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Converting coal power plants to nuclear gains steam (ieee.org)
141 points by SongofEarth 66 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 149 comments

I like the fact that the Greens are finally considering nuclear. One other option is geothermal. Most areas of the United States can reach geothermal by drilling 300-800 feet down. Using traditional drilling techniques this is not economically feasible. But there's a company using MIT research to drill using what's called millimeter waves to blast through the rock. The company commercializing the MIT research is called https://www.quaise.energy/

Quaise Energy doesn't sell drilling equipment but instead they sell the end product of steam. They plan on locating next to say a coal plant and then feeding steam to the plants turbines. The company raised a $52 million dollar Series A this summer.


The only negative from this type of drilling is localized small earthquakes similar to those created from fracking. So there will be opponents, but nowhere near the number of nuclear critics. There should also be a much quicker (and cheaper) approval process than nuclear.

There's a town in Germany called Staufen that's literally sinking and crumbling apart because of geothermal drilling.

Practically geothermal's Chernobyl in terms of PR. I doubt there's much support for it.

Afaik it's actually rising and crumbling because ground water got to places where it shouldn't be and reacts with the surrounding rock forcing it to expand.

well the green propaganda is a business al gore predicted we would be dead by now and the only outcome is that he is a millionaire now.

People love to live off the fear they instill onto other people.

Nuclear was the only way to transition to something cleaner later. but green party backed by lobbies ranging from russia, usa, oil and gas made the common people believe that there was a way to go full renewable in the 20's... to be honest those last years have been sickening, looking at youtube videos of charlatan commenting on green energy, co-workers, boss hell even blackrock/nasdaq virtue signaling and retweeting those crooks, pushing this narrative into our schools and our youth to build an army of evangelists of a green world where china-made solar panels with a shelf life of 10-20years would be a solution to global energy while at the same time undermining nuclear... it will be remembered as a dark age in mankind and when people in the future will reflect at our generation it will be with shame and I am pretty sure they wouldn't be able to understand why we made those choices and why they led to a global war.

> I like the fact that the Greens are finally considering nuclear.

it's more likely that the electorate is now finally capable of accepting nuclear. The greens are merely trying to get votes and attempt to make their policies match what their electorates would vote for.

I think the previous fear about nuclear is mostly misinformed, and bad PR from high profile accidents isn't helping.

Nuclear is fairly clean, cheap, and available. We really should consider it as a viable source for the long term future.

Except it’s not remotely cheap. Guaranteeing rates on new build nuclear is like 6x more expensive than wind resources and at least 4x higher than say combined cycle natural gas. If the new reactor at Hinkley is ever completed, it’s going to cost over $0.15/kWh wholesale which is more than I’m paying retail at the moment.

In Germany we have massive wind and solar capacity (120GW) and phased out nuclear. Energy prices have constantly risen to above 35c/kwh and our dependeny on gas grew. At the moment it‘s above 55c/kwh for new contracts. We still have very dirty electricity because so much coal and gas have to be burned

No, the wind and solar capacity is not massive, in fact it is far too small. If it were much bigger, you would have much lower prices. Electricity in Europe is expensive at the moment because of fuel prices.

Also, I don't have the numbers nearby, but I believe gas is mostly used for heating in Germany. Your heating system is outdated - you just didn't care because of the cheap gas from the east.

Stop blaming the technologies that can actually fix this.

The Schröder Government pushed for massive reforms to install Gas heating in homes. At the time this was more efficient than nighttime electric boiler heating, wood heaters or oil boilers. A modern caloric gas oven is fairly efficient overall.

Of course, one most realize that Schröder left the office having signed Nord Stream I only days prior and then immediately proceeded to join the Gazprom Board of Directors as well as serving as Director for the Nord Stream I Ltd. company and later Nord Stream II Ltd. That might be a minor case of corruption, possibly. Who knows, courts haven't decided yet.

The Merkel cabinet I-IV never really pushed to change it, since gas was working fine for the status quo.

Gas is used to cover for wind and solar when that is not delivering. You cannot replace that by more wind and solar.

I don't know why you would call 120 GW massive. Wind (and solar to a lesser degree) have been purposefully hampered by regulation over the last decades (have a look what it takes to install a turbine if you have a big property, or how you can install solar on a house where you rent out portion of it). There are reasons why Germany who was leading in both solar and wind energy, now has hardly any left.

A good example is the plot of installed wind capacity as a function of time here https://www.wind-energie.de/english/statistics/statistics-ge...

You can see there are a couple of bursts of installed turbines and then it slumps down again. The curve very closely correlates with the party in power for the Economy ministry.

Note that's production, not capacity, so weather has an impact.

But yes, Germany didn't follow the same growth as say China because the political right managed to stifle offshore wind a decade ago. Very bad move for multiple reasons.

Wind, PV and nuclear have only a small role in Germany's gas dependency, this isbdriven by industrial and heating needs.

Expensive electricity is driven by the way Germany financed the subsidies for renewables. And those subsidies were paid for by consumers, industrial electricity prices are / used to be rather low in Germany. This pricing structure will change so, if memory serves well.

As already stated, gas isn't burned for electricity in Germany, coal is. The reason why coal is so cheap is way too cheap CO2 certificates. Generally a bad thing, because gas would be better for the climate than coal, the unintended postive side effect is a lower impact of the current gas crisis on electricity generation.

It would of course have been better for the climate to turn off the coal plants first, but it's fallacious to judge the cost of different electricity sources by the retail price of electricity.

Yeah, because we never built the grid and storage this requires to go it full way. Instead right nowadays we are shutting off wind and also biogas production again because of storage and wires lacking.. instead we killed storage projects since long. That's why we will always need dirty expensive base power while discarding cheap clean energy, and the exchanges gamble.




No, we don't. We barely started building "massive wind and solar", then stopped at not all massive and passed lots of laws to make it difficult to add more.

Yup but you won’t be paying less than £0.30/kWh flat-rate pretty soon.

Hinkley is stupidly expensive and I doubt the capacity factor will turn out any better than wind and batteries, but I still think we should build a few more nuclear power stations - the public will turn hard against renewables at the first sniff of power outages being caused because the wind wasn’t blowing, and we’re less likely to run into that with some nuclear baseload in the mix.

Using that money to build more wind and supporting infrastructure would make it much less likely.

People don't talk about it much, but CfD has killed nuclear. It lays the long term costs and risks bare.

Hinckley is going to overrun it's already high cost, and France will be left picking up the tab for any cost overruns.

I wonder if their contract lets them just build the equivalent wind power to save money? Or just shut it down and walk away.

At some point the cost of subsidizing expensive energy for another country is going to become untenable.

There is no "equivalent wind power". They perform different roles on the grid.

Yes, and it's probably cheaper to emulate that role with other tech.

Not sure the contract would allow for it though.

yes this is what led us to the current war... relying on other tech.

Yes, that's what all the people who like fossil fuels and Putin say anyway.

But everyone else has responded by accelerating the renewable plans that those same Putin and Fossil apologists kept blocking for whatever reason, so it might work out okay in the end.

Would have been nice just to have 4 decades of sensible climate action, cleaner air, healthier citizens, less terrorism, cheaper energy, warmer homes and no-one threatening to nuke Europe when they lose an Illegal war of conquest of part of it though.

u do understand that most of the "renewable" model is to use gas/coal when there isnt wind or sun? guess who backed it... putin, biden and all the others ones that did not have nuclear as their main tech

No the model is to have energy storage and phase out all fossil fuels. Using gas peakers is an intermediate step, but the plan is not to increase the amount of gas used, but instead to electrify processes that currently use gas (e.g. heating).

im highly interested. how do you store energy on a worldwide scale? what kind of technology will you use for storage and what are the implications of building/maintaining those storage facilities.

From what I hear there are several options, most promising seems to be a combination of some sort of batteries for buffering a few hours at most and Hydrogen for seasonal storage. Googling will probably provide you with several studies on how to do stable grids with 100% renewables, I know I've seen at least two in the past.

ok what do you need (in terms of materials) to build a battery to store such energy and what would it like on a global scale? once you found the answer you might not want to call it renewable energy except if child labor in lithium mines and rare minerals from china are renewable.

The only reason this stuff is done in china instead of better places is because everywhere else Oil and Gas CEOs get to chime in for some damn reason.

Wait until you figure out what the alternatives require...

wind is an intermittent energy at best. a turbine lasts at best 25 years then you can't recycle it. there is nothing you can renew in wind energy. oh and wind is changing so you might build it somewhere with a lot of wind just to find out its not there anymore a few years down. not even talking about the visual pollution it creates.

money is not an issue when building energy such as nuclear. you'd need to price all the outcomes a nuclear reactor would bring to your economy and trust me no industry will want to rely on wind to meet their production goals.

Offshore wind clearly wins on 'visual pollution' as well, if you do consider that more important than cost.

To approach nuclear-like capacity factors on wind+batteries you need an INSANE amount of batteries, £0.30/kWh will seem like a bargain in comparison. Wind lulls can last for weeks or longer. There is a reason why countries like Germany are so focused on hydrogen for storage.

How? Economics strongly suggest to run nuclear plants at maximum output whenever you can. So you wouldn't be able to use them as backups when there is a lack of wind power.

1. Most of that cost is an apples to oranges comparison as the nuclear plants are required to fully fund decommissioning upfront, whereas dismantling a wind farm (even if just turbine by turbine as they break down) isn’t priced into that alternative. apples-to-apples it’s not that much more expensive upfront cost, and significantly cheaper over 50+ years of operation.

2. Most of the real costs that exist for nuclear are construction. Repurposing coal plants saves a good chunk of that.

1. Nuclear power plants dont even pay for 1% of their own insurance and you also believe they also shouldnt have to pay for decommissioning cleanup?

2. And yet nobody's ever done it, probably coz its not feasible https://www.wsj.com/articles/utilities-want-to-convert-coal-...

Dismantling a couple hundred wind turbines seems like a significantly easier job than dismantling a nuclear power plant. You also don't need state-funded insurance against catastrophic failure for wind turbines. Normal insurance can be bought.

You decommission a nuclear plant only once, after 60-100 years of operation (or even later). You need to replace the wind turbine blades every 15-25 years - the blades could literally fly apart if you didn't. And there's no good way to recycle them, so it goes into landfill. Not great.

Wind turbine blades probably only make up a very small fraction of the nonrecycleable waste we produce. Personally I'm not very worried about them sitting in a landfill somewhere. "Just bury it somewhere" seems to be an acceptable solution for nuclear waste, why not turbine blades?

And then there are efforts to make them recycleable: https://www.siemensgamesa.com/en-int/explore/journal/recycla...

Because there's already thousands of times more wasted blades (by mass as well as land use) from the little wind power we use now. Also, nuclear "waste" is reusable as fuel for other kinds of reactors, waste is a misnomer.

There's never ever going to be this much nuclear "waste" from all reactors worldwide (notice the tiny machine for scale): https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/itxthAhXDAL...

For comparison, ALL of Switzerland's nuclear "waste" is on this picture (and it's going to be used as fuel in the future): https://external-preview.redd.it/8EhLSoS5P8Cmi-ytsY_XoDrTnh6...

> Wind turbine blades probably only make up a very small fraction of the nonrecycleable waste we produce.

Then stop producing so much other waste. Producing even more is super-bullshit, and your mentality is exactly what caused the current situation.

This is NOT all of Switzerlands radioactive waste. It is just the highly radioactive waste. See https://www.energyscope.ch/en/questions/what-will-switzerlan...

The medium to low radioactive waste is magnitudes higher and needs to be dealt with as well.

This is a lie about "low level" waste: all the inside of a nuclear plant that has been in contact with nuclear material is also waste, which cannot be recycled. This is why the decommissioning is difficult. You can take out the fuel rods, but not all the radionucleties in the pipework and those formed by neutron absorbtion.

That waste is not the extremely problematic type with a half-life of billions of years. A couple decades of storages renders it inert.

The problematic waste is only produced by non-breeder reactors that leave 99% of the extractable energy of the uranium unextracted. Breeder reactors would allow mankind to sustain 1,000 times current electricity consumption levels for over a million years with known uranium and thorium supplies, while generating almost zero extremely long-term waste.

Why is a half life of a billion years problematic? The longer the half-life, the less 'active' it is. That aside, in about 5 billion years the sun will turn into a red giant, possibly expanding out behind the orbit of earth until it reaches the orbit of mars. Looong before that there will be many sunstorms torching us.

Or some supervolcano hick-up. Or, or, or, whatever.

Because planning on those timescales is extremely difficult. The storage needs to be made robust to civilizational collapse, civilization forgetting about the existence of the waste, and shifts in tectonic plates.

> ALL of Switzerland's nuclear "waste" is on this picture (and it's going to be used as fuel in the future

That seem to be incomplete.

1) https://www.ensi.ch/en/nuclear-facilities-in-switzerland/was... says there are more places than that, including at each reactor:

] Each nuclear power plant has facilities for the conditioning and interim storage of the radioactive waste that is produced during operation. In addition, the ZWIBEZ interim storage facility is located on the site of the Beznau nuclear power plant.

] The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) has facilities for the treatment of its own radioactive waste and for waste originating from the medical, industrial and research sectors. This waste is stored temporarily in the Federal interim storage facility on the PSI site.

2) Not all of it is spent fuel that can be reprocessed

3) That's mostly the waste since 2006. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Switzerland comments:

] Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants is in the tens of thousand tonnes in Switzerland.[22] Its management is the responsibility of the producer.[23] Up until 2006, processing of nuclear waste was mostly done overseas.[24]

4) I don't believe Switzerland mines and produces it own fuel rods, so the radioactive waste during that production would not be stored at Zwilag

> "Because there's already thousands of times more wasted blades"

Nonsense. You need to consider that the entire plant ends up as waste when it's eventually decommissioned.

Wind turbine blades typically weigh a few tonnes each. Up to around 10 tonnes for the very largest ones. Meanwhile, building a new nuclear power plant (Hinkley Point C in the UK) takes 3 million tonnes of concrete and 230,000 tonnes of steel.

All the wind turbine blades in the entire world would only add up to the waste of one or two nuclear plants!

Mass and volume conveniently omit how careful you have to be when handling the waste. I thimble full of radioactive waste in the wrong spot can be pretty bad. Turbine blades on the other hand are not more dangerous than normal household waste.

No, it's really not that hard. My country's nuclear waste sits in containers placed outside for decades. Even shooting the container with a machine gun wouldn't produce any danger.

Not many nuclear plants last for 60-100 years. Most existing ones have an operational life of about 40 years. Those that run longer have invariably received an extensive (and expensive) mid-life refurbishment.

Then they are left in a shutdown, de-fuelled state (safe storage) for 60 years or so before they can be safely dismantled.

This whole process is very expensive, in part because you have to pay to manage and maintain the site for such a long time.

Decommissioning all the UK’s existing civil nuclear sites is estimated to cost taxpayers over £132bn, and the work will not be complete for 120 years.

Sure, refurbishment is necessary - my country just went through the process after 35 years of operation of the oldest reactors, now it's certified for 50 years more and another refurbishment is expected after that - not decommissioning. It wasn't that bad. We pay more for maintenance of the little wind power we have (less than 15% of our energy production on windy days) than we pay for nuclear reactor refurbishment (>30% of our baseload, works all day and night, all year).

The estimated costs for energy from refurbishing France's nuclear plants till 2050 is 15% higher than building new offshore wind today. And that's EDFs own estimate. Onshore wind and solar are already cheaper than offshore and all are predicted to continue to get cheaper.

> The estimated costs for energy from refurbishing France's nuclear plants till 2050 is 15% higher than building new offshore wind today. And that's EDFs own estimate.

Do you have a link to that? Are we talking same effective generation capacity?


Especially the section that starts:

> As a starting point: it is undoubtedly true that industrial-scale nuclear power, as built in advanced Western countries in the 1970s-1990s, has provided, and still provides, cheap power, even taking into account the uncertainty on the cost of both long term waste storage and dismantling of the plants. And, until recently, low carbon alternatives like wind and solar were between “somewhat” and “a lot” more expensive. To a large extent, French skepticism about renewables over the past 20 years was not unreasonable given that the country did not have carbon-spewing (and otherwise polluting) coal-fired plants to replace - it had and has a low-carbon and cost competitive power sector.

And that references these:



> Le coût complet économique du parc nucléaire en exploitation, incluant le Grand Carénage, s’élèvera environ à 55 €/MWh avec une durée de fonctionnement de 50 ans, en moyenne sur la période d’ici 2025, un prix permettant aux clients de bénéficier d’une électricité compétitive (Source : Cour des comptes).

So, few disagreements with that article.

First, why does he discard the idea that nuclear power plants can be fully financed by the state, as RTE assumed in their report (in which nuclear came out slightly cheaper)? EDF is getting renationalised currently, and honestly financing from private markets something as expensive, crucial and with such a long life doesn't make much sense. A Nuclear Power Plant can operate for many decades (50+ years easily), so even if it breaks even in 40 years, that's completely acceptable for a state and it's budget. Private investors, and private financing, would like returns much easier.

Second, the elephant in the room - not all MWh are equal. When they are produced, and the load factor. Onshore wind, which the author mentions as cheaper, doesn't produce at 100% all the time. Solar is even worse, because at best it could produce energy during half the day. Both are subject to weather, like the few months of clouds and low winds we had last autumn all across Western Europe. To even them out, you either need luck, or storage, lots of it. Price that in, over a 50 year lifespan, and i very much doubt it will come out cheaper.

He doesn't claim the state funding Nuclear is a bad idea. He actually claims they'll increasingly have to.

What he's complaining about is the same WACC being used for nuclear and wind, when the wind one is much higher than reality, because they are so predictable in terms of how long and how much they take to build.

And even with that (and all the other advantages he's willing to give to nuclear, the French still can't make a good case for nuclear.

He covers the "not all MWh are equal" thing near the start and correctly counts that as a problem for nuclear, not a benefit.

> Its generation profile, “baseload” (i.e. constant production at full capacity) does not actually correspond to what the market demands, and does not easily provide for flexibility, reliability or load following. The fact that our systems have been built around baseload (nuclear and lignite) has pushed us into ways of thinking that are not actually useful - baseload is not enough, and it’s not that useful

It’s worth remembering that the “baseload problem” of nuclear and the intermittency problem of renewables both have the same solution: storage technologies.

> "Sure, refurbishment is necessary - my country just went through the process after 35 years of operation of the oldest reactors, now it's certified for 50 years more"

Canada? It's not quite adding 50 more years: it adds around a 30-35 year life extension to each refurbished reactor, so the reactors currently being refurbished will be certified through to about 2055. And the refurbs aren't exactly cheap: they replace all the major reactor components, and cost a significant portion of the price of a new build.

Nevertheless, it does seem better to extend the life of existing sites where it's possible to do so. It speaks highly of the CANDU reactor design that this has been possible! Most other country's reactor designs haven't been so successful in this aspect.

> "We pay more for maintenance of the little wind power we have than we pay for nuclear reactor refurbishment"

I doubt this very much.

The wind turbines outmass an equivalent capacity of nuclear reactor but not by a huge factor (about 2W/kg total or 8W/kg of not-concrete vs 15 or 30). The blades are a tiny fraction of that and the rest is fully recyclable. 100t of turbine blades per century per MW is at least as easy to handle as 200t of low grade nuclear waste in the form of radiation shielding and various other neutron poisoned materials.

Wind turbine blades are also pretty damn inert. We could literally just dump them into a giant pile in arizona for centuries with no issue, paying them a pittance for the privilege. Getting pissy about inert trash is silly. Maybe they shed microplastics? Oh no, now the useless desert sand is full of microplastics that it was probably already full of because of decades of plastic use.

I'm also certain they'll see down-cycling. 10t of the strongest and lightest materials on earth is by no means worthless even if it's anisotropic and needs an ultrasound before relying on it.

Man I’m paying 0.33 to $0.52 per kWh. I’d love to pay 0.15

In honesty, I was being modest with my "under $0.15/KWh" -- it's actually fixed price at $0.114/KWh. So I can run my heat pump to cool my house, my heat pump to warm my pool, and my electric car charger at 1pm on July 4th and still pay $0.114.

It's a really great deal from a well-run local power company in the Midwest US. There is a fair amount of coal in the mix still (about 1/3 of summer generating capacity) which is being phased out over the next few years so we'll see what happens to rates.

I think my generator in santa clara charges something like 15c (flat) before distribution, which gets to 31c/41c/49cents depending on usage level.

Nuclear seems like a normal price for the bay area

That sounds like PG&E pricing, not SVP pricing.

Anybody on PG&E should have solar panels. Hang them off your balcony if you have to. The electricity rates are astronomical.


Also, demand California implement community net metering (allowing you to buy a percentage ownership of panels in a nearby parking lot, etc, and applying their generation to your power bill.)

72% in the "encourage" or "neither" camp seems pretty accepting.

I doubt it that the entire elactorate is accepting nuclear, especially now that we see what is happening in Ukraine. It's pretty scary to see fighting and bombing happing at nuclear plants.

The fighting and bombing is just as scary and deadly away from nuclear plants.

Not at all. Nuclear plants make for excellent targets for warfare and terrorism.

Nuclear power is highly centralized so one strike at transformers or pylons leaves millions without electricity.

But all major sources of energy share that same “one point of failure” problems. Solar plants and wind turbines also have transformers. Gas and oil have pipes, etc.

It needs a grid and storage we never built due to fossil and nuclear faith.. but if we would then decentralized renewables don't have that problem.

The problem with nuclear is also not millions without power, but a strike that sets the nuclear plant without power (including backups), then it is quickly game over.

> a strike that sets the nuclear plant without power (including backups), then it is quickly game over

Wdym ? All modern designs are safe to shut down even without power.

> Solar plants and wind turbines also have transformers

Yes, but thousands of them given that plants are much smaller than a nuclear plant.

Shees, do we even have to explain what decentralization is on HN now?

But we don’t have thousands of solar plants. We put the panels in one big central field which serves a huge population. That’s when solar is really cost effective. Putting solar on your own house roof is something that is too expensive for the average family of today- the young ones don’t even own a house.

"Cheap" has never really delivered. When was the most recent nuclear plant built within its cost estimate?

> misinformed, and bad PR from high profile accidents isn't helping

I'd say that people were fairly informed by the accidents. Nuclear has a "radioactive black swan" problem: the worst-case accidents have contaminated such huge areas that the tolerance for risk of any kind is low. If the Russians blow up Zaporizhzhia while the wind is blowing east-to-west Europe will have to throw away half its dairy production again, possibly for years.

(On the other hand, if Chernobyl had happened while the wind was prevailing west-to-east, would we have even heard about it?)

When will the cancerous dust produced by coal plants finally be considered a cost? Nuclear is more expensive than the optimistic napkin math shows, but so is every other energy source! Europe has invested a trillion or two into intermittent green energy sources in the past 30 years —enough to nuclearize the entire energy grid— and is still totally dependent on coal and gas for survival.

The argument has never been that nuclear doesn’t have any downsides. The argument is that without nuclear you’ll freeze. There is no serious alternative. The risks of accidental nuclear contamination are minimal and the risks of nuclear war are greatly underestimated.

This was considered a cost at least 20 years ago. (Probably those pesky environmentalists making a fuss about nothing though)

There's been a continual fight since then by some states to continue poisoning their fish with mercury and other coal byproducts while other states try to stop them.

Here's a story from a few years ago when the government decided that it wouldn't enforce this 20 year old law anymore:


> Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 25 states, cities and counties in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its rule reversing the agency’s determination — first made nearly 20 years ago — that it is “appropriate and necessary” under the Clean Air Act to regulate mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. The new rule undermines the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a landmark rule that has substantially reduced emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants that harm human health and the environment, and that pose especially significant health risks to children and pregnant women.

> “Mercury emissions are hazardous and must be controlled. These successful standards have protected countless Americans from the devastating health effects of mercury and toxic air pollution. Down-wind and coastal states like Connecticut are particularly vulnerable and rely on strong federal regulation to protect our air and water from harmful air pollution. This rollback is an unlawful gift to the coal and oil industry and must be reversed for the sake of the health and welfare of Connecticut’s citizens,” said Attorney General Tong.

You can see why a state with half their electricity from nuclear would be annoyed by this.

>When will the cancerous dust produced by coal plants finally be considered a cost?

When it becomes an immediate problem, the way nuclear radition is. So, never.

It's not just about impact, how densely concentrated and timely / pressing the impact is matters a lot.

I can stay for a couple of months next to a coal plant just fine. I wouldn't stay for an hour next to a nuclear accident site.

If you look at the list of nuclear incidents/accidents you'll see that in most cases there is minimal radioactive exposure and zero casualties:


The typical nuclear accident just results in a temporary shutdown and some extra maintenance/repair work. If you live next to it you'll be just fine.

>in most cases there is minimal radioactive exposure and zero casualties

Yeah, that's the numbers you can get if you sweep increased cancers in the area under the carpet or as "unrelated"...

Are you just unaware of the amount of radiation in normal coal dust and how much of it just ends up pumped into the air like it's nothing?

I once looked up the numbers. Chernobyl alone released more radioactive material (by activity) than the radioactive content of all fossil fuel that was ever burned.

Yes, because every nuclear plant is built/operated like Chernobyl was. Good grief.

The point is that the radioactive material emitted by fossil fuels is completely negligible.

Don't eat the fish you catch though, especially if you are pregnant.

Though you don't need to live next to it for that to apply.


> It's hard to believe that fish that looks, smells, and tastes fine may not be safe to eat. But the truth is that fish in Maine lakes, ponds, and rivers have mercury in them. Other states have this problem too. Mercury in the air settles into the waters. It then builds up in fish. For this reason, older fish have higher levels of mercury than younger fish. Fish (like pickerel and bass) that eat other fish have the highest mercury levels.

Ironically, no faction has done more to stop the expansion of nuclear power than environmemtal groups and green parties.

Even more ironically, environmemtal groups and green parties have essentially created the problem of climate change. If the whole world had switched to nuclear power starting in the 1970s, a large fraction of carbon emissions so far and a larger fraction of future emissions would never have happened.

Basically every regulation or idea that benefits renewables benefits nuclear, and every regulation that fights climate change benefits nuclear.

So environmental groups have done more than most, possibly tied with the military, for nuclear power.

In Germany, the national Green party is the primary instigator behind the planned closure of the country's nuclear power plants.

Greenpeace for its part has lobbied hard against nuclear power for decades.

As for regulation, nuclear is governed by a totally separate regulatory structure, that can have its stringency throttled up by anti-nuclear types to prevent new plant approvals.

One party in one country that's not been in power for a while is hardly decisive. Especially when they fast tracked coal phase out as soon as they had some power.

I can easily name environmentalists who called for more nuclear power. I can even name nuclear PR reps who pretended to be environmentalists (who probably count for this purpose).

Meanwhile, the key benefits of nuclear over coal are various reductions in pollution.

If you dont care about pollution, then there's no reason to not use coal. So Environmentalists win again.

There was no way to keep that secret. Also it kind of indicates the USR only cleaned up under pressure from the West. Chernobyl was evacuated before the West was fully aware of what happened for example.

After Chernobyl, a full train load of milk powder, from Eastern Europe, vanished in Bavaria. It was bought by a major dairy producer, when it was decided to destroy it said train was nowhere to be found... Funny coincidence...

> If the Russians blow up Zaporizhzhia while the wind is blowing east-to-west Europe

Nope. Chernobyl was a different beast altogether.

It was never cheap and it's getting even more expensive while renewables are much cheaper:


Both nuclear and renewables are expensive, when the externalities and hidden costs swept under the carpet by industry lobbies are considered.

Nothing beats free millions of years in the making energy stored on the ground for us to extract - but even that's non-renewable and getting more cumbersome and expensive to extract.

> Both nuclear and renewables are expensive, when the externalities and hidden costs swept under the carpet by industry lobbies are considered.

The very opposite. It makes nuclear even more expensive.

I believe part of why it’s getting more expensive is the lack of investment and innovation, and that’s driven by bad public perception, which drive laws and investigation budgets.

That belief is fine but wrong ;)

At least my comment includes some reasoning (งツ)ว

Why does the comparison with renewables matter if people don't build those renewables either?

> "But in the future, not all reactors might be so large. Many still-speculative small modular reactor designs might deliver just a few hundred megawatts. (In Hainan, China, Linglong One—the world’s first small modular reactor plant—is now under construction.) Depending on the design, these could be cooled with less water or even air, making them far more feasible fits for coal sites."

> "Either option will be an uphill battle. In the United States, any new reactor must gain the blessing of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a process that can take up to five years and drive up costs in a sector already facing rising prices. Only one nuclear power plant is currently under construction in the United States, in eastern Georgia."

The article completely seems to miss the existence of NuScale. NuScale SMRs design has already been approved by the NRC [1, 2].

[1]: https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2022/22-...

[2]: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/nrc-certifies-nuscale-small...

This is the core of how the system is broken:

> A specific challenge would-be-conversions must face is that the NRC’s standards—both for atmospheric pollution and for the amount of radiological material a reactor can release—are much tighter than federal standards for coal plants.

But that's not such a challenge. Nuclear power plants don't release atmospheric pollution. As for the radiological material they release, that is generally Tritium; that's in minute quantities, and they have experience dealing with the NRC in this regard.

He's saying that a coal plant is permitted to (and actually does) release more radiation than a nuclear plant is.

Either tighten the standards for coal, or loosen them for nuclear, but the current situation is not logical.

Nuclear power plants don't emit radiation, so it's really not an issue that those standards are tighter as far as I know.

We just need to end coal plants, immediately.

Coal plants kill 25 people per TWH generated and spread nuclear radiation all over the nearby area. Nuclear plants kill 0.03 people per TWh (between wind and solar), including Chernobyl (killed 4000) and Fukushima (killed 1). [1]

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/safest-sources-of-energy

I read that as saying this is why coal plants are so popular, we’ve been grading on a curve.

That's good, The engineers are good people, the energy owners are the worst humans on earth and don't care if a melt down is likely, because they are bleeding money when it isn't running. No time to do it right. Instead: Make energy all public, sure pay out the leaches to get rid of them, and run things correctly.

Regardless of the brokenness, the fact remains:


This is everything we need.

Harnessing this maturely, appropriately, means that we don't burn < 10% of the power before disposal.

This means that we use molten salt, not pressurized water, and we leave the technology of the 1950’s behind.

One conversion the article mentions is this molten salt technology:


That's a sodium cooled reactor, not a molten salt reactor. Sodium is a metal, not a salt.

Correct, but here is the source of my confusion:

> which features a cost-competitive sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system

The molten salt is basically a big thermal battery.

> Either option will be an uphill battle. In the United States, any new reactor must gain the blessing of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a process that can take up to five years and drive up costs in a sector already facing rising prices. Only one nuclear power plant is currently under construction in the United States, in eastern Georgia.

Which is why building in US is not the best option. There's a deal made last year to build small modular reactors in Romania (by a US company). I think they may actually have been talking about using old coal plants as well.

I'm normally skeptical about my country being used in this kind of experiments (I still remember you, Pepsi, with your reusable plastic bottle!), but I'm very much on board with this one.

As the article mentions towards the end, just because it's technically feasible does not mean a lot of coal plants will be converted to nuclear. Fundamentally this is about reducing cost. The question is if it is enough. Nuclear plants are expensive and making them slightly less expensive helps. But they might still be too expensive overall to make it worth the trouble, Also, time is a factor. A lot of coal plants have already been decommissioned and more are going offline in the next few years. Mothballed/decommissioned coal plants are plentiful but their infrastructure is not going to maintain itself and is probably actively being decommissioned instead. And even if it's not, it's probably not getting any better just sitting there unmaintained. And if anything, nuclear is a very slow moving industry. Ten years is nothing. Ten years from now, a lot of these coal plants will be history.

The expensive part of nuclear isn't the parts that coal plants provide, either. All those miles upon miles of precision welding made to withstand decades of harsh conditions with out a single leak? Coal doesn't need that. Large, high precision concrete pours? Coal doesn't need that. Containment structures? Coal doesn't need that.

Nuclear is inherently an extremely complex technology that requires construction techniques that are advanced and expensive. The steam turbines and cooling towers are the only parts that are easy and standard construction with well-contained costs.

If it's a functioning economically viable steam turbine, why not put a gas turbine in front of it and burn hydrogen (or no change if it is already a pulverised coal turbine)?

Hydrogen is not an energy source as such. You have to use energy to make it, incurring losses, then incur still more losses when you burn it.

It is, at best, an energy storage mechanism, not a source.

Yes. This is quite obviously the point.

Electrolysers are dirt cheap (and prospects of technologies with battery-like efficiency commercialising are pretty good). You still only get back 50% of your energy by burning, but if the energy from the lower capacity times is enough to fully fund your panels, then electrolysing the energy from 10-3 during spring till autumn allows the use of a resource you'd otherwise dump as heat.

Storage is hard, energy to power electrolysers is only cheap with solar or surplus wind, and the second stage of a ccgt is big and expensive.

This would solve one of those problems.

The other two are already cheaper than drilling a bunch of 20km deep holes or building a nuclear reactor.

Yes, nuclear is always going to be more expensive than systems that (as of now) exist only in the imagination of their proponents.

Unless another has come online since the last time I looked, there is only one (1) grid-scale solar installation in the entire world, and it was built with massive government funding.

> Unless another has come online since the last time I looked, there is only one (1) grid-scale solar installation in the entire world, and it was built with massive government funding.

What a bizarre line to draw. The technology that benefits from being distributed rather than needing massive centralisation to be viable isn't concentrated to the point it causes the grid to be over-centralised?

Whatever metric you need to satisfy those mental gymnastics you can watch it come true realtime over the next year or two by adding 'unsubsidized solar park GW' to your news topic feed.

There's such a thing as "economy of scale".

You're not going to run an industrial civilization from a few hobby solar panels on someone's roof, any more than Mao was able to run an industrial civilization from crude cast iron smelted in people's back yards.

> you can watch it come true realtime over the next year or two

Yeah. Not happening. Not in a year or two, nor even in a decade or two.

What powers heavy industry in your decentralized utopia? Some kind of reverse grid?

Only about 34% of electricity is used for residential purposes in the United States, and I would be surprised if the proportion were much different in other countries.

> There's such a thing as "economy of scale".

Yes, it's what allows solar modules to see 10-20% yoy reductions in price per watt and 15MW wind turbines to be more cost effective than 1MW ones. You achieve this by doing the same thing enough times that you get good at it. This is something the nuclear industry has never achieved.

> You're not going to run an industrial civilization from a few hobby solar panels on someone's roof, any more than Mao was able to run an industrial civilization from crude cast iron smelted in people's back yards.

Good thing there are thousands of 10-100MW scale solar parks finished every year and several GW scale plants being finished each year. Almost all new development is completely unsubsidized and auctioned of for $15-40/MWh before completion.

> What powers heavy industry in your decentralized utopia? Some kind of reverse grid?

The 15MW wind turbines, 5GW solar plants, 1GW battery facilities and the existing gas plants running on green fuels. Putting more than a few hundred MW in the same place creates bottlenecks in your grid and reduces its resilience.

Rooftop solar can happily produce enough to cover commercial, personal transport/transit and residential with plenty to spare because you can cover worldwide average primary energy with about 50m^2 of sunlight per person. It's largely irrelevant at the moment though hecause costs are dominated by installation and coordination.

> Only about 34% of electricity is used for residential purposes in the United States, and I would be surprised if the proportion were much different in other countries.

This is entirely irrelevant

> This is entirely irrelevant

It is entirely relevant. How is that power getting from someone's rooftop to an aluminum smelter? Magic?

> Yes, it's what allows solar modules to see 10-20% yoy reductions in price per watt and 15MW wind turbines to be more cost effective than 1MW ones.

If it were really "cost effective" it wouldn't need the constant cheerleading and handwaving. Nor would it need the massive government subsidies.

And no, the entire power grid isn't going to be rebuilt within the next two years. Or the next two decades.

You are a fundamentally unserious person.

> If it were really "cost effective" it wouldn't need the constant cheerleading and handwaving. Nor would it need the massive government subsidies.

The total subsidies ever spent in solar are about the same order as the subsidy on a single nuclear reactor. That age is now over and most new utility scale projects (the majority of installations) are fully unsubsidized.

It won't even be economically preferable to keep existing gas running soon, let alone run a nuclear plant. Any money spent on nuclear now is just a handout to the builder and a handout to the gigawatts of fossil fuels that money could make obsolete.



Where are you going to get that hydrogen?

One of many options and analyses that get you well below the cost of a still-mythical nuclear reactor from someone like nuscale:




I'll believe those guys when I see a commercial scale version. Lots of things have been done in the lab with a large budge for small results. I would say less than 0.5% of them become a success. I hope they do, I would love for this to be true. However, the planet is dying right now and nuclear is one of those things that could help us save ourselves from ourselves so I will keep rooting for it.

As I said, it's only one of many technologies which are vying to lower costs. If 0.5% of the ones already undergoing commercialisation succeed we'll be seeing capital costs halve or better and efficiencies improve. The SMRs required to convert coal to nuclear or microwave drilling technologies are much much further from reality than "take a well understood design and put a capilliary in the middle".

Here's a simple model using very pessimistic costs of last generation technology with 100% uptime for lower LCOE than new nuclear https://model.energy/?results=ee966ba4279eec9f32fcdadb8dd4dc...

Much more importantly you're buying capacity that can come on as soon as each part is done with that money rather than capacity that comes online between 2032 and 2045 and won't see full return until 2100.

As you said the planet is dying now and I'd much rather have 3W for the capital in 3 years (with a vast surplus for variable loads) than 1W in 10-20.

All we have to do is stop helping the fossil fuel industry block new wind and solar projects, delay them and drive costs up. The variability will fund storage and drive fossil fuels out of business on its own. Pouring those billions of public funds into gigawatts of nationally owned electrolysers to kickstart the industry would be a vastly better use of money than spending it on nuclear projects that will never open or be a drain on public coffers for decades via tarriff guarantees 10x the projected cost of electricity.

Maybe, but not until the permitting gets fixed for small nuclear plants. It took NuScale over $1 billion dollars to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to okay its design. And it hasn’t built an small reactor that is even operating yet. Some of these have to get built before we can say whether they can go at old coal plants.

$1B for the design of a power source that is going to scale, at a minimum level of success, to 10s to 100s of GW, isn't that much.

So IMHO the scale of power that nuclear needs to operate at in order to be efficient, $1B doesn't seem like much. Nonetheless, where did that cost come from? Does it really take that many hours of engineering? Is there a $950M payment to the regulators to evaluate the design?

The NRC bills hourly.

I'm not sure if you are joking, but just in case if not...

A 100 person team working for 4 years at $200/hour is only $160M.

Really curious how a billion dollar could be spent on something like this.

I've read about a dozen pages of this report and I'm no closer to understanding what's going on. I care about this working well, but definitely don't care enough to wade through a seemingly tangentially related report.

My problem with nuclear, besides it seeming to be an outdated tech, is that proponents seem to have an extremely shallow understanding of the tech and the difficulties it faces. I find that I, a mere amateur just poking into energy as an hobby, often know an order of magnitude more than any proponent I've ever encountered.

And the more I poke into the details on my own, the more convinced I am that nuclear is a terrible technology without a future. It's time for somebody with knowledge to make the case to me, rather than me doing more and more homework that entrenches my existing dim view of nuclear. But I just need to find someone who advocates for nuclear who has deeper knowledge and can make that case.

Could the coal steam turbine system also be reused for deep geothermal? Seems less a regulated space than Nuclear

Deep geothermal isn't practical as it seems due to the small conductivity of heat for rocks that are cooled off to produce steam.

This is the pitch of Quaise Energy.


Like the nuclear plan, it doesn't really save any money as you can already reuse the transmission lines for solar/battery/energy-intensive-industry.

Why not use the much cheaper option of a H2 or ammonia first stage turbine and somesolar panels?

could you link to the research on that? I am really curious in mapping out all the energy alternatives we could have available (since fusion is not coming anytime )

I'd need to dig through my downloads folder a bit, but here is one (very simple) model. Note that lazard is claimed to have an anti-nuclear bias from many.


https://model.energy allows you to play with the numbers. Note that there are existing solar projects with lower whole sale prices than their 2030 projections in low latitude areas.

You can explore different scenarios like 'what if the hyasa 95% efficient electrolyser is commercialisable without needing platinum' or put in figures for ammonia in the h2 electrolyser column (just tweak the h2 capital and efficiency costa until price per kg of the 'hydrogen' is equivalent to a price you like for green ammonia keeping in mind H2 is about 7x the energy per mass)

Additionally keep in mind that nuclear lcoe figures tend to have very low discount rates (so compare like for like) and they also ignore build time.

Here's a press releasehttps://h2-ccs-network.com/blog/verdagy-hits-lcoh-below-3-00... Note they do not mention energy cost, so grain of salt. $2/kg (including storage) is roughly the magic number where you stop thinking about nuclear at all. $3-5 means you need to think about how little time you can runthe turbine and how much it costs you when it's off. H2 is more efficient and cheaper, Ammonia can be moved and stored more easily (and used in deisel engines as long as you can increase fuel tank size).

LMK if you want anything specific and/or you know of a good way to text search a folder full of pdfs on android.

Here's a slightly more sceptical take https://www.science-climat-energie.be/2021/07/16/the-present...

Another https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S09601...


Another optimistic one https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/solr.202100487

Keepin mind it's a lobbying body https://www.ammoniaenergy.org/topics/levelized-cost-of-ammon...

The real advantage to this is that it bypasses discussion about where to put the plant. It's a nice way of sneaking nuclear into peoples back yards, and likely into the sort of areas that couldn't stop a coal power plant, so wont be able to stop a nuclear one...

If there were a coal plant in my back yard, I'd be a lot happier if it were converted to nuclear. The small risk of a nuclear accident is much more preferable to the guaranteed constant mercury and sulfide pollution in the air from coal.

I still have yet to hear a solution to the problem of nuclear with human nature. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaporizhzhia_Nuclear_Power_Pla...

And its still better then coal.

There have been nuclear power plants going offline in my state in recent years, due to age and cheap fossil fuels. Which is better, retrofitting old nuke plants, or converting old coal plants? I would imagine the former.

here to say how much i love that headline :))

I’ll admit, I read the article solely to see if they acknowledge the pun. They don’t, leaving me to wonder if the pun was even intended. Had to be, right?


"Fast sodium", a.k.a not the safest way to build a fission reactor. But a good way to build a conventional, water/sodium-based bomb.

If you want nuclear: Bill Gates says small reactors will be safer soon. Wait for those. I do hope they use pebble-beds, and are not just "sealed" to be more secure.

no pun intended

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