to renewables PLUS storage.

Don't kick a gift horse in the mouse. We had a great shot at getting off oil in the form of fission 60 years ago. Probably time to stop kicking it in the mouth and stop spreading misinformation.


Many nuclear power-plant projects, conducted by experts, are way late and over-budget. See Olkiluoto, Flamanville.

Many potential units are purely and simply cancelled because they are too financially risky (notwithstanding other risks) given the falling costs of solar and wind.

The hot nuclear waste disposal challenge is not solved, wherever you check (France and the US, experts both are "in the process of solving it"... for the last 50 years!). Check the Yucca Mountain waste repo, a non-solution since 1978.

Decommissioning costs are everywhere very probably largely underestimated because they explode as soon as a project begins. Check the UK case:

UK discounted provision for decommission costs: £100+ billion in 2013 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jun/23/britain-...

Then £161 billion in 2017 https://web.archive.org/web/20170516093449/https://www.gov.u...

Then £234 billion in 2018. Costs were so quickly exploding there is a new way to forecast, which dissimulates... err... is more... well... https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nuclear-provision...

Until now the taxpayer covers it, but our impoverished nations just cannot cope anymore.

Moreover a small-scale reactor is difficult to protect (theft, terrorism, nuke (especially dirty weapons) proliferation...)

Fukushima politically put the last nail in this coffin.


The past is a good predictor of the future... until it isn't. Extremely drastic change is needed to avert climate emergencies. How much of the problems you discuss go away when the red tape has been cut?

I don't buy that waste is a serious problem. The US treats all secondary waste as if it's red hot. And as I said above, all extant reactor designs are decades old.

If your only point of comparison is 60 year old computers using 10s of kilowatts, you might argue that computers will never be economical to use. Yet smartphone CPUs have a TDP of what, one watt?

> Until now the taxpayer covers it, but our impoverished nations just cannot cope anymore.

Our nations have plenty of money it's just all concentrated at the very top. We used to fund advanced reactor projects [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment


> Extremely drastic change is needed to avert climate emergencies.

Good, than nuclear is nothing we have to think about because it's construction times are ridiculously long while renewable energy is getting better and cheaper rapidly.

> Our nations have plenty of money it's just all concentrated at the very top. We used to fund advanced reactor projects [1]

We've been throwing ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money on that for decades. Show is over. Time to give the money to technologies of the future not ones of the past.

Even France sees this: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-nuclearpower-astri...


France, often cited as a sound nuke-advocate (world tally: second nation in raw amount of grid electricity produced by nuclear plants, and first by the part of it) is in fact... ... escaping from it!

A law (2015-992, from 2015, the "loi relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte") states that the part of nuke-produced electricity must fall to less than 50% in 2025, from 72% then, and that renewables must replace it.

2 years later the government (lacking funds and unable to cope) reported it to 2025, then 2 years later to 2035 ("programmation pluriannuelle de l'énergie").

However the political and strategical orientation is perfectly clear, just don't believe France is on the nuke camp.


The waste disposal problem has been solved at the Onkalo Nuclear Waste Repository in Finland. It's a deep geologic repository without the political fights associated with Yucca. Deep geologic repositories are basically a consensus solution now. Finns chose to solve the nuclear waste issue and did it.

Fukushima killed up to 1 person from radiation. Meanwhile fossil is killing 4.3 million people per year via air pollution. If fossil had to pay for that health externality (not to mention climate change), then nuclear economics would look exceedingly more fantastic. Though it's true that nuclear builds need to get their act together to maintain relevance.

Small reactors have less radioactive source in them and are proportionally less radiologically impactful than larger higher power reactors in the event of military/terrorist attack.

Wind and solar are doing amazing. There is some serious worry that the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) will go below the level needed to sustain industrialized civilization once variable renewables are deployed at significant enough scale to require massive energy investment in "non-productive" equipment like batteries. For example, see this Nov 2019 paper on the topic [1]. EROI on solar PV is like 3-8. With massive storage it can dip below 3. Nuclear is like 50.

I think a low-carbon future will have a whole lot of wind/solar and a whole lot of nuclear. Both industries can scale by 10x happily and we still will struggle with our climate issues.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211467X1...


Urenco only does uranium enrichment, waste management is vastly more than this

> France and most of Europe use Urenco.

I'm French, and can see the result: waste is piling up nearby the plants. Deep geological repositories are given as the ultimate solution since the 1970's at least, and there is _NO_ exploited site. Cigéo/Bure (in France) is only a project. Yucca Mountain never ran and is halted.

On a similar vein see the Superphenix financial and industrial disaster. It was a french project, aiming at (there were other objectives) reusing waste and enriched uranium, and the French know about nuclear power. Net result: 60 billion French Francs lost.

There is NO currently exploited solution for all the waste. No real breeder, no repository, nothing. This is Huge Establishment mismanagement at its best.

> The integral molten salt reactor has these advantages and > should be comercialy available wothin 10 years.

Molten-salt reactor R&D started in the 1960's, and stopped 30 years later. AFAIK with some complication and no industrial application(?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment...

I'm sorry to repeat myself, but there is no present and current solution.

Promises are fun, and the nuke sector is prone to them, see the waste management farce resumed above. See also the nuclear fusion joke, periodically presented as the ultimate solution nearly every year... since 1940... and counting (mainly taxpayer's money for costly research).

> I don't buy that waste is a serious problem

Central administrations (in France, the US...) consider them to be a problem, even if most of them are pro-nuke. There must be something here.

A tiny amount of hot waste reaching a phreatic zone, for example, is a very, very serious concern.

> If your only point of comparison is 60 year old computers > you might argue that computers will never be economical to use.

The quest for perfectly sure nuke plant, and for a sure way to manage waste (especially hot) started at the very least 50 years ago.

> The waste disposal problem has been solved at the Onkalo Nuclear Waste Repository in Finland.

It is "the first such repository in the world for high level waste, and currently under construction". It may start in 2023. This means that it is the most advanced project (it began in 1983, building began in 2004), but not yet in operation, and already under scientific criticism (copper capsules corrosion).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onkalo_spent_nuclear_fuel_repo...

Concise version: nuke plants are vomiting hot stuff for decades and a potential and very local solution (AFAIK it is not intended to store US, French or other waste) may start in 4 years.

Who thinks that this is adequately managed?

> Fukushima killed up to 1 person from radiation.

This is some official thesis, there huge scandals tied to many official theories about this disaster, and also much more stern counter-theories.

AFAIK nobody knows for sure because the amount of dead/sick persons or animals, and various cleanup costs, may only be known when the last contaminated particle which escaped will be inert. No expert judges that we can neglect those particles, therefore they probably aren't innocuous and huge efforts are made trying to clean up

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_disaster_cleanup

Many are now in the ocean. Some of it inducing solid cancers, which develops after 10+ years.

> Meanwhile fossil is killing 4.3 million people per year via air pollution.

Indeed, however tt doesn't imply nuke plants are a necessity, we have ways (solar, wind...), we may save energy, research to be able to obtain better ways to store it... Nuke distracts resources from those less dangerous and more realistic approaches which, moreover, are progressing impressively (efficiency up, total cost down, more and more effective deployments...)

> Small reactors have less radioactive source in them and are proportionally less radiologically impactful than larger higher power reactors in the event of military/terrorist attack.

Most of the existing ones use highly enriched uranium, and such material falling in the wrong hands will have effects quickly leading you to radically change your mind about this.

> Wind and solar are doing amazing. ((...)) require massive energy investment in"non-productive" equipment like batteries

Indeed, and this is a reason to invest into R&D on energy-saving, efficiency, energy storage... instead of pouring even more billions into already-explored dead-ends.


Anti-nuclear messaging has traditionally said that nuclear waste problem is unsolvable and then stonewalled potential solutions. In this case, the Finns are operating test drills as we speak [1].

The number of people who have been injured or killed by stored commercial nuclear waste is very near zero, and we know how to store it safely in the long term. Again, meanwhile 84% of our energy generation kills 4.3 million people per year. The nuclear waste issue is no longer a good reason to oppose nuclear energy. Nuclear is unique in its ability to fully contain and store all of its waste in the long term. This is thanks to E=MC2 where the mass of the hazardous waste is extraordinarily small compared to other energy system waste.

There are counter-theories to death counts in Chernobyl and Fukushima. But there is a UN/WHO group of true experts who are the authorities on these items. Think of them like the IPCC for climate change, but for radiation. It's called UNSCEAR, and they are clear in their analysis. Up to 4000 dead at Chernobyl, up to 1 dead at Fukushima. There's always wild counter-theories in these big science questions: just like some people claim millions died at Chernobyl (looking at Greenpeace), some claim that climate change doesn't exist.

[1] http://www.posiva.fi/en/media/image_gallery?gfid_2061=94#gal...

I think you're replying to multiple people above as I only said half of that stuff.


A drill in a new not-yet-started local and small solution is not a running global solution.

When all waste will be inert we may evaluate the sanitary consequences. Meanwhile the dangerous hot waste may or may not harm.

Well-known scientists who worked in situ have a somewhat different opinion about the consequences: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl:_Consequences_of_the...

UN agencies aren't BS and lies-free.


It has started. They are doing actual tests of waste packages in actual final disposition tunnels. See the photo gallery.

> When all waste will be inert we may evaluate the sanitary consequences. Meanwhile the dangerous hot waste may or may not harm.

I don't understand how you can justify this statement. Again, commercial nuclear waste in dry casks has never hurt anyone and probably never will, yet nuclear power has produced ~5% of the world's energy over the past several decades, and it does so without emitting carbon dioxide, and it does so 24/7, and it does so with very little raw material and land impact. Meanwhile, fossil actually kills 4.3 million people every single year. How can you justify a nearly fantastical fear of nuclear waste future harm while 4.3 million people are dying every year from air pollution from the alternative? This is like Germany, who phased out nuclear plants while keeping brown coal plants on, thereby choosing literally to kill about 1000 extra people per year because of their fear of radiation. This feels wild to me, and borderline inhumane given the statistics.


The Chernobyl plant, according to officials speaking before the disaster, also was so sure that it could be built on the Red Square. Those savants were nowhere to be found during the disaster.

You play the usual card of nuke proponent, which is to describe things just as if not emitting carbon during energy production implies nukes. This is not true. Many renewables, mainly wind and solar, are pertinent. This is absolutely not a "coal or nuke, there is no other option" challenge.

Nuke proponents also tend to imply that a 100% nuke-generated gridpower will solve the carbon problem. This is not realistic, as gridpower-related CO2 emission are at max 25%, and more realistically about 17%, of the total emissions.

France gridpower production is way more decarbonized than Germany's, Germany is a more heavy player on many fuel-consuming industries (chemical, mechanics, material...), Germany climate implies more heating and France is the leader when it comes to electric heating systems... therefore one may think that Germany's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are way, way superior to France's.

They aren't!

For 2018: France 5, Germany 9.6

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...


I like anecdotes. I like data better. Nuclear is a very safe energy source compared to the majority of what powers the world, period. Wind and solar are also extremely safe.

Wind is very low carbon, about 11 gCO2-eq/kWh. Solar PV is a bit higher, around 40. Hydro varies dramatically from excellent to terrible based on biogenic methane emissions (region dependent). Fracked natural gas is abhorrent with >400 gCO2/kWh, and even worse (in some cases worse than coal) when the short term warming effects of methane are factored in. Nuclear clocks in at 12, beat out only by wind. These are the IPCC full lifecycle numbers, of course.

Here's another good (and live) view of worldwide carbon emissions, in CO2-eq/kWh generated [1]. You'll note that a lot of very low carbon countries are very high in nuclear.

I am a pragmatist. I see a climate challenge and I want all low-carbon energy sources. Everyone cheers for wind and solar, including me. They're doing phenomenally. We need 10x or more of them. No one disagrees with this. Nuclear is far more controversial, and is the topic at hand in this subthread. Don't tell me I'm anti wind and solar just because I point out challenges with them. All energy sources have challenges. I just refuse to tie my hands and not support nuclear because of irrational and unscientific fear. I want all low-carbon hands on deck. It's much more interesting for me to explain the basis behind why nuclear is actually less dangerous and scary than the vast majority of people think than it is for me to say we need more wind and solar.

Regarding electricity's share of total emissions, the only non-combustion solution that I'm aware of for transportation (40% of emissions) is electrification. As buses, cars, trains, and even short-run airplanes electrify, we can decarbonize the transportation sector by using decarbonized electricity. Hydrogen is another option, and nuclear reactors are one of the most excellent ways to make hydrogen without lots of carbon emission. As for process heat, it's difficult for anything to reach fossil-fuel temperatures, but there are lots of interesting efforts with hydrogen blast furnaces and electric arc furnaces that may get us there. Electrification as a means to reduce total emissions is a need shared by all low-carbon energy sources that I'm aware of, including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear. Advanced nuclear and solar thermal are unique in their abilities to reach process heat temperatures.

My goal and value system is all about decarbonizing the world effectively and justly. I want to base my decisions on data and rationale. I'm looking for people to help in this goal, which I consider noble.

[1] https://www.electricitymap.org/?page=map&solar=false&remote=...


If any of my serious argument is an anecdote just point at it, I will provide a source. I don't think I'm irrational and would be grateful to anyone pointing out some dubtious material of mine given as a solid argument.

The total impact on health (and therefore the real costs) of the nuclear industry will only be known when the last site will be completely decommissioned and the last waste innocuous.

Low carbon countries are high in nuclear because none of them really invested into renewables. Concluding that nuclear must be part of the mix is at best weird. Especially given that there are very few new nuclear powerplants projects, many of them failures (very over-schedule and over-budget), and that the capital intensity induced by a fair proportion of the few new potential projects condemns them, given that the TCO of renewables is quickly getting lower and lower.

The political side is also grim for nuclear plants, probably mainly because of the NIMBY effect. Most ongoing nuclear powerplants building in progress were ordered by nondemocratic countries (France and Finland being among the rare exceptions, however many in France argue that the democratic process ("débat public") is not really applied upon nuclear matters). This may reflect an 'undue failure', i.e. public opinion may be wrong about this and maybe should forget about NIMBY, however this is at least a failure to communicate as in many countries the official lenient message isn't in favor, and many people just don't want any nuke powerplant. This is not absurd, as the "everything is under control, the risk is infinitesimal" message is seriously shattered by disasters.

As for transport electrification and fuel cells are indeed potential solutions, however even more remote in time than an infrastructure-oriented approach. Generalizing new types of powerplants nationwide cannot be done quickly, costs large amounts of money, and implies trade-offs (see Germany at work, and this nation was lucky because the decision to effectively switch wasn't totally out of the scheduled cycle of nuclear powerplants decomissions, reducing the losses). Modifying the energy architecture underlying a significant proportion of transport means is an even (much) more difficult target.

I hope that thermal solar can be sufficient to provide to fuel cell (no nuclear powerplants necessary), and see no sign of being wrong.


> I don't think I'm irrational and would be grateful to anyone pointing out some [dubious] material of mine given as a solid argument.

> The total impact on health (and therefore the real costs) of the nuclear industry will only be known when the last site will be completely decommissioned and the last waste innocuous.

Allow me to point out that this argument can be defeated easily with a relatively simple thought experiment. Your claim is that the impact of a health hazard cannot be assessed until the health hazard itself has spontaneously become innocuous. Radiological hazards are fairly unique in their characteristic of becoming innocuous with time. Compared to analogous hazardous materials, say for example, mercury. Mercury is a well-known neurotoxin. It was always a neurotoxin and it always will be. This was used in household thermometers for decades until too many kids broke them and became injured. So we banned them, moved the hazard out of ready access, and now fewer people get mercury poison. Clearly, we can make this assessment even though the mercury still exists somewhere, and is still a neurotoxin.

Et voila, this impossible goalpost you have set up crumbles by reductio ad absurdum.

Nuclear waste is a hazardous material. When it is moved out of reach, we can assess the health hazard. We have done this over the past 60 years of nuclear operation and the numbers are in. Here they are: https://ourworldindata.org/what-is-the-safest-form-of-energy (yes this doesn't list wind and solar. Yes wind and solar are extremely safe too. That's why we need more wind, solar, and nuclear).

It saddens me when people eschew considering the expansion of our natural nuclear resources of Earth in order to save human civilization from climate change. But that is a choice they are free to make.

You mention Germany again. Recall that Germany quite literally and unambiguously chose to kill about 1000 extra people per year with air pollution from brown coal rather than continue to operate their high-quality nuclear assets. This appears very difficult to defend. How can one defend this seemingly inhumane choice? Was it thought that continuing the nuclear plants would possibly kill more than 1000/year? In this case it very literally is a choice between brown coal and nuclear. Germany chose coal. I find this shameful.


After a nuke disaster collecting all wandering dangerous material is 'difficult', to say the least. Much more difficult than recalling thermometers! And there is no way to ''ban' them in order to see them gently come back in some cask. See the Cherno and Fuku cases.

After such a disaster some wandering radionucleides induce solid cancers developing in the 10 to 15 years afterwards. A silent and stealth killer, nothing fun.

Hot nuclear waste is the most hazardous material as it is dangerous by contact, if inhaled, and also kills at a distance, in most cases without any warning. Moreover some of it remain dangerous for 10s of thousand years.

Germany is in a transition, it is trying to quit what seems to them a bad habit (nuclear), and this is never easy nor free. On the political side of things maintaining nuclear plants in activity against citizens will is dangerous, especially if some boo-boo happens (which becomes more probable as those powerplants age up).


Superphenix is only a failure because of the socialist pact with the ecologist to gain a few votes asked them to close it. It would have solved all waste and supply issues.


It was a research project.

Nope, it became one when it was clear that too many incidents were impeding industrial production.

The WP article states it clearly: it "was a nuclear power station prototype", it means that there was hope to decline it, not that it was a lab. It was a "1,242 MWe" reactor, which sort of lab uses such a monster?

It was meant to be "an economical generator of power on its own."

As for its success: "Construction began in 1974 but suffered from a series of cost overruns, delays and enormous public protests.", and it "demonstrated very poor reliability and had a historical capacity factor of less than 7%." (after being connected to the grid for 20+ years).

The nuke industry claims that it was dumped for political reasons, completely ignoring its industrial and technical failures.


A recator that can be passively cooled and operates at atmosphere pressure will not have the problems of these big reactors. A small design that can be produced in a factory will make the cost reasonable and preictable.

The integral molten salt reactor has these advantages and should be comercialy available wothin 10 years.


These things usually take way longer than 10 years. There are MSR projects (not your proposed small variant) happening since the sixties. China startet multiple new projects about 10 years ago and currently estimating it will take at least another 10 years. The EU suspects it will take 30 years from now.

https://www.thmsr.com/en/challenges/


I don't think it is unreasonable, they already passed some regulatory steps and want to build a fairly simple reactor.

Waste disposal has been solved, which doesn't mean new processes and locations aren't being developes. See Urenco. Finland and the US refuse to recycle, which makes their need for very special storage even greater. But France and most of Europe use Urenco.

> [citation needed]

You don't need a citation for a personal doubt, wtf. Maybe someone will do it. Maybe they won't. But a person is reasonably able to doubt something when there's no evidence one way or another. Nobody's done this before.

Adding emphasis to the "no evidence" part, because apparently that's not evident enough.


If I personally doubt something objective I can suddenly claim whatever I want about it??

You personally may have no idea what these things might cost but the people designing them certainly do. Moreover such baseless skepticism is extremely harmful to the 'public dialogue' when we are in the midst of a climate emergency.

What does it bring to the conversation to say something baseless like that?


It's ok to say that you don't really know for a fact and that you are just making assumptions. It doesn't mean you are wrong. It just means that you don't have anything backing your opinion.

The claims that nuclear has been "misregulated into a pulp" and that new designs can be economically developed which are much better than 20 and 30 year old designs, are also evidence free opinions.

Nuclear currently has a huge range of issues that’s outside of reactor design. Even assuming a 50% cost reduction seems viable, it’s still expensive.

Permit’s and regulation are real and significant costs. In an ideal world they would be lower, but realistically you need to consider them

Next, load following is critical as renewable energy regulatory reduces the spot price of electricity near zero. Breakeven right now is an average around 12c/kWh 24/7 if you’re capacity factor is cut in half then you need to be selling near 24c/kWh for that half. This is more or less still true even if you get to run 24/7 as the value of energy produced still drops. A ~50% price drop clearly helps, but the core issue remains.

As to the design, it’s inherently more complex than a gas turbine due to the need for shielding etc. Next, the fuel assembly is surprisingly expensive $1390 per kg up front which provides about 40kw for a year or 0.4c/kWh. And then you need to deal with 1kg of high level Nuclear Waste. Eventually you need to decommission things and that’s even more inherent costs.

Sure, some costs can come down like the current 500 to 1,000 workers per GW of capacity. But, Nuclear is already reviving subsidies in the west so it needs to be vastly less expensive to become viable.

PS: Yes compared to coal fuel is cheap, but compared to 2c/kWh solar that’s eating up significant budget for something considered cheap in the Nuclear world.


Gas turbines are indeed simple. And fracked gas is amazingly cheap and plentiful. The problem there is that it's exceedingly high carbon. If you factor in methane leakage at the wells and in the pipes it approaches and even exceeds coal carbon emissions. We must stop locking in fracked gas turbines if we are to avoid climate change issues.

Nuclear companies are trying to deal with load following by coupling to energy storage systems like thermal storage (molten salts), pumped hydro, and batteries. In an increasingly variable-renewable world, more energy storage is required. The nukes can be used to charge batteries in the daytime while the solar PV runs the grid, and then for the evening peak while solar ramps down, the nukes and batteries carry the evening, and then the nukes do the baseload at night.

The one thing that nuclear reactors can do that no other energy source can do is provide hugely-deployable 24/7 low-carbon energy for over a year (e.g. through the seasons). Hydro can do it in some places but it's mostly maxed out in the proper geography.

Finally, EROI on wind/solar with massive battery systems gets dangerously low.


Wind and solar charge batteries/pumped hydro at vastly lower prices. If you take 2c/kWh solar add 50% oversupply to cover seasonal issues you’re at 3c/kWh.

Thus it’s really storage that Nuclear needs to compete with not generation. Further, as nuclear takes years to build it’s competing with future battery prices 5-55 years from now. Using conservative total system costs of say 200$ per kWh of storage every day for 10 years (200/10/365) ~= 5.5c/kWh. So, Nuclear needs to compete with load following at (3+5.5) = 8.5c/kWh for part of the day or mass generation at 3c/kWh. Assuming it’s ~50/50 of each your 24/7 Nuclear is facing 6c/kWh average electricity prices.

Also, EROI can’t actually get low when you’re talking electricity at those prices.

PS: My comparison to turbines was simply a minimal calculation of capital costs. It’s an argument that any design will have higher capital costs and thus you can safely use that as your theoretical perfect design’s capital cost. Then add other costs on top of that to try and find Nuclear’s minimum theoretical cost.


As wind/solar scales, it's likely to get more regulation. There will be fires in battery facilities. People in San Bernardino county will put a moratorium on large solar installations in the desert due to dust storms, etc. This kind of thing always happens, and with wind/solar it will be because they take up so much land and raw materials. Nuclear was once a wonder energy source (in 1958), but as it scaled it ran into troubles. There is some probability that this will happen to wind/solar too. This will slow them down (due to permitting) and increase costs. Intermittency is their boogeyman. When you have enough solar to power everything at noon in the summer, each additional panel becomes a little more expensive than the last.

EROI is just energy system output/manufacturing energy in. How is that a function of price?


Solar’s energy density is surprisingly high. To average 1GW of solar at 30% capacity factor = 3.4GW @ 220w/m^2 = 0.076% of San Bernardino county. Put all of the states electricity generation as solar in that one county and your at ~2% land area. Even that’s not going to have any effect on dust storms.

EROI is a function of price in that you need to pay for more than just energy when building something, interest payments for example. If your infrastructure costs X$ to build it must use far less than X$ worth of energy. And, if you’re building the cheapest energy source possible it must therefore have a high EROI.


https://www.sbsun.com/2019/02/28/san-bernardino-county-board...

> And, if you’re building the cheapest energy source possible it must therefore have a high EROI.

That's only true to the degree that the energy cost of building an energy system is directly proportional to the dollar cost, which is often very not true.


It’s got nothing to do with dust storms: https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-san-bernardino-solar-...

This is simply pure NIMBI issue which also hits nuclear power.

“That's only true to the degree that the energy cost of building an energy system is directly proportional to the dollar cost, which is often very not true.”

This is an economic argument if X$ buys you K energy from the cheapest energy source it buys some number less than K from more expensive energy sources. Thus the least expensive energy source must have positive EROI. As solar is capital intensive interest payments representing zero energy are a significant cost, which pushes up the minimum possible EROI.


> It’s got nothing to do with dust storms

From your link:

"They came from high desert communities such as Daggett, Joshua Tree and Lucerne Valley, where existing solar projects are seen by many as eyesores that destroy desert ecosystems and fuel larger dust storms."


Yes, note the “seen by many“ which is used because there is zero truth in the statement.

You're saying there are no dust storms. I'm saying the people whining about things like dust storms put in place a ban. We could easily both be 100% right.

Ahh, ok my mistake.

People responded to the request for citation already, but Google ROI will get you a lot of sources. Wind is in fact one of (often the) cheapest options, so the OP was wrong. To add to your point of "we just need more research to make nuclear viable", nuclear has been the most subsidised (also in research funding) energy source, it has not gotten us there over the last 60 years. And regarding adding the cost of battery, this is the baseload myth, actually nuclear power plans are much worse than wind power. Having power plants that don't easily adjust to load is worse for a network than ones that change. There is actually research that shows if your network is large and modern enough (the wind always blows somewhere) you could work with only wind or solar. You could not if you only have nuclear power plants. You then need adjustable loads (Belgium does illuminate all there highways for this reason) .

You are really asking for a citation of my opinion?

Besides, did you get to the next phrase? Nuclear won't beat the research investment on renewables on the next decades, because our society is starting to organize around the later. Your handful of institutions will not be able to produce more than literally everybody else.

As much as small reactors can improve, renewables will improve faster, and the floor for solar costs is very, very low.


I agree with your points, but I just want to be a pedant and say that the expression is 'Don't look a gift horse in the mouth'

Oops. Well you probably don't want to kick it either.

I think you under-estimate the amount of CO2 produced by a NG plant simply because its 2x-4x less than coal.

Put another way, adding 60% renewable to NG only 1/2's the CO2 output. At the rate of consumption growth your still increasing the total C02 footprint year over year. Plus, that solution is literally 2x-3x the CO2 footprint vs the french solution put in place 40 years ago.

Explained another way, going to renewable+NG only buys you about a decade in CO2 emission reduction. If everyone magically fit that formula today, it would be the equivalent of 2009, a far cry from where we need to be. Worse, you still have the problem that you need to convert all the automobile/planes/tractors/etc somehow. Without super cheap electricity that process is going to be much slower than it needs to be. What you need is electricity so cheap that it can compensate for the inefficiencies producing hydro-carbon sources for planes and other applications where the battery technology isn't even possible with infinite economic solutions. The _ONLY_ solution we have today is fission and a reduction in the build price forced in place by COTs and precerification.


> will get the costs down enough to make them viable, wind and solar are power horses.

Except in areas where you don't have much sunlight or much wind exposure, and both of these sources of energies require huge land occupation which is not ideal either. Energy-density wise you can't really beat nuclear.


In what sense are they power horses? Under ideal conditions maybe, so for geographically small countries that's nice. For larger regions like the US most of our improvement in terms of emissions has been driven by a mix of increased efficiency within specific consumption types (such as cars) and a shift from coal to natural gas which ultimately is also a matter of co2 efficiency.

The problem your comment doesn't mention is that new build nuclear is VERY expensive, far more expensive than renewables. Until new-build nuclear is MUCH cheaper, natural gas and renewables will be the vast majority of new capacity additions. All one need do is look at the debacle in South Carolina to see how expensive nuclear can truly be:

https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/nuclear/abandone...


Non-hydro renewables overtook hydro a couple of years ago in the US, and are on track to overtake nuclear, too, in a couple more years.

https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/images/Fig34.png


> But it got canceled, and for the life of me I can't understand why anyone thinks its better to truck in heavy fuel oil for generators vs having a small reactor buried in the ground for 30 years.

I don't understand it either. My best guess is that nuclear is scary, and most "green energy" advocates would prefer to believe that panacea eco-friendly alternatives exist.

I live in northern Canada. I've witnessed a plenty of FUD surrounding nuclear, and the concomitant excessive unrealistic optimism around wind and solar. Every year the power outages become a little more frequent, and every other year brings some new story of power projects cancelled due to "environmental concerns" and "lack of consultation".

So many people seem convinced that the lack of wind and solar projects is strictly due to government bungling or never-specified interference from oil-industry incumbents. Green gets used as a kind of security blanket. You can't escape the fact that you have a carbon footprint running a car and heating your home and workplace through six months of winter. Many green energy advocates are less than serious, and are just looking to feel better. They're content to believe that someone, somewhere, is doing something. Preferably without having to think too hard or entertain compromise positions.


"... better to truck in heavy fuel oil..."

Your answer right there. The nuclear power industry just doesn't lobby hard enough.


Everyone was saying "yes" to fission 40 years ago. It was not until Chernobyl that global backlash against nuclear really started.

The pace wasn't however particularly impressive back then already as technology, safety and waste management limitations became clear.


Every technology has pros & cons, effects & residues.

Coal : Effect/Pros - Energy/Cheap. Residue/Cons - C02/GlobalWarming

Nuclear : Effect/Pros - Energy/Clean. Residue/Cons - RadioactiveWaste/Contamination.

Where do the nuclear byproducts go currently ? Into the earth? Rivers? Oceans?

30 years ago, we switched from paper based products to plastic, to save trees. Today, we want to switch from plastic based products to paper, to avoid pollution.

Every 'switch' will come with side-effects that the current generation is fine with, because they're not going to be ones dealing with it.


It all depends on how much they end up costing to build compared to alternatives.

A huge part of that is all the lawsuits and "regulations" designed to keep new plants from being built. Regulations pushed for by the green energy constituency...

I'm all for safety but if you read some of the regulation stories we would be banning CT scanners from hospitals..


Fukushima was a good reminder that these “regulations” exist for good reason.

I highly doubt the regulations the GP is referencing would have anything to do with preventing an accident like Fukushima.

Regulations are not inherently bad, but they can be used in negative ways by those in power.

The devil is in the details, and we'll written and though out regulations are a great thing and are absolutely necessary for society to function. It's easy for the public to lose track and conflate good regulations with regulations that are poorly written, have intentional loopholes, or are mean to stifle an industry or technology by protecting the entrenched players.


> Fukushima was a good reminder that these “regulations” exist for good reason.

As if the Japanese nuclear market was deregulated? Japan is a developed country that loves bureaucracy so don't be afraid, there is plenty of regulation in every sector here.


And Fukushima was built to the requirements of 1970's, not those of today (which are much stronger).

Yes - and I think it's precisely that increase in regulations that the poster which they were replying to was complaining about, given that the 1970s were the last time nuclear seemed affordable enough to build. I've even seen the odd nuclear proponent on here outright advocating that we return to 1970s-era nuclear regulations.

For climate and environment, event that would be better than not building nuclear. But we don't need to do it so.

The plant was active and very well-maintained, and its operator even planned to extend it (2 more reactors). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Powe...

That’s what scares me. As far as I know Japan is pretty good at running infrastructure. If even they can’t get it right what will happen if we push nuclear as solution to climate change and less well run countries get a lot of nuclear plants? It’s pretty much guaranteed that some will blow up.

Exactly. The official explanation after Chernobyl was in substance "the powerplant was of a dubtious design and the operators were dumb and not disciplined". Fukushima is designed by Western corps (GE), built by US and Japanese serious megacorps, and operated by Japanese knowledgeable, very disciplined and service-oriented (rather than vodka-oriented) people.

Yes, but the original location of site would not be approved today, precisely because of the risk that actualised in the tsunami (even though it is an extremely rare an unlikely occurrence - a tsunami which caused large-scale devastation where the nuclear plant's problems were just a minor issue compared to the huge loss of life and material damage from tsunami itself).

Indeed, however it doesn't change much the logical conclusion drawn by many: the risk is not adequately managed, not sufficiently "under control", there are configurations leading to a disaster (dangerous material escaping, especially on a large scale). Even if such disasters are relatively rare (given the reactor.year activity), they periodically happen and many think that any new one may be even more catastrophic. Add to this that many, in the public, now know that not a single insurer or re-insurer accepts to cover nuclear risk.

As for the impact on health we will only be able to assess it when the last dangerous waste dispersed by the Fukushima disaster will be innocuous, the last induced-cancer known...


Radiation hazards are very real, as we saw graphically with Chernobyl. With Fukushima, we see that they're still real, but we realize we're doing a lot better. Fukushima accident is now estimated to cause up to 1 long-term death from radiation. Chernobyl killed ~70 first responders acutely and up to 4000 long-term.

For comparison with other energy sources, Banqiao dam failure killed 100,000 [1] and fossil fuels (84% of the world's total energy) kill about 4.3 million people every single year [2]. This is why hydro and fossil emissions are regulated too. The regulations are necessary and useful. The Clean Air Act of 1970 has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and counting (from fossil air pollution deaths).

Just looking at numbers, we find that nuclear is ridiculously safe. The perception is way different though.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam#1975_Banqiao_Dam_f...

[2] https://www.who.int/airpollution/en/


There are many estimations of the effects of nuclear disasters, covering a very wide spectrum.

This one, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl:_Consequences_of_the...

The social/economic plane is known:

According to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union spent ((...)) $35.7 billion in today's dollars) on containment and decontamination, virtually bankrupting itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Social_econ...


The number of deaths is clearly in nuclear energy' favor. But Chernobyl's area is now inhabitable for thousands of years, isn't it? If that is true, having large areas of earth uninhabitable for 1000s (or much more) years sounds to me like the ultimate disaster. I just wish I am wrong.

Chernobyl has 30km exclusion zone. Even if we mismanaged the reactor issues as badly again, we wouldn't be able to cover "large areas of Earth".

> Even if we mismanaged the reactor issues as badly again, we wouldn't be able to cover "large areas of Earth".

Chernobyl disaster was detected when a radioactive detector suddenly got ballistic in a restroom at 150 Km of Stockholm. This happened in the first 24 hours of an event triggered 1260 Km far away. Is the same distance than lies between Warsaw and Brussels and this is just the radius in a circunference dictated by chance by the dominant winds. Germany has still some parts closed to boar hunting by it.

It can cover large areas of Earth, and will do it really fast.


Your wish can come true. As our understanding of low-dose radiation improves, we can see that the prudent thing to do in most reactor accidents is to evacuate the area for a while (mostly to let the iodine decay) but then let people come back based on their risk tolerance. For instance, if a model tells you you may lose 10 days of life from living in a low-dose radiation field but you drive a motorcycle or eat red meat, you may be willing to move home.

Take a look at what it's like in the Chernobyl exclusion zone today: https://thoughtscapism.com/2019/05/08/what-about-radioactive...


Chernobyl's exclusion area has turned into a natural paradise in 30 years. It turns out that humans are more harmful to wildlife than radiation.

I'm with you 100%. One thing that people don't realize is that nuclear technology is the only fuel technology that has nuclear regulations. If coal has a little radioactivity in it, there's no limit to what radiation can be exposed to the atmosphere in burning it. I believe the same applies to oil, gasoline, and diesel.

The most extreme-left political advocates, who dominate green advocacy because of their high motivation, aren't interested in solving climate change alone. What they want is to dismantle what they see as an entire system of racist sexist capitalist corporate transphobic colonialist evil.

Nuclear power, if it was used and solved climate change, wouldn't help with the other aspects of that goal. And, in fact, it would weaken the attempts to dismantle those aspects by taking away a strong source of panic and power.

The strategy is to use climate change to spike fear and thus convince people to give up thier political power to multinational undemocratic entities and expanding bureaucracies of advocates and evironmental commissars who they ordinarily would reject.

They don't want to solve the problem, they want to exploit the problem.

Here's an example: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/climate-strikes...

"That action must be powerful and wide-ranging. After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities."


"The most extreme-left" has historically been firmly pro-nuclear. There's a massive schism between the traditional far left, whose ideologies tends to be founded on the basis of a firm belief in the advancement of technology (e.g. half of the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto is praise for the advancement brought by capitalism and what it will make possible), and the groups you describe, that tends to elicit disdain from the far left.

Indeed. I mean, "left" and "right" do an awful lot of work. "Left" simply means anyone who isn't opposed to the current order, or it can mean one of several particular ideologies. "Extreme left" would tend to mean communist.

But green communists are a real thing, so while I would prefer to say "some of the extreme left is anti nuclear" or some such. Or perhaps more relevantly for the OP's point, "many greens".

Because not all greens are left, and not all leftists are green. Indeed, many contemporary Green voters in Australia are positively mainstream in terms of their economics. I think in Germany they can even trend right. And in east Europe, they're outright right.


> A few years ago Toshiba was going to build a small reactor in Alaska.

What an understatement. Let's quote one of the sources there:

> But the project never began the mandatory, lengthy and extremely costly process of gaining approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

> This would include a site license, which takes tens of millions of dollars and several years, as well as a design permit. No design of this type has ever been approved, though one other has made it through the first step of the process, which took about six years.

So they were far away from "going to build" there.

> I've been saying for a few years now that green energy only advocates are basically on the side of coal and natural gas plants

Yeah we heard you. It's a quite popular tactic in this "last scream of nuclear" advertisement. In the same generalistic way the evil green energy only advocates could say that you are an ignorant shill.

There is nobody on the side of coal who wants green energy and natural gas or gas as battery for renewables is not the same thing as coal...

Fission has been in development for many decades. Eating up money and not coming up with a solution. So please...tone it down. Nuclear is expensive, dangerous and most of the countries on this planet have no space or (economic) means to make the waste disappear.


> Fission has been in development for many decades.

You're thinking of fusion.

Reading the comments here from France where 80% production is nuclear with a nuclear waste reprocessing site it feels like the USA problem has more to do with local regulations than technology.


And even they struggle to come up with replacements for their agying fleet of reactors.

Oh yeah France our lovely neighbour with the rotting fleet of "should have been turned off" reactors underreporting accidents and an deficitary agency managing it all while the politicians chuckle it all off due to having slept on the renewable front. Yes, yes. It's great. If you don't blow half of the continent into a radioactive paradies one day, you'll end up being overthrown by some yellow vested nutjobs who will have to pay more taxes because the money for this ridiculously subsided energy project including the waste "management" (hello Russia) has to come from somewhere and decommissioning is not even priced in yet.

PS. Winter is coming. Time to buy some energy from Germany again...


Great news. Especially with the CANDU reactors being decommissioned it’s nice to see that there’s still at least some political push to invest in nuclear, even if I think Doug Ford is a cretin.

Fun fact, my father used to buy drugs in Doug Ford’s house when he was a teenager.


Was Doug Ford the one selling the drugs?

No. My dad’s understanding was that Doug was selling larger quantities to low level dealers who people would buy from. And it was known that if you came over to Dougs house you could meet these low level dealers.

I think it's been well established Doug used to sell weed when he was a teenager.

He still does, but it turns out he's not very good at it. His government's policy on cannabis sales is doing more to bolster the black market than its own revenues. Very suspicious, given his past connections to the black market.

Isn't that the crack smoking mayor of Toronto? Selling weed is almost quaint by comparison.

His late brother.

And (allegedly) crack in recent years.

I would much rather live near a nuclear power plant than a coal plant. I thoroughly support this, and hope they dismantle the big smoke-belching power plant in my city in favor of clean nukes.

My only concern is the scalability of this technology - mciro plants sound fine for powering far off native settlements in the far north. But for providing grid power to the urbanized south of the country, wouldn't it make more sense to build bigger plants in fewer numbers? Chernobyl, for example, was 4 reactors all hooked up to the same electrical generation equipment to save money (high quality turbines are expensive).


Saskatchewan is a little more than 1M with cities smaller that 250k and New Brunswick is even smaller. Northern Ontario is also quite sparse. I think these are pretty good areas for the tech!

And we (SK) have massive high-quality Uranium deposits up north. I haven't gone too deep into the full plans here for these SMRs, but I have high hopes that other parts of the value chain will pop up here. We have a terrible habit in this province of growing/mining/drilling/whatever natural resources and then shipping them away unprocessed. Maybe we'll actually have a reason to start processing the Uranium here beyond just cleaning it up and getting it ready for export.

Support for nuclear power has become my acid-test. If somebody is serious about making urgent and effective change, fission has to be on the table.

Volume is the key to price - we need an internationally-vetted medium-sized design, with a supply chain that can crank out hundreds of complete "just add concrete" systems per year.

As well as improving up-front costs, a ubiquitous design makes training and maintenance easier. This should improve the operation of these systems safer and cheaper.


Ditto. Many people I know are opposed to nuclear power for safety reasons (Chernobyl and Fukushima). But my understanding is that modern designs are an order of magnitude safer.

Support for CO2 taxes is my acid-test. If a nuclear advocate uses a climate argument, but doesn't support a CO2 tax, they're just hopping on a bandwagon hoping for a handout.

BTW, CO2 taxes would have to exceed $300/ton for new nuclear construction in the US to be competitive with natural gas. Do you support that high a CO2 tax?


I'd quibble with the price point - economies of scale can reduce the cost of nuclear pretty dramatically.

That said, I've got no problem with it in principle. Pricing externalities properly seems the simplest way to solve the tragedy of the commons, but it's complicated in this case by the fact that climate is a _global_ commons.

A revenue-neutral carbon tax would make it a more manageable political lift. AFAIK the US is the only country to have "solved" the bigger political problem of long-term nuclear waste storage?


With regards to Ontario, who are part of this announcement, the nuclear plant with the largest operating output is located in the province:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Nuclear_Generating_Stati...

There are a couple that have larger installed capacity, but some of it is shutdown:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_power_stations

Interestingly, Bruce Power has a 'special forces' / SWAT team that seems to fairly well-regarded in skill:

* https://www.brucepower.com/bruce-power-team-wins-u-s-nationa...


Off topic, but does anyone else notice that Lake Huron doesn't seem to exist on the Wikimedia map tiles used for the map in the first link?

Noticed that as well. They're using OpenStreetMap, so it may be a rendered bug (?).

The topic is small modular reactors, which are defined as reactors producing less than 300 MW.

The Voyager RTGs generate "a few hundred watts" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_ge...).

The Virginia class submarines use a GE S9G, which produces 150 MWt. Power output is a mix of electric and shaft torque (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S9G_reactor)

The Los Angeles class submarines use a GE S6G, which produces 165 MWt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S6G_reactor), power output is a mix of electric and shaft torque.

The Ohio class submarine uses an S6G, rated at 220 MWt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S8G_reactor).

The Nimitz class aircraft carrier use two Westinghouse A4Ws, which produce 550 MWt each (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A4W_reactor). Power output is a mix of electric and shaft torque.

Chernobyl had 4 RBMK-1000 reactors which produced 3200 MWt each producing 1000 MWe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBMK)

Hinkley Point B has 2 reactors at 2 x 1494 MWt, 2 x 655 MWe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_B_Nuclear_Power_...)

Fukushima has multiple reactors, mainly four 784 MWe GE BWRs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Powe...).

So, you're looking pretty solidly at things on the scale of a fast attack submarine after shielding, turbine, management and maintenance systems, etc.

These are of course not on Wikipedia's list of SMR designs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_small_modular_reactor_...


Nuclear submarines use highly enriched uranium as a fuel. That's not a practical thing to use in civilian reactors.

US (and British, but they apparently use US tech so it's the same) submarines run on weapons grade uranium. Other nations use less enriched.

France runs on 7%, Russia apparently 30-40% enriched.

But yes, there are certainly other reasons too why submarine reactors wouldn't be a sensible choice for civilian use.


You can still make that size reactor with low-enriched fuel. It just doesn't last 30 years like it does in subs. Instead, it lasts 3-5 years.

That sounds like defeating the selling point of those small reactors? Can it still be cost effective with such short service cycles?

Well, small reactors have never been cost effective. In the 1950s we built lots of small reactors and they were terribly cost ineffective. We scaled up specifically to make them cost effective.

Today pro-small nuclear people are thinking economies of mass production can beat out economies of scale. Having read a lot of the history on this topic I don't think we quite know how to make this happen yet.

What we know works is economies of scale + economies of mass production, like when France decarbonized their entire electric grid by standardizing on large PWRs and building 58 of them in 15 years.


Big civilian reactors refuel every 12-18 months, roughly. No reason why smaller reactors couldn't do the same.

Very long refueling cycles make sense for stuff like remote areas etc., but for "normal" stuff where the thing is connected to a grid with a lot of other generators there's not that much value in it.


I don’t think he means the plant needs to be rebuilt, just that the fuel doesn’t last as long.

Right, but the sales pitch I've seen somewhere (probably here) was pretty much "bury one in your back yard and enjoy free electricity for your community for decades" (two decades, if I remember correctly). This does not fit here, I'm just trying to reconcile.

Thanks for this! I was curious to see how much power different reactors produced vs. our (Saskatchewan) current generation capacity.

https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/mrkt/nrgsstmprfls/sk-en...

That says we're at around 4500MW right now, the majority of it coming from coal and natural gas (16% renewable). With a 300MW capacity per SMR, it wouldn't take too many of these to cover our base load. That page also suggests that we have 890MW worth of hydroelectric capacity, but I suspect that it only works when things are frozen? (I'm not sure why that capacity, which would be 19.6% on its own, isn't counted in the 16% renewable...)


Interesting, wouldn't it make A LOT of sense for the US government, or any government to heavily invest in this space, since it get two flies with one stone (i.e. better energy for land AND sea AND potentially space)?

I wondered about this myself. As another commenter pointed out naval plants use a more enriched uranium which IIRC allows them to run the reactors for 20+ years without needing to refuel.

One other way of thinking about it though is that this is evidence we can have a program to make specialized small modular reactors fairly economically. So we shouldn’t be so skeptical about proposals we do it for civilian use.


> this is evidence we can have a program to make specialized small modular reactors fairly economically.

It is? I would imagine that the advantages of nuclear power for submarines are so great that militaries would gladly pay 100 times more than would be acceptable for civilian power without blinking.

(I do think SMR's are promising for civilian applications, I just don't think that nuclear submarines are a good argument for the potential economic benefits.)


Well I mean, one of the new submarines cost something like $2 billion. The reactor can’t be more than a 20% of the total cost. So no it’s not anything like 100 times more. It’s probably practically economically viable for civilian power as is. It just needs necessary modifications and housing for land based use. And permission to use the higher enrichment uranium. The fact you don’t need to refuel it for 20 years might be a bonus because the military can build them, lock them up, ship them to site, they produce power for 20 years, then they ship them back for refueling or decommissioning.

> Well I mean, one of the new submarines cost something like $2 billion. The reactor can’t be more than a 20% of the total cost.

Wikipedia claims the latest generation US attack submarines come in at $2.8 billion each. If the reactor is 20%, and the entire propulsion system 30% (to make a comparison to a power plant), shaft power is 30 MW, we get $28000/kW. For comparison, civilian nuclear power plant capital cost is around $1500-$6000/kW, depending on where it's built, the cost of capital etc.

So yes, not 100 times more expensive than civilian power, but still way too expensive to be economically viable. (And to be pedantic, I didn't say it was 100 times more expensive either, just that the advantage of nuclear propulsion for submarines are so great that navies are prepared to pay whatever it costs (and cost minimization is certainly not such a high priority for sub reactors as for civilian ones))

> And permission to use the higher enrichment uranium.

No. Just no. Look, I'm a huge proponent of civilian nuclear power, but HEU for civilian use flies in the face of decades of non-proliferation work (see e.g. the US RERTR program which has been running since 1978). And for good reasons too; given access to high grade HEU, even a relatively unsophisticated actor (such as a decently funded terrorist group) could make a gun-type nuclear weapon. In contrast, an implosion device using Pu is significantly more challenging, and is probably out of reach for non-state actors.

In fact, there is pressure to direct the US Navy to switch to LEU (that is, less than 20% enrichment), precisely for non-proliferation reasons. For example, French submarines run on 7% enriched fuel, and they refuel every 10 years. So with 20% fuel, US submarines could probably make do with a single mid-life refueling.

See e.g. http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr15.pdf for a report detailing various efforts to get rid of non-weapon uses of HEU worldwide.


Actually I was spitballing 20% of $2b as an upper bound for the entire plant. Does 30% come from something? For the thought experiment I’ll take 20% of $2.8b though. So $560m.

Not sure how shaft power is what we are considering here as this would be converted to purely electricity generation. These plants are estimated 210MW thermal, say a 35% conversion factor that’s more in the ballpark of 70MW electric. So $560m for 70MWe that doesn’t need refueling for 20 years. So more like $8,000 /KW. For a system that can be largely self contained, shipped to site, and not need refueling for its 20 year life span.

We could replace over 200GW of fossil generation sources in this country with 3000 of these at a price of $1.68t. Amortized over that 20 years fuel life span. That’s crude ballpark $84 billion a year.

US electricity production at the moment (11am EST) is about 490GW. With 99GW coal and 166gW of gas.

So we could effectively turn the country’s electricity system fossil free for a cost of $84 billion per year.

That’s seems dirt cheap. It’s less than this years military budget increase. For that we clean our grid. The more I think about it the more it seems it’s something we could totally do without breaking a sweat if we actually took climate change seriously.


> Does 30% come from something?

No, I just added a bit on top to get an estimate for the entire power conversion system, assuming your estimate of 20% for the nuclear parts were in the right ballpark.

> Not sure how shaft power is what we are considering here as this would be converted to purely electricity generation

The power to turn the prop shaft would roughly be what's available for turning the generator if the thing is used to produce electricity rather than propulsion.

Sure, there's the "hotel load" to run the rest of the sub, but then again a generator isn't 100% efficient either so I think roughly 30 MW electrical output is about right.

Details are classified, but from publicly available sources my understanding is that naval reactors tend to work at lower pressure and temperature than civilian land based PWR's, so efficiency takes a (substantial) hit. So I do think my estimate of 30 MWe is closer to the mark than your 70.

> doesn’t need refueling for 20 years

So it's a life of ship core which is supposedly 33 years. But, that's 33 years of average use. AFAIU subs spend most of their time creeping along pretty slowly in order to stay silent, so on average they'll be using a small fraction of max power. Civilian power reactors otoh want to run at full power as much as possible to amortize capital costs.

Not to mention that HEU just won't fly for civilian use, as I tried to explain my previous message.

As for economics, yes I think that decarbonizing the electric grid with series produced reactors would, in the end, be pretty cheap. France did that some decades ago, for about $1500/kW in today's money. AFAICT that would require the government to handle it (like in France), both to decide on one reactor model (to get on the learning curve by series producing it) and to have access to cheap capital.

If one wanted to do it with SMR's rather than large reactors like France, I suggest e.g. Nuscale would be a better starting point than submarine reactors.


> One other way of thinking about it though is that this is evidence we can have a program to make specialized small modular reactors fairly economically. So we shouldn’t be so skeptical about proposals we do it for civilian use.

In Australia we occasionally have a discussion about our submarines. I think we have the largest and longest range conventionally powered subs. Should we get nukes? The argument against is we have no industry. (Although, I think, ex prime ministers are significantly more likely to argue for nuclear subs than current prime ministers. That means something.)

I guess they both play off each other. Life works best with nuclear subs and nuclear plants, or without either.


One option that was floated (can’t remember by who) is for Australia to lease new Virginia class submarines from the US. This would essentially mean the US would own the lifecycle aspects of the power plant. Don’t know if it’s a good idea or not.

Enlarging the nuclear engineering workforce would have arguably an even greater societal benefit. "Nuclear engineering" sounded pretty cool when I was choosing majors. The residual knowledge of things like linear algebra and material science those engineers take into other endeavors.

Do you know how efficiency and safety scales with power output and size?

If you're building a new power plant why not just install a bunch of A4W reactors that have been well proven instead of designing and building bigger reactors?


> If you're building a new power plant why not just install a bunch of A4W reactors that have been well proven instead of designing and building bigger reactors?

The naval reactors are not built to be refueled, as I understand it.


Might be easier to monitor and control one reactor than many?

Fission reactors (not RTGs) can be much smaller than an SSN. A Los Angeles class is 110m long but the Losharik is 60-70m long. And Status-6/Kanyon supposedly something like 25m by 1.5m, which is enormous for a torpedo but very tiny compared to an SSN.

Wow - you could conceivably use a Nimitz carrier to power a city.

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