>Nuclear power is a clunky technology borne out of a bygone Cold War era. Its best days are over and it cannot form a key
part of sustainable energy policy.
The waste problem in particular I think is overstated, and costs are deliberately presented in a way as to appear expensive - neglecting just how much clean power comes from the "1,000,000 each" dry casks - and it is disingenuous to even by implicitly equate this with environmental pollution because this waste is contained and not released into the atmosphere like other forms of dirty power.
Hit pieces like this are the reason that we are in climate crisis now - when we could have cheaply and sustainably solved energy needs decades ago with nuclear, with some marginal risk to civilizations thousands of years into the future.
Modern reactor technology is the only way we can provide electrical power in the quantity needed to maintain our present industrial base without contributing to climate change, period. Comparative cost doesn't matter as much as the load type and generation profile. Waste storage needed is minimal, and at present waste is stored on site for commercial reactors. There would probably be even less waste with newer designs.
Nuclear proliferation is not a concern with newer designs as well, and has not been for years. Anyone claiming that new power reactors will increase weapons proliferation hasn't been paying attention for decades.
The only question is when the voices of unreasoning fear will finally be quiet enough for rational discussions to take place on next steps. Will it be in time to significantly avert climate change? I'd guess not.
Not to mention the reactors we are looking at now that can re-burn this waste (e.g. TWR).
> and it is disingenuous to even by implicitly equate this with environmental pollution
The radiation damage from coal is, on average, more than that of nuclear power plants for the surrounding area (only doing better briefly after a meltdown). Coal contains thorium and other radioactive elements, which are kicked up into the atmosphere in the ash and land absolutely everywhere.
You simply can't be serious about solving climate change and be anti-nuclear at the same time.
It's not that significant (you won't be able to name a single settlement that's currently "unlivable" without looking it up) and it's shrinking all the time. In fact in the March of this year an entire railway line through this "unlivable" zone will be reopened, completely with all three stations that were in the zone and their surroundings.
They still can't get the stupid things built. It's going to finish somewhere about 200% over budget at $25B for 2000MW and nearly a decade late. Just an absolutely calamity. Over $12k per KW. Natural gas is what, $750/KW? Wind near $1,500? Solar near $2,500? Capacity factor can only buy you so much goodwill when you can build 5x the nameplate capacity in 1/10th the time.
The best thing the nuclear industry could do to save their technology would be to actually build generating plants for anything approaching the cost or schedule that they commit to when contracted.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Chu#U.S._Secretary_of_E...
I'd like to point out as well that the two reasons why nuclear costs so much is the rather grotesque level of government regulation and the lack of production volume caused by aforementioned regulation. It costs a lot of money to build only a few instances of a bespoke design. It costs a lot less per unit to build dozens or hundreds of instances of the same design. And I know you will try to put words in my mouth, so here's a preemptive strike: no, I'm not against government regulation in nuclear. I'd just like to see it brought forward to the realities of the technology we have now rather than what we had 50 years ago.
Point being, if we really did want to solve climate change without shutting down the economy and pushing globalist agenda, nuclear energy would be too cheap to meter by now. The fact that nuclear is not being seriously pursued tells you all you need to know about who's serious about climate change and who sees it only as a means to an end.
I'd like to make a prediction here: in his second term, Trump will push Gen IV nuclear so hard, you wouldn't believe it. It's politically pernicious to push it before re-election, but after, there's no reason not to pursue a tractable, technological avenue towards reducing emissions. Big beautiful coal will die a natural death, and so will (eventually) fracking and natural gas, if this happens.
Another problem about nuclear power is it's hard to find a reliable resource of uranium. There is a finite amount of it that is not as readily accessible or abundant as all the other resources.
Nuclear energy is a pipe dream. Whats the point in even building a cheap reactor (4 million USD) if you need to maintain it and then when demand increases so highly that there isn't enough uranium to go around. What then? Do the people in the north just go cold during the winter? It's no more sustainable than the current system, except there is a definitive projection that it couldn't sustain this population long term.
Green renewable energy is clearly the future, however we will never truly be able to convert to it until we can reliable transfer mechanical energy into things like batteries which can power things for a long time. Even major wind farms in Europe only supplement power usage. They cannot keep up with demand since they can only output what the wind gives.
We're a long ways out from a green revolution. Energy storage, capacity, 1:1 conversion of energy to power, and reliable power all need to happen first.
Please, don't pretend that this rather technical piece has any significant influence compared to the editorial stance of the wall street journal, that actively denied climate change for decades, going at it as late as 2018 [ https://www.sciencealert.com/major-news-outlets-wall-street-... ].
The fact of the matter is that cheap oil and extensive lobbying by the fossil fuel industry is by far the major cause of the current climate crisis, and stationary nuclear power plants would not have significantly contributed to a reduction in emissions. Similarly, the economics of naval nuclear power were disproven by at least one attempt at running a commercial vessel on nuclear power. There are uses for nuclear powered civilian vessels (ice breakers, supply ships operating in sensitive environments) just not in the merchant fleet.
The US ship “Savannah” was an economic failure for many reasons, the apologists will claim it was because Savannah was a breakbulk ship built just before the market moved to container ships, but it was also just expensive to build and operate. Savannah was designed as a PR piece, not a serious commercial operation.
If we want to encourage a nuclear merchant fleet we need to put a price on carbon (and other air) pollution so that bunker oil is no longer commercially viable.
Pro nuclear is "We want a well diversified energy production that matches the needs of areas where power is demanded in a economically and ecologically efficient manner."
For example: I am 100% all in favor of southern California (and really the southwest) running off of 100% renewables, predominantly solar and wind. I don't see an issue with that. You don't need much storage. Alternatively, I don't see that working well in the northeast or PNW. Just like building nuclear reactors has environmental impacts, there are environmental impacts to the land usage of wind, solar, hydro (this is more obvious), geo, and the respective storage systems. What to use for the specific area is not an easy calculation.
All I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't take a technology off the table before we've considered it's uses.
Exploration for uranium has been rather limited through history - more importantly, the question of reserves cannot be answered without considering price point. Just like petroleum, at $100/barrel there are far more economically recoverable reserves than $50/barrel, and uranium is currently so cheap in terms of MW/kg that fuel costs are orders of magnitude lower than building and even just operating costs for a plant, such that you can easily double or triple the current price of uranium without impacting generation costs.
Moreover, focusing on uranium only is [deliberately?] myopic, as it ignores proven breeder reactor technology as well as alternative sources like Thorium which is far more abundant, requires minimal refinement (and iirc no enrichment) and carries additional benefits including no risk of proliferation.
A few key things just seem to consistently get overlooked in the pro-nuclear arguments - cost of capital probably being the one I understand best personally, but I suspect there are others that have a similar impact - and because this faction has so much invested in being right, they spend more time attacking people pointing out weaknesses in their argument than reflecting on whether they might have a point.
"The German Atom Forum, comprised of all German nuclear power plant operators, intends to pay as little as possible for storage and rejected shouldering costs for the new site search. In their opinion´”there is no legal basis" for them to pay and all costs should be "financed by taxpayers."
Also, how long did it take to clean up after Three Mile Island?
(hint: the cost was estimated at $1b)
Yes, Nuclear power plants for commercial power generation are done for and rightfully so.
Too dangerous, too expensive. Not only building them but de-constructing them and dealing with the waste.
The German government had told them that they need to shut down their plants by 2022. It's not really surprising that they are unwilling to pay for forcibly closing their business.
>Also, how long did it take to clean up after Three Mile Island? (hint: the cost was estimated at $1b)
Why does it matter how long the cleanup took? How many dollars of energy did the other reactor generate over that time.
Imagine we would have used that $1b for renewables? Any idea how much power THAT would have generated?
It's interesting how the mind of nuclear power proponents work:
Unwilling to see the larger picture, denying of basic facts (like a failure rate of 1%, brilliant) or the enormous costs being handed to tax payers (on top of their electricity bill).
And down-voting facts they don't like.
No, mostly that blindly mentioning numbers is meaningless, particularly as a "hint" for how long cleanup took.
>Unwilling to see the larger picture, denying of basic facts (like a failure rate of 1%, brilliant) or the enormous costs being handed to tax payers (on top of their electricity bill).
There's no consensus on what the "big picture" is, there is a crisis right now and the best way to solve it may not be your ideal solution.
I would need to be presented with basic facts to be able to deny them, random numbers or statistics with no context aren't facts. The government can pay enormous costs, I generally view that appeal as a scare tactic.
Nobody ever said it had to be commercial.
I'm aware Nuclear competes with industries that have negative externalities which aren't priced in - to my mind, the proper solution is to tax the negative externalities and not subsidize any particular technology. Subsidizing industries requires hitting a moving target, and government simply doesn't move at a pace where it can reliably add value in that space.
2. Nuclear, even state of the art tech, is not cost competitive against renewables or natural gas .
3. The time to build generators is measured in decades, not months of years. Investors don't want to invest without sovereign guarantees, both on the bonds and the facility itself. An enormous amount of investment is pouring into renewables.
It is a fine technology for your military navy, but a terrible technology for commercial electrical generation. Wind, solar, and storage are going to carry us to 100% renewables at this point. China installed almost 12GW of solar PV generating capacity in December 2019 alone .
1. Nevada has a operational storage facility that has space to hold ALL of the waste for the entire United States. It has been rated as stable by geologists for at least the next 700,000 years. Nuclear reactors produce 1 barrel of waste per year. That is an easily manageable quantity.
The reason they are not holding more is purely fearmongering polits, it's neither a scientific nor an engineering problem.
2. Nuclear power is not cost competitive because outdated and overzealous regulations and litigious environmental organizations. China, for example, is building 24 state of the art reactors, at a fraction of the cost that western countries are building them - for the exact same internationally approved design. Reactor construction is regularly delayed by local political litigation.
This is like pushing someone off of a cliff and then accusing them of being clumsy.
3. I'm not sure what you are comparing to in this point. There is currently NO renewable power plant capable of producing baseload in the quantities we need to avert climate change.
If we spent the next 2-3 decades averting climate change by building nuclear power plants, we would be smart. There are currently ZERO renewable projects for building baseload.
EDIT: You added some points about renewables storage - the costs of running a grid on 100% renewables with 100% storage capability far far exceed the costs of nuclear power. When you factor things like transmission losses of 35-45%, January solar production at 10% June levels, the intermittent nature of wind power, and the critical requirement that baseload be met 99.95% of the time - you quickly realize that there are absolutely no storage solutions that can get us to a 100% renewable grid (or even a 50% renewable grid).
And we do have to make these things work in risk averse capitalist democracy. A perfect technology that you can't get consent for is useless. We are trying to generate energy, not build a techno utopia. It is not an academic question, but a practical one. Renewables wins because it is highly contentious but NOT difficult to build. Nuclear fails because it is highly contentious AND difficult to build
Also, the storage debate leaves out interconnectors. That lets you use excess power now which is cheaper than storage.
You claim that a reactor is more complex than a turbine (I assume you mean a wind turbine) or a solar panel. This isn't an apples to apples comparison because a reactor provides 24x7x365 baseload power, whereas solar and wind would require MASSIVE storage facilities to be comparable. That is both cost-inefficient and complex.
You claim the required number of highly skilled workers is high. Well, is that really true on a PER GWh basis? Reactors generate on average 1GW of power. Solar plants generate 50MW of power, at a highly variable rate. Even excluding the storage requirements, nuclear power likely employs fewer people.
You claim that nuclear physics is difficult and complex and therefore costs money. A refined process and established international design can remove these bottlenecks. In the same way that we have immensely complex silicon wafer chips with tens of millions of 9 nano meter scale transistors in them - for only hundreds of dollars.
You claim that safety costs money. That's true. But is it an unreasonable amount of money for the amount of power we're providing? A lot of the costs are borne from issues we cause ourselves. The Nevada storage facility is capable of holding literally ALL of the nuclear waste in America. Yet is remains closed because of fearmongering politics.
(I think) You claim that storage can be largely solved by national interconnects. But if you look at the massive power distribution systems in Northern Canada - they lose around 25% of the power in transmission alone, going only a fraction of the way that a NATIONAL power transmission grid would require.
The problem with renewables remains the storage problem. There are few practical solutions on the scale that are needed, and I find that most anti-nuclear pro-renewable advocates are simply not doing the math.
Canada has some ridiculous geographic challenges to overcome. Transmission losses are far lower on grids in more densely populated areas. And HVDC/Ultra high voltage AC give more options. And anyway, what's wrong with wasting 25%? There are obviously some good reasons to do that.
Also, a relatively short interconnector can be useful. It can be used to satisfy demand in a neighbouring area. In turn that area can generate less or can export more to its neighbours. The power has a knock on effect across a much larger area. But the great thing is that they are not monolithic. It benefits everyone, and can be a modular element of a larger system. This even works out well for energy storage. A pumped hydro site in a mountainous area can benefit people across the other side of a country.
Again, the grid needs to provide 100% capacity 99.95% of the time. Renewables simply cannot handle that without massive storage that is still only theoretical - and often infeasible.
Pumped hydro is a great example of a theoretical storage concept that would only work in a small number of places, and yet still would be a major undertaking with large losses in efficiency.
These are just pie-in-the-sky ideas, or flat out unrealistic.
HVDC is very widely deployed for interconnectors and grid connections. And there are >20 UHV lines in China, many over 1,000 km long.
This is not pie-in-the-sky but physics. By using appropriate technology you reduce tranmsision losses and/or cost.
Also consumption and demand are already very spread out in a traditional grid. A generator can go offline and the power is sourced from another location. In fact this is essential for nuclear stations as large generators can fail rapily.
I agree that pumped hydro has limited value, and nothing is a panacea on its own. But most of the nuclear states actually have significant deployed pumped hydro capacity. It is a complementary technology. When nuclear power stations fail they can leave a big hole in generating capacity. Pumped hydro can deliver >1GW in a short amount of time and fill that hole. Otherwise you need to maintain more spinning reserve.
2. Even stripping away regulations and environmental requirements, wind and solar are still cheaper at sub 2 cents/kwh utility scale, having no marginal fuel cost. China has set their nuclear price floor at 6.49 cents/kwh .
3. I do not want nuclear reactors built to Chinese standards in my first world country.
4. Storage and renewables aren't an investment, operational, or proliferation risk.
EDIT: Transmission losses are minimized with renewables, as generation occurs closer to load centers. Not so with nuclear. Also, storage costs will continue to decline as EV battery manufacturing scales up (see: Tesla's Hornsdale Power Reserve). Nuclear is a solution looking for a problem, when renewables, transmission, storage, and demand response can meet market needs faster.
2. This is absolutely false because you are not including the costs of STORAGE. Without massive storage, they are useless in providing year-round baseload.
3. Gen III+ reactors are built to international standards. Racism is not an adequate argument.
Nevada is not so populous a state. There seem to be lots of nuclear enthusiasts online. You folks should just move to Nevada and elect more courageous state officials!
A better option would be to move to Australia and campaign for a nuclear waste dump here. The voting margins are lower (often measured in low triple digit votes) and the politicians are more cheaply bought. Those same 500 proponents could more easily effect change in Australia than any state of the USA.
Storing nuear waste is a complete non-starter for me simply because of the timelines involved. Nobody can guarantee the safety of anything for thousands (!!) of years, when the USA itself is only ~400 years old.
The only conceivable risk is for some future civilization coming across the cache, not knowing what it is, and potentially suffering as a result. Which presumes that such a civilization will have declined substantially in scientific knowledge at which point it is unlikely that such access would even affect more than a small group of future peoples.
The risk is practically non existent, especially when compared to the risk of continuing to ignore nuclear now. This is pure, unsubstantiated fearmongering.
In the meantime, progress marches on:
https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/images/figure_6_01_d... (Generating unit retirements, Nov 2019 through Oct 2020)
https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/images/figure_6_01_c... (Generating unit additions, Nov 2019 through Oct 2020)
Source: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/#tabs_unit-4 (EIA Electric Power Monthly)
The point here is not disagreement with these points, rather than the arguments that brought us to these points are misguided.
> In the meantime, progress marches on:
And so does climate change.
Nuclear would've been fine to go all in on 20 or 30 years ago; today, it's too late (considering the timeline between first kwh produced and breaking ground today). Mourning a tragedy isn't a strategy for success. If you can get it built, why isn't it built yet? Or at the very least, under construction.
The entire point of us having these conversations online is to help convince these uneducated idiots in society, exactly so that we can overcome these challenges.
In my local environment the most visible people championing nuclear power are the same ones who turn up in Parliament House wearing their sponsor’s uniform, or bring lumps of coal into the House. They also engage in corporate style group psychopathy of “if what we want to do isn’t illegal, there’s nothing stopping us from doing it.”
With friends like those, nuclear power doesn’t need any enemies. The impression is that the only reason nuclear power is mentioned is because some politicians are looking for a comfortable post-retirement life in a junket lobbying position at Westinghouse.
So between the nuclear advocates here on HN claiming that everyone who doesn’t support nuclear power is a “climate alarmist” uneducated idiot, the only proponents in government being the most visibly corrupt, and the discussion of nuclear power always turning to “proven” thorium technology, nuclear power really has little hope of being accepted by society at large.
Hence why the argument is already lost. Educated citizens have valid concerns that aren’t being addressed, and the uneducated ones? They still get the same vote you do.
This whole report smells like propaganda to keep it like that under the cover that renewables are better than nuclear power.
Nuclear is better than coal and if they really want to lower the CO2 emissions they should replace coal with nuclear power.
Coal is probably still cheaper than Nuclear.
Coal kills a lot of people every year but its not direct so we accept coal.
And nuclear consumes a lot of cement in construction, a huge source of carbon emissions. Many cement plants are fueled by coal — not even coal generated electricity, but directly by coal on site. Which is more efficient but also helps hide the problem as it keeps their carbon emissions off the radar as they are not included in lists and charts of pollution sources focused typically on power plants.
Also I prefer to limit involvement of megacorp / government partnerships in decisions about my future liabilities.
So nuclear, while it may be technologically more advanced than it used to be, is not my cup of tea.
Main issue is that they consume a lot of bismuth, which unlike lead (other important ingredient in SVBR-100) doesn't have high production as is.
While these may address the cement issue (unless they are further encased) I don’t think they addressed any of the other issues I mentioned, such as perceived risks or decentralized control. Having a high energy device bathed in molten lead and under someone else’s control is not what I would consider an ideal situation.
For minimal proliferation risk, they can run in closed fuel cycle, meaning the whole unit is shipped back to plant for refueling - there's no encasing in cement, as the whole module is designed to be loaded on a flatcar even in open (refueling in-situ) variant. In fact, the lead-bismuth coolant, coupled with passive heat removal systems, mean that the coolant "self-seals" the system.
This can lead to somewhat funny observations, for example that leaks of radioactive polonium (from irradiated lead) are less dangerous than high-temperature water in BWR (which turns into mix of hydrogen and oxygen, which risks explosions). The radioactive polonium has short half-life and experience shows it to be of little danger even when coolant leaked from predecessor of the SVBR reactor.
They are also fast reactors, meaning they burn down much more of the radioactive material, and as such they eliminate most of the waste problems.
I don’t know enough about the tech to say whether the molten lead could be exposed to the environment due to unforeseen conditions, or what would happen at that point. But I’ve seen false assertions of safety before, plenty of times.