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Nuclear Power in France (world-nuclear.org)
241 points by vanilla-almond 56 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 304 comments



"Government policy is to reduce this to 50% by 2035."

I'm no expert on Nuclear power but it seems to me were going in the wrong direction. At a time when we're investing so much money in other fuels, we could be investing that in better nuclear power, like Small Modular Reactors [1], Sodium Cooled Fission, Small Pellet reactors, etc. [2]

[1] https://www.energy.gov/ne/advanced-small-modular-reactors-sm...

[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/safer-nuclear-rea...

Edit:

I see France is investing in Small Reactors, but only 1 billion.

"One billion euros is to be thrown into nuclear power: “We need to develop small, innovative nuclear reactors in France by 2030, with better waste management," Macron said."

[3] https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20211012-hydrogen-nuclear-power...


China is investing in nuclear power.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2021/04/23/china-wil...

> As of this month, China has 49 nuclear reactors in operation with a capacity of 47.5 GW, third only to the United States and France. And 17 under construction with a capacity of 18.5 GW. None have been shut down. Nuclear provides only 2% of China’s electrical power now, but the country intends nuclear to eventually surpass all other sources


They are also running 4th generation thorium molten salt reactors prototypes and thinking of having a commercial viable design in 2030. From what I gathered the waste is not that suitable for nuclear weapon usage. So those Reactors could be exported to SCO/BRI/global south countries.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02459-w


The problem with molten salt based reactors is that the high temperature radioactive molten salts destroy their containment vessels. I've yet to see a system design where the salt facing components are expected to last more that 7-10 years, which really hurts profitability.


There are two problems.

One is corrosion/radiation damage to the reactor vessel which is probably made with something like

http://www.haynesintl.com/alloys/alloy-portfolio_/Corrosion-...

The other is that most of these designs have a graphite moderator, and the graphite gets damaged in the reactor environment.


I would consider graphite moderators under the umbrella of salt facing components.

High Ni alloys such as Hast-N have their own issues - mainly radiation induced Ni -> He embrittlement and tellurium embrittlement. That being said, they are very promising.


Yes, the reactor cores would have to be replaced every 12-15 years. But if the reactors are mass produced and designed to swap out the cores, it doesn't have to be too expensive.


Still not "sustainable".

And not really cheap either.


It is actually quite sustainable. The reactor core is not a large cost for a GW over 15 years.

The US navy swaps out reactor cores for 100-200 million dollars, and those are in submarines and ships. There is basically no maintenance outside of those.

For comparison, a GW of wind capacity is 1.6 billion every 20 years. For solar panels for 1GW of average generation you'll be paying 10 billion dollars or so every 25-30 years.


> For solar panels for 1GW of average generation you'll be paying 10 billion dollars or so every 25-30 years.

Where do you live that panels cost you $1.5+/Wp?

Furthermore, where do you live that panels will cost you $1.5+/Wp even thirty years from now?


You have to multiply the cost by three for average power to account for clouds, angle, night time, and then you need to pay extra for storage. That will cost you...


I think GP meant environmentally sustainable, rather than fiscally sustainable, you need to do something with the old reactor cores.


That's sustainable long past the point we run out of radioactives. Just how much space do you think buried reactor cores take up and how big do you think the earth's crust is?

You could literally throw it in the deep ocean and it'd still do less damage than a single day of Brazilian deforestation for biofuel production or a month of operation of a coal plant (partially because water is actually quite good at blocking radiation and not becoming radioactive, you can safely swim in a spent fuel rod storage pool).


I’m not fundamentally against the idea of nuclear power. I just remain unconvinced that we’ve “solved” the problem of nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste remains dangerous and harmful on a timescale that can almost be described as tectonic. The earths crust isn’t static or stationary, if you throw waste into the bottom of the ocean its not clear what will happen to that waste in 10 millions years time, or even 300 years time.

I agree that our current climate situation demands drastic actions, and theres a strong argument that solving the real harms today of climate change are worth taking the risk on the theoretical harms of nuclear power. But I don’t agree that nuclear power is currently “sustainable”, it’s almost certainly the best energy source we have today, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way for long.


I would advise checking the decay curves for nuclear waste and checking what levels of radiation cause harm.

The tldr is that waste that decays slowly is doing so because its releasing less radiation. There's no radioactive stuff that we'd need to worry about on the million year timescale. The 10000 year timescale is the most where human health due to radioactivity might be a concern. And on those timescales your waste at the bottom of the ocean or 100ft below ground is almost certainly going to be still there and unaffected unless we or our successors decide otherwise.

Heck I'd say worrying about anything more than the 500 year timescale is absurd as I'd be very surprised if humans were still around in human form by then. We'll either have been genetically engineered, wiped out by those who have, wiped out by rogue AI or something else or been "uploaded" in some fashion.


What does a coal plant do with the emitted radiation, CO2, coal ash, and other waste products? Current spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors sit in concrete casks located on site usually. At least I don't need to breath spent nuclear fuel or have to deal with it's CO2. Not saying we should do nothing about it, but at least the impact to my life today is substantially less.


The reactor core will probably be drained of molten salts and then treated as low level radioactive waste.

Yes it is waste, but I don't see anyone making the argument with wind turbines or solar panels, which will create more waste in total.


> you need to do something with the old reactor cores.

You burry it deep in a geologically stable ground [1]. Was that not counted in the price?

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_geological_repository


The core will be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years will it not?


Which is nowhere near as big a deal as it sounds. The damage it will do (on average) if glassed and buried 100ft under ground is absolutely negligible at the scale we are talking about (global climate change and energy in general).

Yes, there's a 1 in 10000000 chance that 2000 years from now industrial age humans recovering from the apocalypse might dig a well in exactly that location and thousands will get sick with hundreds of deaths. You could multiply that by a hundred thousand cores and it would still be negligible compared to the hundreds of millions likely to die due to climate change in the next century


I really liked how you framed the danger.

But what about if we had a Reactor Dump storing 100's of these reactors, and then something happened to that dump, either it was hit by a meter or it was intentionally attacked in some way. Could that result in an apocalyptical type event?


No, it couldn't.

It would basically be a few Chernobyls in the worst case (a 1 in 1000 year asteroid impact winning the 1 in 100 million lottery and hitting the dump) and that mostly means extra birth defects and cancer (you wouldn't want to live somewhere that gave you a 10% chance if dying due to cancer age 40, but you could still have a civilization in such a location). It doesn't end life in the impacted area.

For intentional attacks there are much much easier ways of killing a lot of people.


So you have a large dump that must remain secure for 200k years.

You cannot do that. There is no place on Earth that we can be sure is geologically stable over that time period.

What a selfish thing to do: Make future generations pay for our current consumption for millennia.


Molten salt reactor waste should have a dramatically shorter half-life than waste from a light water reactor. MSR waste only needs a few hundred years of containment, not hundreds of thousands of years.


Explain that.

Makes no sense to me, but my physics education was decades ago


Well I'm not a physicist, so take everything I say with a grain of (molten) salt, but it has to do with the kind of fuel used, which produces different waste products.

The half life of most of the waste product from a gen-3 uranium reactor is measured in millions of years (235U's half life is ~700 million years, for example).

In some gen-4 molten salt reactor designs, most of the waste product would have a half life measured in hours, so they wouldn't need to be put into long-term containment at all. And the rest of the waste products would only require a few hundred years before they are emitting only background level radiation.

Hopefully someone with actual education on this can give a more complete answer, but that's my Reader's Digest understanding.


The molten salt will be quite radioactive, yes. It is part of the radioactive waste generated by a molten salt reactor. Some types of molten salt reactors do not have this problem, but I don't think they are the most practical.

The metal containing the molten salts might become somewhat radioactive too.

All in all, this is still comparable in amount of waste to water cooled reactors.


What happens to the used cores?


They have to be disposed of. That creates waste. This is the same as with any other power generation method that exceeds it's lifespan. 15 years is not that different from 20 years for a wind turbine or 30 years for a solar panel.


Solar panels are lasting about 10-15 years in practice. About half of what was expected.


I call BS on that. This was the performance of ancient modules (early 1980s) after 25 years of operation: https://energiforskmedia.blob.core.windows.net/media/19320/p...

And this was for modules manufactured in a period with 5-10 year warranties for the product. Today you get 25 year warranties. So you're basically claiming that QA massively worsened in the meantime.


Thorium reactors produce isotopes that can be converted into U238, which is less desirable than U235 for weapons purposes, but can be converted into a usable if annoying and expensive to manage bomb due to its high gamma production.

https://www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power-weapons...


China actually has a couple of French-built nuclear power plants. There's been a long standing cooperation in that domain.


they have also build hundred of steam reactors that have a modular heating system - while currently served with a coal system can be exchanged by nuclear heating anytime


Nuclear provides 4.8% of China's electrical power [1] in 2020 and 2% of China's energy mix.

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/share-elec-by-source?coun...


Part of this is due to China's new expansion of their nuclear arsenal: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57995185


Why would they build land based missiles? My understanding is that that part of the US triad is basically pork due to the capabilities of sea and air and the fact that they are static installations that can be easily targeted.

I can only speculate that it could make sense for China if their sea and air power are substantially less capable.

It's pretty amusing for US officials to express concern over an increasing arsenal when they are themselves spending over a trillion dollars on that exact thing while they deliberately provoke China over the Taiwan issue, placing US soldiers in Taiwan, which is considered Chinese territory.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-troops-have-been-deployed-i...


It isn't really a Triad these days. It's more like a hexaiad when you consider the various forms that nuclear weapons can take.

But as to your question, silos benefit from very reliable coms. It's possible to communicate to subs, but it is slow and unreliable. Airpower suffers from jamming and signs of strike, since the planes need to be put in the air and that is observable. There is also a limit to the size of the missiles and therefore immediate range. If you want to strike anywhere on command with little notice, silos are best. If you want to hit foreign target with absolutely minimal response time, submarines usually win out, since most major capitals are by the ocean. But even beyond this consideration, it is good to have a diversity of options to reduce the risk of a catastrophic vulnerability existing. For example, some hypothetical weapon that could eliminate all your submarines without warning.


Good answer, thank you!


> China has 49 nuclear reactors in operation

> Nuclear provides only 2% of China’s electrical power now

So only ~2500 more reactors to go? That sounds like a century of work.


France isn't reducing the capacity as a targetted policy but out of necessity. They have 58 nuclear power plants, most of them quite old (before 80ies). To maintain the current level, they would have to be replaced not too far in the future, but currently only 1 or 2 new reactors are under construction and both late and way over budget. So there currently is no route in maintaining the current capacity. Consequently politics has to come up with a roadmap which relies less on nuclear power.


Consciously deciding to not replace capacity when the need for replacement is known decades in advance is a targeted policy.


Maybe I have not made that point clear enough in my post: currently they are failing to build replacement plants at a cost at which they could replace all of the existing reactors. Unless they can come up with an entirely new design which considerably cuts cost compared to what is considered a "current design" right now, there will be a reduction in capacity.


Nuclear being staggeringly overregulated is the reason for the high costs. If we put the same price on lives lost to car accidents as we do to lives lost in nuclear accidents (which some basic back of envelope calculations using old reactor construction costs and lives lost in nuclear accidents reveals to be well over a billion dollars per life) none of us would drive.


If you consider the possible extend of a major accident - whole southern Germany could become contaminated and tens of million of people could loose their homestead - a certain emphasis on safety is welcome.


Building them in series tends to make per-unit cost come down.


Surprisingly, experience has shown that building more nuclear plants, even standardized, don't make them cheaper to build but more expensive.

2010: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S03014...

2020: https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/11/why-are-nuclear-plan...


In the 2020 article two of the 3 reasons listed are changes, regulation and design changes. So it's not really series-production of a single model.


Yes, that would be to expect. But to determine the feasibility and calculate possible savings with further units, one would have to finish the first of the series first.


> currently only 1 or 2 new reactors are under construction and both late and way over budget.

So in a few decades France has forgotten how to build reactors on time and in an affordable way?


It's never been cheap. It's previously been heavily subsidized, often as a means to maintaining a domestic nuclear economy as a means of maintaining nuclear arsenals.


It's not surprising at all.

Everything has been debundled, privatized, consolidated, streamlined, modernized. This is not "bad" in itself, but doing big public projects this way is not efficient, because this way of organization needs big volume to become efficient.

Basically we need to order 100+ reactors to get them cheap and fast. (And we need to have them use truly standardized interchangeable (modular) components. Naturally, modularity has an overhead, but it pays off if there's a long term for it to pay off. As long as we only build a few plants treating each of them as different allows for some local optimizations, but that is against large volume manufacturing, maintenance, etc.)


As have all western countries. Building a new nuclear power plant at the safety level one would expect today is hugely expensive.


South Korea hasn't forgotten. They have gotten the costs down quite a bit.


How far?


https://www.vox.com/2016/2/29/11132930/nuclear-power-costs-u...

This has some useful charts.

It shows that nuclear still has economy of scale to improve, if we give it the chance.

The big difficulty for nuclear is public pressure/fear of accidents. People are much more afraid of "big scary nuclear accident" vs. probabilistic deaths caused by air pollution, even if the deaths from the latter is in the tens of thousands and the former is in the dozens.

That fear of public/policy backlash makes raising capital in order to actually benefit from those economics of scale very difficult.


Booms generate an educated cohort. A stalled boom freezes this now-oversized cohort in place, and leaves no job openings for the next generation. Then, a generation later, retirement can leave an industry incapable of past glories.


Most reactors in France are 1st gen whereas the new one being built is 3rd gen and the first of its kind in France. The increased safety has made construction more complicated than previous reactors but a lot of those issues are being worked out so future reactors would probably be built more quickly and cost efficiently.


Projects taking significantly longer and costing significantly more seems to be a common theme these days. See any U.S. military project…


Not really. While it is true that we have not been building nuclear reactors in the last 40 years (and that, therefore, all knowledge is basically lost, leading to the insane delays we're seeing in the EPR), this is mostly a political maneuver to win the ecologist vote. Hollande closing down Fessenheim when it was good for an additional 20 years at the very least is a prime example of the clownery at the head of this country.


The government policy for a reduction to 50% is not based on issues with nuclear power itself. As far as I have seen, there are mainly 2 reasons mentioned in the public debate: i) a concern about the disposal of nuclear wastes and the long-term cost of their storage, and ii) the desire to follow other countries' policies, with a focus on wind, water and sunlight, rather than leading the way with the cheapest and most modern solution for electricity production.

The decision was written in the law in 2015 [1,2], with a statement that renewable electricity (wind, water) should reach 40% of the production, which implies that nuclear power should not account for 70% in the future.

Overall, I believe this is not a bad idea because i) renewable electricity is bound to get better thanks to worldwide research, and ii) it is smart not to put all your eggs in the same basket.

[1] https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/codes/article_lc/LEGIARTI0000... (in French)

[2] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_relative_%C3%A0_la_transit... (in French)


Where have you seen nuclear is the cheapest solution for electrity production? Nuclear has some benefits, but price does seem to be one of them (and actually one of the reasons for preferring renewable)


On a ‘basic capacity price’ type basis, nuclear is dirt cheap. When you throw in endless political tarpits and their side effects (like having no economies of scale at all despite the clear opportunity for them) then yes, it is very expensive. shrug

Most nuclear projects outside of China basically turned into exercises in endless planning churn and endless delays for no rational reason to appease anti-progress political factions long ago. For an example of a similar money pit/tarpit playing out in a similar way, check out “High Speed” Rail in California.


If Amory Lovins had designed a nuclear reactor that would be unaffordable to build it would be

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_(nuclear_reactor)

You can make the case that regulation inflates the cost of nuclear power plants, and that's somewhat true, but the deep problem is the cost of the steam turbine and other facilities (e.g. heat exchangers) to accept energy at the low temperatures that the LWR works at.

All of that is so big and expensive it would be hard to make the economics work even if you got the heat for free.

A liquid metal fast reactor or a molten salt reactor or a high temperature gas cooled reactor could power a closed-cycle gas turbine

https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1221819

which would fit in the employee break room of the turbine house at a nuclear plant. Such a "fourth-generation" nuclear power plant might have compelling economics to build, but it's hard to believe anybody is going to start and finish an LWR outside of China.

It's little appreciated that the cost of the steam turbine is what killed coal circa 1980. Once GE adapted aerospace turbines for low-capital cost power plants on the ground, it made no sense to build more thermal coal plants.

In the late 1970s you see various attempts to save the coal industry, plausibly you could have gotten better capital costs pyrolyzing the coal and running the gas through a gas turbine. This kind of technology is making a comeback because it can be coupled with carbon storage to make CO2 free or CO2 negative energy.


Eh, the basic economics of a PWR or even BWR are quite sound and you don’t need fancy tech to change that. Even with very expensive uranium and very expensive turbines, it doesn’t change that (depending on the number of orders of magnitude we’re talking about of course). And if you’re making 10x-100x of the things in a few years, it actually gets cheaper for both, since you can build a series of turbines, or reopen a sizable mine and just do it, instead of what we do now.

And now, instead of it taking a couple years to build with predictable timelines and approvals, you end up in decades long and impossible to predict legal fights that drag out construction; ruin any sort of economies of scale; and put everyone into a ‘meh’ state when it comes to actually getting anything done on a timeline. I know folks in Nuclear Engineering for some of the plants that literally have spent a decade plus generating paperwork and going in circles. Very, very, very well paid folks I might add.

A steam turbine doesn’t cost $5 billion dollars and 5 years per plant like these things do.


Nuclear is very expensive, that's why even countries very positive to nuclear aren't happily replacing their old reactors. France did the math recently, 100 billion euros for 10 new reactors. The old ones are better from an economical point of view so it's much better to try and keep them going.


There are two problems.

(1) If you could build a nuclear reactor for the sticker price, there's the problem that other energy sources got cheaper, specifically natural gas fired Brayton cycle turbines. To justify nuclear power at the sticker price you need to price carbon emissions.

(2) Nuclear power plants cost many more times to build than the sticker price. Some people blame delays on opposition to nuclear power, but the delays seem intrinsic to the process in industry. AP1000 construction was hung up in the U.S. because it was hung up in China (where environmentalists get shot) and it was hung up there because the factory had trouble make a pump that was supposed to be easier to make.

On one hand you could make the case for a real accounting of the type (2) problem (which I suspect is a game of "Poker" where suppliers quote a lowball price because they know buyers will keep putting chips in the pot.) But I think a more radical approach to the type (1) problem is necessary.


I take it you didn’t read my earlier comment?

There is no engineering reason for those reactors to cost $10bln. Literally zero.

There are lots and lots of other reasons why they will probably cost even more than $10bln/ea though.

Just like there is literally zero engineering reason for the ‘high speed’ rail in California to cost the insane sums it is currently consuming, and will continue to consume.

The reason why the old ones are ‘better’ is because they already are operating under existing approvals, so the tarpits don’t work on them.


Life is pretty darn good in lalaland where everything is just a technological problem ready to be solved. I wish I could live there.


Not sure how me pointing out that organizational and political dysfunction, corruption, and general bullshit is the reason why it is 'hard' now (and wasn't as hard 50 years ago when the currently active reactors were built since folks seemed to actually want to build them more than just siphon money out of the system or throw wrenches into the works for ideological reasons), and how it doesn't seem to have anything to do with any of the actual technical or engineering difficulty is living in lalaland - but you do you I guess?

If we wanted to build cost effective and safe reactors, we could, and have many times in the past. Near as I can tell, almost no one does (compared to some cool new idea, or what becomes a one off, or ends up going back to the drawing board 50 times - all while getting paid), so we don't.

Same with high speed rail (and a bunch of other pork projects in CA), same with subways in many big cities, etc.


There's nothing wrong with pointing out what you think is the problem. It's just that you can't ignore reality, in the actual world it takes much longer to build and it's more expensive for whatever reason that may be.


If building a house (as in actually building the structure) costs $100k-$200k - typical labor and material costs in the US btw - but end to end costs for the same house are roughly $1 million-$2 million(typical in the Bay Area), is it honest or disingenuous to claim that lumber or labor costs are driving house costs up?

Because in this thread someone was claiming steam turbine costs were why nuclear was ‘expensive’, which is about as legit. Also in these nearby threads have been discussions about waste disposal (similar levels of not actually a problem), etc.

You’re similarly ignoring and seem to want to pretend that these costs are somehow fundamental to nuclear, despite me providing evidence it’s a general problem we have with building several types of things now, and is more political BS than anything fundamental to do with nuclear as a technology.

If the same thing happens to building roads, is it because ‘roads are expensive’? Or because ‘we screwed ourselves up even more so now we can’t build roads without going bankrupt’?


I don't claim this is unique for nuclear? The same is true of all big infrastructure projects, although I don't see how that is relevant as a counterargument. These costs are the current reality, so that's what I base my opinion on. I'm interested in the actual cost, not the theoretical cost cause it's the actual cost that will ultimately impact us.


The UK tried building gas cooled reactors that produced more useful and efficient steam temperatures on the output. They worked - in fact, they make up pretty much the entire UK nuclear generation capacity these days - but turned out not to be as practical as boring PWR reactors due to various annoying engineering issues. There are other reactor concepts out there which promise to do better but they're pretty untested and would also likely turn out to be harder to build than they look.


They're still running a steam turbine but it is more compact and efficient.

Fourth-generation reactors won't be easy, but the motivation to develop them is strong.

Arguably there is a lot of experience with liquid metal fast reactors, many of the problems like sodium fires and problems with inspection are probably solved. Think

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

as opposed to

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superph%C3%A9nix


"When you throw in endless political tarpits and their side effects..."

Like "where are you going to put the waste?" and "I don't want my property values to go to zero when an accident occurs"? :-)

If one were suitably cynical, one might suggest China does not have that kind of problem.


Nah, those (if legitimate) aren’t tarpits. We’ve had, at various times, approved locations for waste, and we actually still approve the storage of waste on site - indefinite storage of ‘temporary waste’. Paying into an insurance fund in case of a nuclear disaster would be far cheaper than what has been happening.

What happens instead is 1) a set of requirements is made, 2) someone spends years figuring it out. 3) it gets approved, 4) before it finishes getting built (or started to be built in some case), someone files a lawsuit causing it to stop or changes the rules, 5) rinse and repeat, or;

Someone gets the bright idea to try something new and unproven, and then they pay all the R&D time, and then the first thing starts happening, and then you’re tarpitted again.

In California it even appears to be part of the plan for high speed rail; as the engineering firms get paid every time the plan needs to get redrawn, and they can keep juking between plans forever until the funds are gone. This happened with Caltrain electrification for a decade. Billions spent for literally a 45 miles’ish stretch of track to electrify it, with zero progress over that time.

If folks are being paid to make plans instead of make a project, that’s usually what they are going to do.


Also a situation I got reminded of near where my parents live - hydrogen plant being built in the middle of the desert. Developers get courted by city A who has cheap land available. City A has a city manager that works out a sweet heart deal that basically funds some of the planning costs (and cuts city revenue by a couple million/yr for a few years doing so), but in exchange for approval and at the last minute, requires they hook to the recycled water source he stupidly had run several miles away instead of the normal way to cover his ass for that bad decision. City B, literally borders on the other side of the street, has a recycled water pipe literally on the other side of the street.

After years of planning and millions spent on their side, the numbers don’t pencil out anymore because of this, so the developers go ‘wtf’, and buy a plot on the other side of the street that is in City B (more expensive, but still cheaper than running 5 miles of large diameter water pipe), cut and paste the plans, and are going to build next year after 3+ years of wasted time and millions in cash wasted.

And this is for a private, for profit project that they want to actually happen ASAP. When the taxpayers are footing the bill, the shenanigans get way worse. When no one seems to notice when the schedule keeps sleeping year after year? Even worse.


Fun fact: all the nuclear waste that the US has ever produced fits in football field at a height of 30 feet.

Currently, spent fuel just stays at the nuclear plants because there is so little of it and it's not a problem. You just put them in sealed casks and they sit there. You don't really want to lose access to the spent fuel either because if you develop breeder reactors that spent fuel is now just 'fuel'.


Indeed! Rail and nuclear power seem to play out the exact same tragedy. Very sad.


If you like trains and nuclear, you should move to France, we have lots of both. And pastry too ;)


I know, but but your costs for both are going up, you're loosing your skills.

(The Macron -- Le Pen culture war politics might be even more depressing than here, too. At least I think the right side is winning here in that arena.)


But you also need to be able to speak French well. If not it would be my number 1 country :-)


For instance, it is discussed in this press article [1] published in 2016 and available in French. It is mentioned that nuclear power costs 60€/MWh, compared to 80€/MWh for wind power. It is also mentioned quite often in the French press: I have seen it mentioned a few days ago. The source mentioned in the 2016 press article is an official report [2] published in 2014.

However, it is true that the maintenance cost increases as the power plants get older.

[1] https://www.francetvinfo.fr/replay-radio/le-vrai-du-faux/le-... (in French)

[2] https://www.ccomptes.fr/fr/publications/le-cout-de-productio... (in French)


Yeah I feel the end of life has not yet been factored in the price (ie the cost of dismantling the reactor or maintaining it alive forever). It would be very aligned with the general philosophy of nuclear ^^ (ie "the next generations will either figure it out or pay the price")


The dismantling cost has been factored in but given that they don't manage to reliably estimate construction costs I don't see why the estimate of the dismantling cost would be more accurate..


Decommissioning costs are huge and were kicked into the long grass in the UK instead of being factored in at the start like here in Canada.


Most of the French nuclear reactors were built when they had the capacity to build many reactors and thus it was cheaper. The problem with a lot of current nuclear costs is that you have to reinvent the wheel every time. If you're mass producing then things get cheaper. We haven't mass produced reactors in decades.


Comparing non-dispatchable sources with dispatchable sources is comparing apples to oranges. Solar is cheap, until you saturate daytime consumption and have to start building storage. Similar with wind.


Nuclear isn't dispatchable - most reactors have a design output and are not intended to be ramped up and down. They require a big chunk of actual dispatchable power (natural gas mainly) to provide demand following. LACE is a measure which takes into account the value of the generated electricity as well as the cost of production but nuclear does poorly here also as much of its output occurs when wholesale prices are low.


French reactors can adjust their power outputs in 30 minutes between 100% and 20% their nominal power rating. I think we are actually the only country doing this. (EDF: "In France, a nuclear power plant is able to ramp up or down between 100% and 20% of nominal power in half an hour, and again after at least two hours, twice a day.", source https://hal-edf.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01977209/document bottom of page 4)


A better term might be "non-intermittent". Nuclear plants produce the same amount of energy regardless of time of day or wind speed. And power output can be modulated with more aggressive cooling. Same thermal output of the reactor, but lessened electrical output.

By comparison, any plan for a renewable grid requires massive storage capacity. Most hand-wave this away by assuming some new technology will effectively make storage free.


Nuclear plants are also "intermittent" - the average US reactor spends 32 days offline per year.

Does that mean a grid relying heavily on nuclear needs massive amounts of storage?

No - it means you need to have redundant capacity which is the solution also used for wind and solar. The benefit of nuclear in this regard isn't that it's "non-intermittent" - it's that the most common failure modes for a nuclear nuclear are statistically independent (except when it's not like in a natural catastrophe situation - like Fukushima).

But as a grid operator trying to match supply and demand, it's just a variant of the same problem.

The solution preferred by grids heavily dependent on wind for example is simply to over-provision wind and use de-rating while maintaining natural gas capacity reserve (which is relatively cheap). This approach is relatively proven at this stage with some European countries deriving around half their electricity from "intermittent" renewables.


A capacity factor of over 90% is exceptionally good. Wind and solar are 35% and 25% respectively [1]. And this down time for refuelling and other tasks is scheduled in advance. This not at all comparable to solar and wind's uncontrollable intermittency. A nuclear grid requires vastly less overproduction than a renewable grid. As you point out, renewable sources end up falling back on fossil fuels to pick up the slack. That's not an option if our goal is zero emissions.

1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/183680/us-average-capaci...


Hydrogen requires minimal modifications to gas turbines, notably the combustors need to be swapped out.

Storage and distribution works the same as for fossil methane (pressurized in cave systems/old gas wells).

Production is simple, and we yes, the efficiency is around 20-30% round-trip. But that's enough to handle up to ~30% of electricity supply with less than 2x overcapacity.

And that's assuming you don't just slap carbon capture on a gas turbine you feed with fractionally distilled oxygen (>99% should be easily enough) and enough exhaust back-feed to not melt the turbine blades. A diesel would probably deal better with the combustion temperatures, though.

And Fischer–Tropsch can turn captured carbon into piston-engine-suitable liquid fuel, if you'd need to.


and in many places capacity factor for Solar is much lower than that

IIRC, for Poland, we're talking about needing to build 10GW worth of solar generation to get 1GW into grid on average, or 4GW of wind. Assuming ~24GWh of storage to make it capable of providing that 1GW continuously.


nuclear dispatching is mostly done over international distribution in UE. the requirements in more dispatchables power like gaz or hydro is'nt comparable with weather randomized energy sources with poor efficiency which usually require a 1:1 alternative dispatchables sources (gaz or hydro again). France electric energy mix is/was around 70-80% nuclear.


> i) a concern about the disposal of nuclear wastes and the long-term cost of their storage

I don't understand this concern. If you already have several decades worth of nuclear waste to manage/dispose, is it really more expensive to manage/dispose another several decades? For example, if you're disposing in a deep geologic repository, is it really much more expensive to put a little bit of waste in a big hole versus a little more waste?

> Overall, I believe this is not a bad idea because i) renewable electricity is bound to get better thanks to worldwide research, and ii) it is smart not to put all your eggs in the same basket.

I don't think anyone is advocating 100% nuclear energy, but nuclear is the only clean base load energy source. Without nuclear, we're putting all of our eggs in the "renewable energy" basket (assuming the goal is to move off of fossil fuels) and praying for a miracle breakthrough for base load. Considering that it takes decades to bring a new nuclear plant online, decommissioning a nuclear plant is the height of folly. It necessarily means more dependence on fossil fuels and the countries who provide them (in Europe, this largely means Russia).


There is really one reason, the population doesn't like it, so they have to pretend reasons exist to build solar or wind.

The cost of waste storage is tiny.

By far the best would to join with Canada on next generation nuclear.


Nuclear is always touted as such a good idea on this site, but I want to take the opposite stance.

- Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation. You can claim that todays designs are 99.9999999% safe, but there is no such thing as 100%. If humans build it, it will fail, and a single catastrophic nuclear plant failure isn’t acceptable.

- Nuclear waste is difficult to deal with. Our current strategies include finding a secret underground cave, and hoping no one accidentally stumbles onto it. Not to mention we have no plan for dealing with widespread use of nuclear power and the waste that would produce.

- Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive. These costs make it impractical for a city to invest in. They also require massive amounts of concrete (bad for the environment, locally and globally) and absurd amounts of space.

- Nuclear is centralized, and vulnerable to attack. In a national defense situation, nuclear power plants are large, easily identifiable, delicate targets that can take an entire area’s grid offline with a single hit to a cooling tower. The damage doesn’t even need to be severe, just enough to warrant a shutdown and inspection.

Compared to other readily available green power sources, I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

Maybe one day when humanity is a space faring race we could look to nuclear to support us then, but using nuclear on earth today is a bad decision.

edit: A large number of replies seem to think I am pro-shutdown of plants or pro-coal, but that was never stated. My argument is against further investment into nuclear when there are other more known technologies available, like solar and wind.


> Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation. You can claim that todays designs are 99.9999999% safe, but there is no such thing as 100%

You're breathing coal and gas byproducts every single day, byproducts which are taking years of life expectancy, and it doesn't seem to bother anyone, but oh god "Chernobyl bad, let's close perfectly safe and working nuclear reactors". Germany is firing up coal plants because they're decomissining their nuclear reactors in favour of intermittent energy sources (Germany kwh price is 2x compared to France), we simply don't have time to do both at the same time

> Nuclear waste is difficult to deal with.

Intermittent energy sources produce a huge amount of waste and are a pain in the ass to recycle, not even talking about how to store that energy for later use.

> Nuclear is centralized, and vulnerable to attack.

Sure, but if a country is bold enough to start attacking nuclear reactors you can be sure you're not too far from full scale war and at that point it'll just be a small detail in the vast amount of violence and destruction that will ensue.

> Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive.

There is no magic bullet here, solar and wind are also a major pain in the ass to build and maintain. We have 8000 windmills in France, we'd need 55 000 running at 100% to produce enough energy for our current use

> I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

Because there is no such thing

Intermittent energy sources only work if we stop using more and more energy, but since GDP = energy we're fucked [0]. We can't decommission both gas and nuclear at the same time and keep the same quality of life / growth expectations with solar and wind.

[0] https://jancovici.com/en/energy-transition/energy-and-us/wha...


> Germany is firing up coal plants because they're decomissining their nuclear reactors in favour of intermittent energy sources

No they aren't, they are decomissioning coal plants, too, and at a much faster rate than nuclear.

From 2013 to 2020 nuclear as share of Germany's energy mix went from 17% to 13%. https://energy-charts.info/charts/energy_pie/chart.htm?l=en&...

During the same time, coal went from 45% to 23%. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Germany

> Germany kwh price is 2x compared to France

The difference is taxes, not production costs. Have a look at price composition for Germany: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-house...


Fact is that even today (13/10/2021) Germany is still running its electricity production at 51% on Coal, when France uses coal for close to nothing due to Nuclear [1].

And it is very unlikely to change on medium term (next 20 years) due to the unreliable nature of the renewable energy supply.

The result is that electricity production in France today causes around 74gCo2/kwh emission when Germany is around 469g/kwh. Meaning around 6x more emission.. and for an higher price on consumption.

[^1]: https://app.electricitymap.org/zone/FR

> The difference is taxes, not production costs. Have a look at price composition for Germany: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-house...

Taxes are close to the same in France with close to 31% of the cost only in Taxes [2]. That along does not justify the 2x difference of price.

Also a big part of these taxes are subsidies there to support the renewable energy themselves... Which is pretty ironical considering that previous "subsidies" given to the nuclear sector where one of the main argument against nuclear in the past decade.

[2] https://en.selectra.info/energy-france/guides/electricity/ta...


> Fact is that even today (13/10/2021) Germany is still running its electricity production at 51% on Coal,

And one day later it's 38.7%, which shows that daily fluctuations are quite high. Therefore my link to the 2020 average, which was 23%.

> taxes are close to the same in France with close to 31% of the cost only in Taxes [2]. That along does not justify the 2x difference of price.

Here it is in detail, the net energy prices in Germany vs. France are about the same: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...



That's capacity, the interesting side is usage which as you can see also has declined, while total capacity has increased.

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/g...


So a decrease from 48.6 GW of coal capacity in 2002 to 43.5 GW of coal capacity in 2020 is "firing up coal plants" to you?


it should be zero f*ing percent


>Germany is firing up coal plants

They've been steadily reducing the % of coal in their electricity usage:

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/p...

The last coal fired plant has already been built and the last one will be switched off in 2038.


> If humans build it, it will fail, and a single catastrophic nuclear plant failure isn’t acceptable.

We do people focus so much on the danger aspect of nuclear energy only? Why not the thousands of people who died of dam break, the millions who die of lung failure due to exposure to polluants, or, the elephant in the room, the dozens of millions whoe die and will die of climate change?

Sure, it's very sad that a handful of Soviet and Japanese technician perished in accidents, don't get me wrong, but why such an irrational focus on nuclear accidents when a single dam break (and still, hydroelectric energy is among the safest of the safests) caused more casualties than nuclear energy in its whole life?

> that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation

That's just plain wrong.

> and hoping no one accidentally stumbles onto it.

I, too, often randomly stumble on nuclear waste depots 400m deep under the surface. Such a way to waste my Sunday.

> They also require massive amounts of concrete (bad for the environment, locally and globally)

While otherenergy sources are maid of fairy tears?

> and absurd amounts of space.

Ah yes, remind me how many windmills we would need to produce as much energey as a NPP?


The tone here is much more patronizing than required.

> We do people focus so much on the danger aspect of nuclear energy only?

Because nuclear is the only one with multigenerational risks that can make entire regions inhabitable. A damn break is deadly, a nuclear meltdown is potentially significantly way worse.

> Such a way to waste my Sunday.

Hiding waste is not a viable solution to dealing with it, regardless of the risk of finding it. We used to be quite content with dumping regular trash into holes, until we realized that didn’t scale either.

> Ah yes, remind me how many windmills we would need to produce as much energey as a NPP?

Windmill vs nuclear powerplant space is not a 1:1 comparison. Windmill fields are very sparse, and you came safely use the land underneath for farming or other uses. Not to mention the ecological devastation related to ruining a square mile of land permanently for centuries. You cans just change an entire miles worth of drainage and soil without damaging the area around it.

Additionally, I said nothing about windmills. I said solar. We have millions of rooftops across the nation that have no solar yet would benefit. That land is free as far as space is concerned; it’s unused.


> Because nuclear is the only one with multigenerational risks that can make entire regions inhabitable.

I'm glad to know climate change will be a solved problem for my children.

> Hiding waste is not a viable solution to dealing with it

Why? Is just dropping it in the atmosphere better?

> and you came safely use the land underneath for farming or other uses.

Not really. There are safety margins, noise regulations, concrete platforms, electrical connections, ...

> Not to mention the ecological devastation related to ruining a square mile of land permanently for centuries

They don't remove the foundations either when windmills are done.

> I said solar.

So the energy for which you would require dozens of millions of square mils of surface, a cleaning system to prevent them to lose 30% of their efficiency in a year, whose construction process is incredibly polluant, and that doesn't work for half a year in half of the world? That sounds like a great large-scale solution.


> I'm glad to know climate change will be a solved problem for my children.

You don't even need to jump to climate change when you have coal seam fires and ash ponds.


>Because nuclear is the only one with multigenerational risks

As opposed to continuing to emit carbon? this mischaracterisation of the threat is dangerous. The climate is changing right now. We literally cannot afford to bicker and wait for an indeterminate point in the future when entire grids will run on wind, solar and batteries.

We have a solution now. That solution is nuclear power and will buy us time to transition to a fully renewable grid.


> We do people focus so much on the danger aspect of nuclear energy only?

Because nuclear = bad word / bombs / chernobyl

They don't mind living in cities and breathing cars exhaust all day long even though it shaves years of their lives though. Real world boiling frog situation


Indeed, the word nuclear is so bad that nuclear-magnetic resonance (NMR) has to be called just magnetic in medicine. You go for an MRI, not NMRI.

When nuclear-magnetic resonance is used in a scientific or industrial setting for analyzing the chemical content of a sample, it is properly called NMR.

[Source: organic chemistry prof pointed this out, almost 30 years ago.]


However, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is the preferable term; the process has nothing to do with nuclear reactions or nuclear energy or nuclear material or nuclear bombs. The fact that the thing that is resonating with EM radiation are nucleic magnetic moments does not make the process nuclear in the usual sense of the word.

CT (computer tomography), on the other hand, is slightly deceptive term; it actually gives you a dose of X-rays. It should be called X-ray Computer Tomography (XRCT).


ah! I always wondered about this distinction, but I guess it makes sense that it's due to people's fear over "nuclear".


One Japanese technician died due to not following safety protocols. That’s it.

Thousands a year die in coal mines


> Thousands a year die in coal mines

And that's only counting direct casualties. If we were to count long-term illnesses/deaths or consequences on the population like the people reaching gazillions of deads at Tchernobyl do, it would be up to one death out of 10 (https://ourworldindata.org/air-pollution).


> I, too, often randomly stumble on nuclear waste depots 400m deep under the surface. Such a way to waste my Sunday.

When those dumps leak into your groundwater it does indeed ruin your day.


Not really. We test for uranium contamination of water. There's actually a lot of areas where naturally occurring uranium puts it above safe concentrations and it has to be filtered out. This is the case in much of California, the Rockies that feed into this area's water supply naturally had high uranium concentration [1]. Given that we already test and treat water she to naturally occurring uranium I'm not too concerned over waste sites.

1. https://www.kqed.org/stateofhealth/120396/uranium-contaminat...


So the testing will then also magically clean the water if it gets contaminated? Sure, if Flint MI is our baseline for acceptable living standards this is fine.


You misunderstand what’s happening in Flint. The water coming from the water treatment plant is perfectly safe, the issue is that it is then delivered to customers in lead pipes. This means cleaning up the water doesn’t involve removing lead at the treatment plant, which is normal, but rather replacing all of the water pipes in the city, which is very very hard. In fact removing various heavy metals from water is a regular thing that water treatment plants do, including metals like uranium and chromium.

The takeaway from Flint is not “we can’t remove uranium from ground water”, but rather “don’t build your water distribution network out of toxic heavy metals like lead”.


Yes, removing uranium from water supplies is not much different than removing other heavy metals like lead. This isn't particular hard, debacles like Flint are newsworthy because it's something most water services do successfully.


> Ah yes, remind me how many windmills we would need to produce as much energey as a NPP?

Here's an infographic on that very subject :)

https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/infographic-how-much-powe...


This isn't France though, we're much more limited in term of sun and windmill efficient land over here and 80% of our electricity comes from nuclear, not 20% as in the US


Did you actually read the infographic? It is saying that you'd need a lot of renewable resources to replace a single nuclear plant.


this is an oversimplified and thus misleading comparison. A nuclear (or any fuel-controlled generator) can generate power at-will i.e. on demand.

No wind or solar generator can do this and before you say batteries, no battery in existence can power a medium-sized city for more than a few minutes.

These comparisons are usually presented as an aggregated amount of energy over a year and completely ignore the fact that at some points in time, the power output of entire fleets of wind and solar generators is zero.


What? This infographic is proving the point that nuclear generates a BUNCH of power and a single plant would require vast amounts of renewables to replace it. Did you actually read it before ranting?

> No wind or solar generator can do this and before you say batteries, no battery in existence can power a medium-sized city for more than a few minutes.

This is a silly argument. The only real limiting factor on the capacity of a battery, at this point, is manufacturing capacity. That is changing very quickly as more than a few companies are looking at expanding their battery production capabilities.

Beyond that, grid batteries are good for any grid configuration. Batteries have rapid response to demand surplus and deficits. They are a grid stabilizing technology. Even if we had a 100% coal grid, you'd still want batteries for when the coal plants max out or to smooth out the cooldown time for the coal plants.


i did read it. It is a mischaracterisation because the two are not comparable as time is ignored. To achieve functional parity with a fuel-powered generator such as a nuclear plant, you would need to guarantee identical operation with an array of wind generators. At the moment, this is only possible over large geographical areas.

As for battery capacity, you seem to underestimate how much electrical energy even small cities use. The limiting factor is capacity. FYI, the US consumes around 3,800 terawatt hours of electrical energy annually. Good luck powering even a fraction of that for more than a few seconds with a battery.


> As for battery capacity, you seem to underestimate how much electrical energy even small cities use.

I'm not sure where you get that impression.

We are manufacturing around 500 GWh of new batteries yearly right now [1].

To put that in perspective, that's enough capacity for 1 hour of US annual energy consumption per year. 1 hour is a lot of time to bring up new power generation plants in the event of an outage.

That production rate has been accelerating with the new demand for EVs. That is likely to double or triple within the next few years.

The current largest battery plant weighs in at 1.6GWh, which is more than enough to power a city of 100k for several hours (it isn't currently used for that, it is stabilizing regional power).

Like all things, battery power will first be able to handle seconds, then minutes, then hours, and finally days worth of power requirements. For grid stabilization, that's more than enough capacity requirements.

And, as I said earlier, batteries are good for any grid, regardless of energy source. It allows a nuclear operator to run the plant harder and it allows plants to ditch fast ramping plants for more economical slow ramp plants.

[1] https://energycentral.com/c/ec/world-battery-production


Probably something to do with the nearly 2000 sq mi of "exclusion zones" from Chernobyl and Fukushima. (Which, admittedly, is great for the local wildlife.)

"Ah yes, remind me how many windmills we would need to produce as much energey as a NPP?

About 1500.


> About 1500.

Nope. Average charge load for a windmill is ~35%, vs. over 90% for NPPs. Thus, you would need roughly thrice as many, and that in places with alternating winds – otherwise you would just get blackouts.


Already factored in.

I can't find my original reference, but here's once that doesn't factor in the difference: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/infographic-how-much-powe...


> Already factored in.

I highly doubt that. The Tricastin NPP for instance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tricastin_Nuclear_Power_Plant) is a rather average one, producing up to 3660MW. An average windmill output stand around 2.5MW, hence equivalent 1464 windmills simultaneously running before accounting for the load factor.

> but here's once

This one is about a nuclear reactor, not an NPP. Typical NPPs features 2 to 6 reactors.


Hmm. Ok, let's see here...

* https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/nuclear/nuclear-power-pl... (2019)

56 NPPs, 809,410,000 MWh (actually generated)

* https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-many-turbines-are-contained-us...

~60,000 wind turbines (I've seen numbers between 57,000 and 67,000.)

* https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/wind/electricity-generat... (2020)

338,000,000 MWh (actually generated)

1NPP -> 14,453,750 MWh/yr

1WT -> 5633 MWh/yr

1NPP == 2600 WT

You are absolutely correct.


The risk is different. For coal, more or less everybody gets a few years off of their life expectancy, some a bit more who live closer to a plant, but roughly speaking, it's something everybody suffers from. With nuclear, those who live closer to a plant risk much more devastating damage in case something goes wrong. If you normalize both then nuclear comes out much safer, but that's not how humans work. I live 60km from a very old reactor that is 20 years past its designed runtime, has several shutdowns a year, had a few leaks "that didn't pose any danger to people". We just gonna keep it running because nothing bad happened yet, until something bad happens. Capitalism at work.

But indeed the waste storage is by far the greatest problem. Not for us luckily, we get some cheap electricity and coming generations can deal with the waste we shoved in some hole. Expecting that the way we store the waste is safe for thousands of years is naive. Germany hasn't found a final destination and is just shipping that stuff around. Someone thought it was a good idea to store it near east Germany, until east Germany was no more and suddenly it was in the middle of the country in an unsuited location. Someone thought it was a good idea to store it in a salt mine, until the containers started corroding from salt water. But that was back when humans were still stupid and didn't know salt water corrodes things. Luckily we reached end of history now and do everything right. I'm positive the next location will not be picked by political motives.


Keep in mind that German law blocks them from using the high-level waste site in northern Europe.

And yes, Asse is a symptom of turbocapitalism. A regulatory failure. Just look at superfund sites to get a perspective.


Of the things you've listed, I think the costs are really the only argument against nuclear.

The inherit risks are supremely low and the catastrophic failure mode for nuclear plants isn't a nuclear winter, in the absolutely worst case it's a contamination of the area where the plant was built (Modern nukes are all about containing failures. So even while they've optimized for not failing, they've also optimized for what happens when failure happens).

Nuclear waste isn't nearly as difficult to deal with as NIMBYs are. It's pretty easy to find enough room and locations to store nuclear waste, the harder part is convincing people that's a good place to store it. For example, a single abandoned mine could house decades worth of nuclear waste. Nuclear plants produce almost no waste and the waste they do produce is entirely self contained. Further, more modern breeder reactors produce even less waste and the waste they produce ends up having a low level or radioactivity at the end of it.

For the national defense argument, Every single power generation method has an output line to tie to the grid. Why would you attack a cooling tower (which would take a bunch of heavy duty explosives) when cutting a few MW transmission lines would have the same effect and require bolt cutters?

The only reason not to build new nuclear is because it's more expensive than the current crop of green tech and it will take longer to bring online. Existing nuclear should keep operating until the grid is decarbonized.


> The inherit risks are supremely low and the catastrophic failure mode for nuclear plants isn't a nuclear winter, in the absolutely worst case it's a contamination of the area where the plant was built.

Well, not really. While the probability of an accident is indeed low (but not super low by any means, as near misses are often not publicised), the damage/cost of an accident follows a heavy-tailed distribution. As a result the average cost is extremely high.

So high in fact, that there is no market price for it. As a result no nuclear power plant worldwide is insured - the risk is directly born by the society. If we re-distribute the risk to the private sector there would simply be no nuclear power plants.

Regardless if you are pro/contra nuclear - this 'market view' is strong indication that the risk can't be easily dismissed.

Of independent interest: Some studies even conclude that this is one of the rare cases where we observe a distribution without a first moment in real life.


> So high in fact, that there is no market price for it. As a result no nuclear power plant worldwide is insured

That's a very confident and incorrect statement.

https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/n...

As for accident vs costs of cleanup, like I said, new plants are designed not only to eliminate accidents from causing failures, but also such that if a failure happened, it would be completely contained.


Seems like Wikipedia is incorrect as well?

"The main purpose of the [Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity] Act is to partially compensate the nuclear industry against liability claims arising from nuclear incidents [...]."

"By 1966 it had become apparent that the industry would still be unable to obtain adequate private insurance, so the act was extended until 1976. [...] In 2005 it was extended again through 2025 via the Energy Policy Act of 2005."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price%E2%80%93Anderson_Nuclear...


Even crazier - attacking the power lines doesn’t even require bolt cutters. A ballon or toy drone and some aluminized string or thin wire is more than enough to have it blow itself up.


Maybe for a short outage, I'd expect it to vaporize without the power line noticing. Even if noticed, automated systems will send a test voltage along the lines periodically.


The thin wire will melt appart before the power lines do.


It doesn’t melt, it vaporizes, causing a live plasma channel to form and a giant arc between the lines that is self sustaining. If they have a arc interrupter, it might stop it before it destroys the lines, but not often, and at the power levels we’re talking about here, it is a very difficult problem.

The technique the US Military uses to destroy enemy power grids is to detonate a ball of long stringy aluminum confetti/Mylar above the enemy power substations. The destruction is apparently substantial.

Check out Mylar balloons and power lines (lots of compilations on YouTube if you don’t believe me.


Arcing powerlines generally doesn't cause irreparable damage. Sometimes a swarm of birds will trigger a swarm. The protection circuit normally trips and it's fine.

Over a substation I could see it causing a lot more damage though.


> The thin wire will melt apart before the power lines do.

It's a bit more subtle than that. As far as I understand, the thin wire might melt, but its vaporized remnants would be enough to keep an arc going between the phases or a phase and the ground. Then the protection devices at both ends of the line would detect the short circuit, turn off the line, wait for a bit of time (enough for the vaporized remnants and ionized air to disperse), and turn the line on again automatically. Since most high-voltage power grids have redundant circuits, it's likely that no consumer would lose power even for a moment.


> Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation.

The risk is mostly that there's a large, high-profile accident every 20 years. Coal power has probably killed more regular people (not miners) than nuclear due to its emissions, but it's metered out slowly, so it's less scary.

People are more afraid of flying than driving for the same reason.


I do not consider coal to be a modern source of fuel, it’s clearly a legacy source that we need to be rid of.


For what it's worth, nuclear energy kills fewer people per kilowatt hour than any other energy source, including solar and wind. This is as of 2012.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-d...


Well too bad because closing nuclear reactors right now means reopening coal plants, as we've recently seen in Germany and France. We don't really have the luxury of having time when it comes to energy/electricity and nuclear objectively is the best stopgap measure until (if) we manage to master intermittent energy sources.


I also never said anything about closing reactors.

I recommend you try and understand the position somebody’s trying to take before you argue against them, lest you end up embarrassing yourself arguing the wrong points, like you are now.

I added some clarity to my point above.


There are a large number of people who believe nuclear is a victim of a conspiracy instead of just looking at how economics of electricity production has evolved.

Nuclear has been in a steady decline globally since the late 1980s.

At one point - during the oil-crisis 70s nuclear was the cheapest but coal overtook it in the late 80s/90s - being cheaper and more flexible/dispatchable and easier to build. By 2000-2010, natural gas displaced coal and now - in the last few years or so - solar PV and wind represent over 80% of the additional electricity generation capacity added globally.


If nuclear core meltdowns can be fully contained by design the risk is mitigated. For instance with newer designs of smaller portable reactors by NuScale


That's also utility of the "core catcher" component of some gen III reactor designs, that are specifically made to cool down corium in case of a core meltdown. For SMR, the risk is mitigated because the reactor isn't sufficiently powerful to melt itself.


It is easier to design perfect reactors and then it is to build perfect reactors.


"That’s impossible, an RBMK reactor can’t explode."


The obsession with solar panels is currently driving a major ecological catastrophe. Solar panels are known to leak lead in the environment. We also have no good way to recycle them once the cells are done for good (currently, the average lifespan of a panel is about 20 years). There is already a massive buildup of solar waste full of extremely toxic components and we're not even close to seeing the worst of it considering most solar panels today were installed in the past 2 decades.

In addition to that, the amount of space it would take to have the equivalent amount of power that a modern nuclear plant would provide is a massive ecological disaster in and of itself.

And I haven't even begun to talk about batteries...

Solar is not the solution. To be honest nuclear isn't either. Coal is obviously terrible and wind is unreliable. The real solution that no one dares to talk about is degrowth. George Bush articulated it himself when he said, "“The American way of life is not up for negotiations." And to this day we would never dare to bring up the idea that we actually just need to USE LESS.


I was with you until degrowth, kind of.

But we could 1000x the number of nukes and not run into the power generation or waste problems. Now, with that much energy we would have far more of a growth problem far worse than today, but that's not really nuclear's "fault", that's more a downstream issue.

I have a secret suspicion renewables are popular precisely because they have scaling issues. For the certain easy-to-dunk-on degrwoth fan who has more guilt than clear thinking, the idea of renewables as a sort of self-flagellation austerity is attractive.

The problem is our society (or "Captialism"), even, pushes for growth because a feeling for austerity. Only with the feeling of abundance do we step off the gas. Things like UBI and nuclear, which they fear will lead to a spending spree and rampant new consumerism, should instead turn off the real and metaphorical cortisol that leads to these things in the first place.

-------

The best stuff I've read about degrowth is from Nathan Tankus, who's got the necessity for needle-threading down, along with the skills to actually do the threading. I will try to find something that is not a tweat.


> Solar panels are known to leak lead in the environment.

I suspect you are grasping for excuses. Do modern panels have significant lead in them? Also there is a huge abundance of lead in our city environment already (paints, leaded petrol). Even if there is lead in panels, it is concentrated, and I suspect the total amounts in panels would be at least three orders of magnitude less than that. Back when we used alkyllead additives in petrol, it was about 0.5g lead per litre[1], which would be an astonishing amount of lead put into our direct environment.

And those used panels will still have value to people (eg third world) and will get reused, giving excess value to poor countries.

[1] https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=%22grams+lead+per+gallon%2...


Degrowth = recession = Less funds to invest in renewables.


> They also require ... absurd amounts of space.

I'd have thought that nuclear requires the least amount of space of all energy sources.


Plants require dedicated space that cannot be used for anything else. Plants also require security barriers and other obstructions that take up more space.

You could (potentially) put a full solar array, enough to power your house, on your roof right now, and not take up any additional space.


You could, but you'd need grid access for when the sun goes down, and the variability of sun and wind is one of the leading justifications for nuclear.


> - Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive.

If you look at the list of reactors in the article, most of them took only 5-6 years to build. Between 1977 and 1987, a ten-year span of time, they added 45 GW of nuclear power to the grid. Do nuclear plants really take ages to build?


You can stand up incremental solar panels at a very small scale and go up from there. Solar also requires almost 0 regulatory red tape, something that adds years onto the planning stage of a plant

You get no ROI from nuclear until the plant is active.


> They also require massive amounts of concrete (bad for the environment, locally and globally) and absurd amounts of space.

All the other types of power plants use massive amount of concrete too and space (except solar panel installed on roofs)


Solar panels aren't all that great at EOL, either. They've got some toxic materials in them and aren't, as yet, easily recyclable. They beat the shit out of fossil fuels as far as the environment goes, but they're hardly without their own problems.


Indeed, nuclear power plants requires way less concrete by kWh than wind turbines.


I agree with you that we should be pursuing wind and solar at this point, but this isn't because it's a better solution technologically. Nuclear is still slightly better, IMO. It's just politically a non-starter, mostly due to the incorrect way humans assess risk, and I think this is an example of that:

> If humans build it, it will fail, and a single catastrophic nuclear plant failure isn’t acceptable.

We've been using nuclear power for over sixty years, and the most catastrophic nuclear plant failure killed ~4,000 people[0]. Worst incident in the US was Three-Mile Island with 0 deaths. Coal has been killing many more than that in the US alone annually for decades, though we may finally be below that count[1]. Of course, this is before considering the effects of climate change.

It's akin to how air crashes get our attention, while we ignore the car accidents that kill 1000 as many people. Air pollution deaths are even less visible.

At this point, wind and solar are still slightly behind nuclear as a technologically-viable solution (in my amateur view), but because they can still iterate, I think they'll probably surpass it soon. That said, a lot of us are still bitter that we could have converted to a clean, carbon-neutral grid in the 1970s (Nixon proposed doing this!) and the politics of bad risk analysis (and incumbent coal interests) killed it.

Solar+wind have the benefit of political support/momentum. I think their biggest political challenge is in building out high-voltage transmission lines across land owned by hundreds of different entities (and that that keep burning down California because maintaining them properly is expensive). So yeah, I'm for us going all-in on them. However, them saving is is a fantasy, and if we're in fantasy land, why not entertain the fantasy of us using nuclear instead? :-)

(Or better yet, why not both?)

[0] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190725-will-we-ever-kno...

[1] https://www.catf.us/work/power-plants/coal-pollution/


> a single catastrophic nuclear plant failure isn’t acceptable.

We've already detonated hundreds of nuclear bombs. The effects are ecologically catastrophic, but negligible compared to the damage of fossil fuels. As long as there is a single coal plant in the world, or a city whose transportation is based on burning fossil fuels, worrying too much about nuclear plants is stupid (unless you live just next to one of them).


How many have been affected by emissions because we let perfect be the enemy of good? We don't go out with a bang with coal, no spectacular single point to focus attention. Nonetheless people are dying early right now this minute because it's easier to dismiss the actual long drawn out deaths than the theoretical ones.


> Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation

Aviation has inherent risk that are managed more than adequately, making it the safest mode of transportation around.

Similarly, nuclear power has inherent risks that are managed more than adequately, as evidenced by the fact that the only major accident in the last 30 years, Fukushima, caused one (1) victim.


If something is 99.9999999% safe, it's not going to have a catastrophic failure. It will have some rare minor failures, whose effects are mitigated by a cascade of multiple safeguards.

> Our current strategies include finding a secret underground cave

Let's ignore how radioactive minerals are already found in caves.

Just don't ventilate your above-ground cave, and you've got radon gas.


> Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation. You can claim that todays designs are 99.9999999% safe, but there is no such thing as 100%. If humans build it, it will fail, and a single catastrophic nuclear plant failure isn’t acceptable.

Are we ignoring the hundred thousand people dying per year because of coal exhaust? Because it sure seems like that's what you're doing. 13,000 people die premature deaths per year because of coal power in the United States, more in countries with more coal and less stringent emissions controls. If we're evaluating "inherent risks", you really should include that in your calculus.

Natural gas power production probably kills ~4,000 people per year, by the by.

> Nuclear waste is difficult to deal with. Our current strategies include finding a secret underground cave, and hoping no one accidentally stumbles onto it. Not to mention we have no plan for dealing with widespread use of nuclear power and the waste that would produce.

So is fly ash. Hell, so is CO2.

> Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive. These costs make it impractical for a city to invest in. They also require massive amounts of concrete (bad for the environment, locally and globally) and absurd amounts of space.

Never see these arguments raised against coal or natural gas plants and production infrastructure.

Also, it's not like governments don't waste crap tons of money all the time on dumb things. The F-35 is up to what, half a trillion dollars now? The Zumwalt class destroyer cost $7.5 billion each and we don't even have ammunition for its main gun. There is plenty of money around to make nuclear happen, we just decide to pour that money into useless shit rather than power.

> Nuclear is centralized, and vulnerable to attack. In a national defense situation, nuclear power plants are large, easily identifiable, delicate targets that can take an entire area’s grid offline with a single hit to a cooling tower. The damage doesn’t even need to be severe, just enough to warrant a shutdown and inspection.

I was unaware that natural gas power plants can move. Oh wait.

The power grid itself is a huge, vulnerable thing. The actual target for enemy actors isn't the power plant itself, which is usually hardened, but rather transformer stations that are usually soft targets. Hell, one got knocked out in CA recently by an unknown actor with a single rifle, no fancy nation state equipment needed.

> Compared to other readily available green power sources, I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

The rub is that it is currently impossible to run our power grid on renewables. Night time is a thing, as are still days when the wind does not blow. Maybe in a few decades we'll have sufficient grid level storage in order to make this a moot discussion, but we're not there yet. Right now any grid running a significant portion of renewables still requires "peaker" plants to provide base level load when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

And I say that someone with rooftop solar. It's great, but I can't run my house on it at night.


I think all of those are not really true when we are thinking about modern plants that you would build if you were really serious.

If you really go into nuclear today you would try to use something like Terrestrial Energy Molten Salt reactor or something like that.

- Nuclear kills less people, that is worth some tiny risk

- Nuclear waste is actually a resource for the future. You can get things like nuclear batteries, medical isotopes and so on. Not to mention reusing the fuel in next generation reactors.

- Nuclear plants take ages to build because they are big, next generation reactors are 10-20x smaller

- Next generation Nuclear reactors are built underground and have a very strong defense on top. In war time you could reinforce that. That said, for most nation that matters, this is not a huge concern.

> I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

Because its reliable and produces energy even if a vulcano covers the sun and you have a few days without win. It gives you power when and where you need it, no need for a gigantic storage and transmission infrastructure. Maximum reuse of existing infrastructure.

> Maybe one day when humanity is a space faring race we could look to nuclear to support us then, but using nuclear on earth today is a bad decision.

That crazy. Just based on first principle nuclear is the best and most dense energy source. We can use it with 60s tech, and we could do much better today. Why would we only use it in some far future when the technology exists now.


Nuclear at this point is dead in the water. The upward trajectory of renewables is so strong that building nuclear plants is no longer viable. If anybody would change course now and start planning and building new nuclear plants it will be at least 10 years before these go online. By this time wind and solar will be another magnitude cheaper and nuclear will not be able to compete.


So your logic is, only wind and solar can improve and nuclear can never improve.


I certainly can improve but it hasn't. Rather each year it has gotten longer to build reactors and more expensive. The trajectory is so negative that I am pessimistic it could match solar and wind at this point.


For a long time, one had every possible advantage and has been given massive subsidies and regulatory requirement. Its of course different from country to country but the basic story is the same in most of the western world.

Germany has spend billions over billions on the green transition for 20 years. Had Germany used the exact same money, to build as many reactor as possible as fast as possible and put them right next to existing coal plants they would likely be much further along.

Nuclear potential is insane. Like, just look at energy density. Nothing has as much energy density. And based on first principle, the total amount of resources required to do the transition with nuclear, is massively smaller then anything else.

Giving it the best possible shot and fullest possible support in the situation we are in, is just absolutely necessary.


> Compared to other readily available green power sources

1. No power source is green. They all take a toll on the environment. 2. You can't compare nuclear to solar/wind, as solar/wind is intermittent. Currently, dismantling a nuclear power plant means replacing it by fossil fuel. See what is happening in Germany for instance.


>Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation.

Hydro power has greater risks.


> I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

I enjoy having clean electricity when it rains, during the night, or when there is no wind.


> I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

Night and northern climate.


> You can claim that todays designs are 99.9999999% safe, but there is no such thing as 100%.

I'm not sure how you wrote this and took it seriously. Should I never leave the house? How do I eat? Eating is more dangerous than that. We can't just live in a bubble. There is never perfect safety in anything you will do in life. You'll always have to make risk/reward trade offs. Historically nuclear shows the safest option.

> Nuclear waste is difficult to deal with. Our current strategies include finding a secret underground cave, and hoping no one accidentally stumbles onto it. Not to mention we have no plan for dealing with widespread use of nuclear power and the waste that would produce.

You seem to be uninformed of how these work. If you care to learn more I suggest reading here[0]. I bet you're also overestimating how much waste there is. Let's look at the total waste of decades worth of France[1] and Russian[2] waste. That's the entire amount of waste since the nuclear programs started till now. France also recycles most of its waste which greatly reduces the rate of waste. Storage also doesn't have to be as long as you think. We tend to have a few orders of safety in nuclear safety. You're also not being fair in your comparisons. You're acting like strip mining and dredging for rare earth materials isn't doing crazy damage to our environment too. Pretending that these also don't pose a significant waste problem as well. Like the previous response, there is a waste tradeoff. Even the IPCC reports will demonstrate that the lifetime emissions and waste is low for nuclear. This is the part that frustrates me most about many of these discussions. People act like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal are perfectly clean and have no problems. Doing so just demonstrates naivety. I'm happy you're passionate. Good. We need passionate people to solve this problem. BUT we can't stay uneducated and expect to solve the most complex problem humans have ever faced in history. I repeat: the most complex problem in human history. I don't pretend to be an expert. No single person can know everything. But to act like it is simple is harmful. And just to clarify, "pro-nuclear" just means keeping it on the table as an option. It does not mean using only nuclear. Energy requires a diverse portfolio of tools. The more we limit ourselves the more challenging the problem is ahead.

> Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive.

I actually agree with this argument.

> Nuclear is centralized, and vulnerable to attack.

They also are very hard to attack, never have been, and there's a reason they haven't. It is just never worth it because reactors can shut down. They are designed to take multiple plane strikes.

> Compared to other readily available green power sources, I cannot fathom why nuclear is preferred to a safe, distributed, clean grid of solar panels.

Read this[1]. You're vastly overestimating the risk. But that is unsurprising since humans are notoriously bad at it.

> edit: A large number of replies seem to think I am pro-shutdown of plants or pro-coal, but that was never stated. My argument is against further investment into nuclear when there are other more known technologies available, like solar and wind.

That's because that's what your comment implies, even if you don't realize it. Many people do not actually understand the complexities of climate change, how we got here, and how much further we have to go. Most people think green energy is simply a matter of political will. It's far from that. Physics Girl recently did a 4 part series on Hydrogen Fuel [4], Batteries and Fuelcells[5], Storage[6], and CSP[7]. Climate change isn't happening simply because we drive cars and our grid isn't green. Changing those only gets us half way there. And no, the other half isn't switching to a vegan diet, we're just talking about the energy sector. There's still major technical challenges that lie ahead, especially in mass storage.

[0] https://whatisnuclear.com/waste.html

[1] https://whatisnuclear.com/risk.html

[2] https://twitter.com/Orano_usa/status/1182662569619795968

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5uN0bZBOic&t=105s

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hghIckc7nrY

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWAO3vUn7nw

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHmIVw9etns

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccO0_hSXMyM


"Maybe we will make a few km^2 a no human zone" and "let's torch the planet" are not comparable risks. Not remotely.

> Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive.

So do subways, these days, for no good reason!

Capitalism kinda sucks at things with upfront costs and little maintenance costs. Without operational costs in fuel, there can't be enough rent sneaking to make the investment self-funding, and without the ability to do things incrementally --- constant practice --- we can't lower costs the usual way.

Fundamentally, Capitalism is bad at capital, and good at operational. Irony in the name.

It's no secret that places like Korea are good at doing nuclear power and subways cheaply. It's the same skill. Unfortunately, to the extent it's exporters being good at it, they skill relates on our non-skill.


> - Nuclear power has inherit risks that are not present in other forms of modern energy generation. You can claim that todays designs are 99.9999999% safe, but there is no such thing as 100%. If humans build it, it will fail, and a single catastrophic nuclear plant failure isn’t acceptable.

We've already seen what the worst-case catastrophic failure of a bad plant design yields and it's…

Not that bad frankly, especially from an ecological standpoint.

> - Nuclear waste is difficult to deal with. Our current strategies include finding a secret underground cave, and hoping no one accidentally stumbles onto it. Not to mention we have no plan for dealing with widespread use of nuclear power and the waste that would produce.

The amount of nuclear waste is ridiculously small, the entirety of highly radioactive nuclear waste produced to date fits on a football field 3 stories tall. There are thousands of terrils bigger than that out there.

As for "hoping no one accidentally stumbles onto it", Oklo was pretty hard to find.

> - Nuclear plants take ages to build, and are insanely expensive.

Nuclear plants are like anything else, if you get in the groove they can be built fast and for good prices. At the height of its construction, France completed plants in something like 5 years and had half a dozen going on at any one time.

> They also require massive amounts of concrete (bad for the environment, locally and globally)

So do wind turbines?

> and absurd amounts of space.

Compared to what? Millions of square miles of solar panels? The Paluel Nuclear Plant is 1.6 sq km total, and has the same nameplate capacity as 35 sq km of solar panels. We're talking 35 square kilometers covered entirely in solar cells, once you add access and maintenance you're at 40 or 50.

And that's before accounting for the dismal capacity factor of solar, which increase the surface 2 to 5 folds depending on the location. Or the variability and seasonal unreliability of solar panels.

> - Nuclear is centralized, and vulnerable to attack. In a national defense situation, nuclear power plants are large, easily identifiable, delicate targets that can take an entire area’s grid offline with a single hit to a cooling tower.

You don't seem to realise renewable power plants have centralised collector stations you can hit all the same and take the entire thing offline. And unlike nukes, protection against this sort of events is not part of a substation's usual brief.

> edit: A large number of replies seem to think I am pro-shutdown of plants or pro-coal, but that was never stated. My argument is against further investment into nuclear when there are other more known technologies available, like solar and wind.

All of which have massive drawbacks, and are not incompatible with nuclear plants.


"Nuclear waste is difficult to deal with."

This is false. It is easier and safer to store the waste from modern nuclear power plants than waste from production and used solar panels (which are conveniently outsourced to China now due to poor env regulations there)


Do you have sources for that?


It took time to find a pro-solar source which touched upon the subject (other were Forbes and shady websites): https://news.energysage.com/solar-panels-toxic-environment/

Basically, what i've heard before (i only skimmed the source), all solar panel are toxic, because the production create use a lot of chemical and create byproducts. We ignore this, it mostly hit poor areas in China and Africa, and this pollution will disapear in less than a century. The end-of-life is OK for old-style PV. Most "new" type of solar panels however, especially those you put on your own roof, are extremely toxic at their end-of-life, and what's worse is that their toxicity are not due to a chemical compound but to elements. What's even worse is that those elements are heavy metals, so bury even one of those PV panels in the ground and it become cancer-land a few year after.


We figured out ship reactors for some time now. Easier target for global emissions reduction could be getting reactors into some of these huge container ships that are currently burning bunker (on windy.com the emissions are so bad you can see trails where these ships go). I wonder why there's not at least 1 container ship with a reactor yet while Russia's got stuff like icebreakers running them?

I found this to be an interesting read, covers the US's only nuclear powered cargo ship that came a little too early to be a container ship: https://www.flexport.com/blog/nuclear-powered-cargo-ships/


Don't shoot the messenger but my take is that environmentalism is much more than just climate change. It just feels like it because carbon emissions is the current topic and perhaps is the most pressing topic because most of the worlds energy is generally carbon based.

The actual issue that environmentalist want solved is less overall production, reduction in all pollution and impact on the environment. And perhaps a bit of wealth redistribution throw in.

If nuclear ever took off meaningfully, the conversation would change and the Greta Thunberg's and Netflix documentaries would be targeted toward nuclear (or whatever takes the place of carbon based fuel) instead. The EVs, solar, wind, batteries and nuclear are great... until they are the last thing standing.

Again don't shoot the messenger! This is just my hot take.


Exactly.

Grifters like Al Gore want to use this cause as a money printing machine.

Actual environmentalists want the living standards of everyone _else_ to decline, along with population.

You know western society is in a hard decline when it's been taken over by greedy plutocrats and death cults.


Nuclear is immensely more efficient and safer and better for the environment than any other option including solar, wind, coal, or gas. Every nation should be working towards increasing their nuclear power production, not reducing it.


Nuclear can also directly generate heat, for residential district heat, or industrial processes heat


I've been prodding friends in the climate movement about their community's historical opposition to nuclear power lately. In my view, opposing nuclear power after 1989 (Hansen's testimony to the US Senate) is anti-climate.

I've held up France as an example of where we could be in an alternate history where states did not bow to anti-nuclear activism. Unfortunately, from the article, it seems France is heading in that direction as well.

> In October 2014 the Energy Transition for Green Growth bill was passed by the National Assembly and so went onto the Senate. This set a target of 50% for nuclear contribution to electricity supply by 2025, and capped nuclear power capacity at 63.2 GWe, the level at the time. This meant that EDF would have to shut at least 1650 GWe of nuclear capacity when its Flamanville 3 EPR starts commercial operation.

A sad decision to see in the only pro nuclear power democracy. And a sad decision for climate, because for decades past and for decades to come, anti-nuclear is pro-coal.

*edit, the French government also seems to be slow-walking the tragic mandate:

> In October 2016 the government postponed until after the 2017 presidential and National Assembly elections any decision on which, if any, reactors would close in order to reduce the nuclear share to 50%. In 2017 France postponed its 2025 target for reducing the share of nuclear to 50%. In December 2017 the French President stated that nuclear is "the most carbon-free way to produce electricity with renewables." In November 2018, a draft of the country's new energy plan confirmed that 2035 was the new target date for the reduction of nuclear's share to 50%. The plan states that 14 of the country's nuclear reactors will shut down by 2035, 4-6 of those by 2030. However the plan also states that the option to build new nuclear reactors remains.


A few things to give you some hope:

* The target to reduce the share of nuclear to 50% does not directly imply that nuclear production will decline as much. The reason is that the share of electricity (from nuclear, hydro renewables.. combined) in total energy consumption should increase (electrical vehicles, hydrogen production etc.).

* Most French people still believe nuclear emits CO2. I expect that to change as people get more and more informed on climate change. Once more people realize it's one of the cleanest source for greenhouse gases, I expect a stronger support for nuclear

* The sovereignty aspect (France does not extract uranium on its soil but has well established logistics) is more important in the French debate recently, probably increased since Covid. The lack of wind in UK recently causing price to soars, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for Germans to get gas from Russia.. are not examples France wishes to follow


France is only reducing to 50%. That still means France will be the world leader in nuclear energy. I'm not sure why both pro nuclear and anti-nuclear people see this as the end of nuclear power in France. Far from it. Energy should be well diversified. This is a good move for France and nuclear in general. There are some advantages to solar and wind but they can't support the entire network itself. France's goal is to start by increasing solar and wind and completely eliminate coal first. This move is neither anti-nuclear nor pro-coal.


France is not the world leader in nuclear energy. They're one of the leaders.

The US produces a lot more energy from nuclear and has a lot more reactors.

China and India are building a lot more new reactors than France.

The nuclear industry in Russia and South Korea is as vibrant as France (South Korea getting around 30% of its energy from nuclear today is extremely impressive given where their economy was at just 40 years ago).

And at 50%, France will drop below Ukraine.


They reversed it: https://archive.is/cCDfv


> However, 58% thought that nuclear power caused climate change while only 46% thought that coal burning did so

This raises some interesting thoughts about the nature and importance of democracy.


I remain a supporter of democracy but do have serious doubts regarding the ability of the majority of humankind to maintain a sufficient understanding of the increasingly complex world they control.

Large portions of the US population seem to have problems with basic reasoning skills. I'm not sure the school system or western culture is capable of rectifying that anytime soon.


> Alvin Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change overwhelms people. He argues that the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaves people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked.

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


I think the bigger issue is that everyone feels they need to be an expert on every subject. Look at any of these conversations on nuclear and/or climate. Climate is the most complex problems humans face today yet we all pretty much act like we're experts and all pretend it's purely political will to solving the problem. Even on a tech forum where the average person is much more tech literate these beliefs and actions are common.

The problem isn't that the world is getting more complex. The problem is that we're unwilling to admit it.


> I think the bigger issue is that everyone feels they need to be an expert on every subject.

I think people tend to view the world through the lens of their experiences. Lots of us are basically technicians these days, even a good percentage(the majority maybe) of software "engineers". I think it's easy for people to achieve some mastery in a domain and begin to believe that other aspects of the world are also similarly mastered. I'll say that most of my life I fell into that camp. I'm somewhat gifted with technology and I let my successes in the simplistic world of programming(and it really is pretty simple if you're just following recipes and calling libraries) bias my view of the world. I think my descent into libertarianism in the 00's was largely fueled by that erroneous thinking.

It's only after working on harder problems that I've come to appreciate the limits of my thinking, and the limits to which I can step into another domain and outthink the experts within it.

I think there are a lot of folks who have never worked on something subtle and complex, and to them the world is just so simple. Certain people/substances/ideologies are just purely good and others are purely evil, with no thought to the complexity of the actual world we inhabit.

> The problem isn't that the world is getting more complex. The problem is that we're unwilling to admit it.

Exactly. We better learn quick or we'll be like a toddler holding a hand grenade.


I think that's kinda the path I followed too. Once I started working on really hard problems that racked my brain (problems that take months to solve _after_ I've gained expertise in the area) I started thinking about the world differently and seeing how nuanced it is. That first order approximations weren't enough to make even remotely reasonable approximations. I remember in one of my jobs my friend told me "there's a book on o-rings that's over a thousand of pages. O-rings. Just one simple device." Nuance matters a lot. It's the difference between a space shuttle exploding and not.

In a way, it is also liberating. I don't have to know everything. I can know to trust experts in the field. I know how to vet experts in fields adjacent to mine. And importantly, I know how to ask nuanced questions to people outside my field and to lean on them for help understanding problems I'm not an expert in.

Not that I don't also get egotistical and overstep my bounds. I definitely do. But it no longer hurts (as bad) when someone calls me out on it. It is more about the passion to learn now and getting rid of bad habits. Being called out now is an opportunity to learn.


Representative democracy helps in this regard.


It also makes it easy for charlatans to take the helm by appealing to nonsense.


Maybe the deepest point is that if the voters are ignorant about this they can't be trusted on anything.

But a shallow perhaps more practical take away is that voters shouldn't be asked about implementation details, only values.


Democracy is probably not what's it said to be, it's a necessary emotional escape valve. People are too random to be heard with 100% equal value as you point at. The hierarchy filters through knowledge to steer.


Or at least the success and role of schools and the media.


And long term emergent structures of society. Not to step too much in conspiracy but an economy first system might naturally steer toward medium level education so that money flows without people thinking too hard or be able to be independent from the usual marketing tricks. It's almost a natural order, smart and cynical will be rewarded by high ranks, while the clueless mass will be spun to fuel the system.



Why do you assume that the average politician is better informed than the average citizen?


The average politician at least has reports prepared for them by government scientists and engineers, while the average citizen only hears about things after they've gone through the telephone game of the media.


The average politician also has reports and diners prepared by lobbyists and others that want to influence his or her judgement. Not sure if that is a net gain for objectivity.


Although it is an poll with a weird and surprising result from a nuclear lobby group with a strong interest in depicting the general public as "in need of education" on nuclear issues.

As far as I can see there are no details about who ran the poll.


As it has been said democracy is rubbish, the only thing going for it is that it is better than the alternatives.


A horrifyingly large portion of the population believes all sorts of stupid things. The sad thing for democracy is most people don't understand policy or even civics well enough to make an informed decision on a candidate. Even then, most candidates don't either, and they end up relying on advisors and lobbyists. The fun implication of campaign finance reform is it implies elections can be bought (just ask Michael Bloomberg), and people can't sort out political messages for themselves.

Oh, the good news about two-party democracy is it mostly keeps 20% views out of politics entirely. 58%/46% is a problem, though.


I'd go one step further and say that we all believe in all sorts of stupid things. It's just that we are unaware of our own misconceptions because they aren't often disproven.

Democracy works when the population is generally educated because the mean opinion (or the opinion held by the most people) should converge to the "right" one.


The population has to have access to the truth though.

One bellend (idiot) spouts lies in front of a bus, supported by media magnates. A couple of years later we have fuel and food shortages, myriad supply chain issues, broken off from a treaty that gave us relatively stable local peace for 50+years, etc.. Now COVID has plummeted us into a place where the exchequer has been exploited to the hilt for 'contracts for the boys' (nepotistic corruption) because the oversight of our former arrangements have been stripped away.

Our representatives are actively conning the population into voting against their own (the populations) best interests.

Just having generally good education levels isn't seemingly protecting us from powerful ruling classes who simply don't care and are willing to use their power to exploit the population.


how so?


In the data provided, the majority believes that burning coal does not cause climate change, while nuclear power does. In fact, it is the reverse--coal's impact on climate change is exponentially more than nuclear.

Thus, if the data is accurate, and if the majority rules directly, from these viewpoints it suggests that investments would be made into coal, and reduced from nuclear, which is aligned with creating more climate change, not less.

So, this implies that, for these data, democracy and taking action against climate doom are compatible.


Aren’t* ;)


It seems like a pretty big problem when the electorate is this misinformed on an issue that's so straightforward, and important.


I often hear opponents of nuclear power say that it takes too long to construct, so it's interesting to look at the timelines for these reactors -- most of them took about 5-6 years from the start of construction to being hooked up to the power grid, and there was a lot of concurrent construction, so their peak throughput was several reactors per year. More recently France seems to have lost the ability to build nuclear plants quickly; their only one under construction has been under construction for the past 14 years, and is projected to finish in 2023.

France in the 1970s is existence proof that nuclear plants aren't inherently slow to build, so I have to wonder: what happened? (And what other technology are we in danger of losing?)


We lost the sense of urgency and the connection between our decisions, what happens, and why we feel the way we do. It was also helped along by the ‘green field’ nature of Nuclear at the time (writing new code is easier than fixing a legacy code base, and making a new design when you don’t know and have to consider the bazillion regulations and gotchas since discovered is also easier), and a general ‘do it’ mindset after the massive destruction of the war and ongoing rebuilding.

Mostly now we’re not in a hurry because we ‘already have stuff that works’ because we’ve had so many of those prior projects ‘just work’ (hint: they didn’t, it took massive hard work to make them happen - but the people alive today were not the ones getting dirty on the ground there, so they don’t know that). And we haven’t had many big disasters around them yet (as in electric grid collapses for a month in winter and can’t be restarted) to give it more urgency and importance.

In some ways I think we’re in a classic ‘rich kid’ fallacy.

Hey, we have so much money, why do we need to be responsible right? We can be irresponsible because even if we crash the Porsche we got for our birthday, we’ll get a new one in a week anyway.

Well, we only have so much money because the prior generation worked so hard (and stole a bunch of stuff and murdered a bunch of people, but hey whatever - sometimes folks need their illusions), and while the inheritance might last if we keep pissing it away, it usually doesn’t for very long. And one of these days we’re going to crash the Porsche and end up with life long medical issues.

It does tend to self correct, but oooof does the other side of the curve hurt. And sometimes whatever mindset or situation created the wealth in the first place just never is recaptured. Greece and Italy are certainly not on a trajectory back to world defining empire status anytime soon, and are more worried about how to keep their pensioners fed.


There has been a lot of research into this.

The main thing is actually learning effects, the second thing is 'mass production'.

If you have teams that have build reactors before, they will be much better. Once you have people on their 3rd reactor, they go fast.

Its kind of like other massive infrastructure projects like bridges.

Basically nuclear reactors are large civil engineering projects, and you need experience to do it.

The second is that some parts, like the core reactor vessel are insanely complex high pressure and the production of these needs special facilities that basically only exist in like 3 places. They managed in the 70-80s to kind of 'mass' produce these but today its totally costume.

Another things is, France totally failed by themselves to build next generation plants. Its borderline crazy that we are still building PWR type reactors. All attempts at next generation reactors have been terrible.

I am really high on what's going on in Canada, real next generation reactors are FINALLY really seriously going threw real internationally recognized nuclear validation from a first class regulator.


The reason why we still use PWR is because of pilotability. When you're able to modulate the power of a reactor of 40% in 30 minutes without damaging anything or engaging any failsafe, you can reasonably make nuclear reactor follow the consumption.


PWR are not actually good at that. In theory, with a liquid fueled reactor you should be able to be almost completely load following. Most GenIV reactor that are trying to go threw regulation is able to load follow at least as good or better then PWR.

The reason we mainly use PWR is because the military wanted them for submarines and the government and industry had a massive program them into commercial use. From there we got a large amount of legacy, knowledge and infrastructure around them.

After 3 Mile Island the nuclear regulatory system changed and regulation were made technology specific. So even if you wanted it would be practically impossible to get a license for anything else. Thankfully this has now been realized and they are changing their regulation to make them less technology specific.


Japan is turning the nukes back on, France with the Eastern Europeans is taking on Germany's reckless move https://www.euronews.com/2021/10/11/led-by-france-10-eu-coun... . The current energy crunch is demonstrating how "renewables now, nukes of off now, batteries later" is irresponsible both environmentally and politically, I hope it's a turning point.

At the vary least, turning off the nukes is a reward one earns after the transition is demonstrated end-to-end, with the grid storage and renewables both in place.


Unsurprisingly Germany lobbied EU members such as Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain to block the inclusion of nuclear power in the "green taxonomy" (allowing it to be subsided like new renewables are), while pushing for natural gas (emitting 40 times more CO2 than nuclear). Such geopolitical move is definitely illogical and favoring climate change acceleration.


Two counterpoints:

- Isn't the current gas shortage just Putin trying to ram through Nordstream 2?

- Isn't it great to have high prices fossil energy sources to drive renewable investment and stop wasteful use of fossils?


> Two counterpoints:

> - Isn't the current gas shortage just Putin trying to ram through Nordstream 2?

Is "fossil fuels are a geopolitical weakness" really a counterpoint to "fossil fuels are kinda shit"?

And that geopolitical weakness is exactly why france built lots of nukes in the first place, it was not ecological (though that's a nice side-effect), it was for energy and geopolitical independence, and though it fails somewhat in that uranium ore still needs to be procured, it's much easier to stockpile uranium ore than fossil fuels, and the available sources are much more varied: the main known reserves are in Australia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Namibia, South Africa.


It is great the price has gone up. What's bad is people are buying it anyways.

The price needs to be high, sure, but also too high, in that demand is scared off and consumption/revenue goes down. Sadly, the price is not too high at the moment by that definition.

> Isn't the current gas shortage just Putin trying to ram through Nordstream 2?

I have no idea. What I noticed is not even a gas shortage, but a wind shortage driving up demand for gas.


Nuclear is clean, it is safe but it is not cheap. It's safe and clean because of it's moderately priced. I stand by nuclear because it's cleanness and safeness which can't be compared to anything else.

What will we generate electricity with in non-windy cloudy days? Coal? LNG? ESS? Note that all of those options are more dangerous, more expensive and more dirty than nuclear.


Not sure about Europe, but nuclear seems to be expensive in the US because construction costs are high because of overcautious regulation[1]. It was considerably cheaper in the 50/60s here, and it seems like mostly a policy issue

[1] https://rootsofprogress.org/devanney-on-the-nuclear-flop


The reason nuclear regulation in the US is stricter these days is because companies used to do things like routing all their supposedly-redundant control and monitoring wiring through the same shared duct, stuffing it full of flammable foam, and then testing that for air leaks using a bare candle whilst the plant is operating. This is not a hypothetical problem - it was apparently standard practice in the era you're talking about and nearly caused a major catastrophe, and the fire regulations that stop practices like this are cited as a major cost making it hard to build nuclear power plants by companies in the business.


That's the point. Nuclear is getting over-regulated to be safe, not to make any mistakes. I don't disagree with the regulators. I disagree with overly cheap nuclear. Overall, no power generation method can replace nuclear's steady output with its level of cleanness and safeness.


On the other hand, nuclear is far, far safer than almost every other kind of energy source. If we allowed nuclear to be as unsafe as coal, how much cheaper might it be?


Nuclear is expensive with a $200 million liability cap for accidents. By comparison, that's roughly 0.2-0.5% of what the total cost of dealing with Fukushima will cost.

If we think it's over-regulated the first regulation that should go should be that $200 million liability cap.

Then perhaps private insurers can decide for themselves what level of safety is required to protect them from a potential $1 trillion cleanup cost they'd be on the hook for.

If the nuclear industry can convince them it's worth it at all, that is.


Do cars pay for the possibility of crude oils spilled in the ocean? Was the Deepwater Horizon insured for the full amount of dealing with the disaster? Does coal energy plants pay for future diseases of people breathing air from their chimney? Does wind turbines pay for people that suffer from low frequency sounds and solar flickers?

All energy sources have uncertainties. We've been using much much more dangerous energy sources than nuclear. So the question is yours; why do you assume the worst only for nuclear when nuclear is the only source that is preparing for the worst?


ok, that sounds like a policy issue though - no ?


I wonder how the cost of nuclear stacks up against the cost of fossil fuels when you don't cook the books (externalize the costs of pollution)?


The same applies for others like wind and solar. Do they really calculate all the costs? It was easy for nuclear to cook books in the past. I feel other energy sources are doing it nowadays.

I think in order to set things straight, they should apply the cost of uncertainty to wind and solar.


I doubt the cost figures for wind, solar, and nuclear are off by much, or rather, they could be off by hundreds of percents and still be more accurate than fossil fuels cost estimates which fail to account for pollution entirely.


Is it safe considering the 1000 square miles of Ukraine that Chernobyl made uninhabitable? How safe are they against terrorist attacks, an attack by a rogue state or in a conventional war?


Yes because we learned from Chernobyl and Fukushima. The reason nuclear is expensive is because they protect themselves from war or terrorist attacks by drills, policies, strengthened structure and alertness.

Actually, if you are in a war or you are a terrorist, there are much more high value targets than a structure with 1.3m thick re-enforced concrete plus 1cm thick steel dome.


We didn't really learn (enough) - Fukushima made that very apparent. As an example, Angela Merkel, who used to be pro nuclear, changed position after the disaster.

The reason is that ever since Chernobyl there has been an active debate in Germany pro/contra nuclear (where in some parts there are still consumption limits on certain types of wild mushrooms and game due to contamination with caesium - 30 years later, 1000+ km away!). And the core argument pro was the same it is today: We learned from Chernobyl, nuclear reactors are way safer, Chernobyl will never happen again.

But if you followed Fukushima closely while it happened, the fact that Fukushima wasn't Chernobyl was sheer luck - had the wind blown southwards towards Tokyo (and not eastwards out to the sea like it did) Fukushima would have been worse.

I'm in no way saying that we have not advanced massively in science and technology - in fact, we have - I'm saying there are tricky biases at play here that make it very difficult to estimate whether we have learned enough.


Yes, even including Chernobyl and all the other accidents, nuclear power causes less deaths per GWh and less environmental damage than coal (which is the type of electricity used to fill in the gaps when e.g. Germany stopped it's nuclear plants). If you're worried about the habitable land, Hydro power is relatively "green", but each major hydro plant wrecks habitability and ecosystems in an area that's smaller than but comparable on scale with the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Like, this is a reasonable question to ask, but it has been asked and analyzed a lot and the practical answer to it is overwhelmingly against fossil fuels, it's not even close. Coal causes far more cancer than radioactive disasters, but we simply aren't (yet?) holding them accountable for this damage.


If we had any sense we would establish similar perimeters around coal plants. There are also thousands of nuclear power plants around the world and I can't think of any that have suffered from terrorist attacks.


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