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Is Nuclear Energy the Answer?

Posted on 13 June 2019 by scaddenp

Abbott 2011  and Abbott 2012 doesn’t think so but perhaps there are better analyses? For discussions of economics, levelized cost estimates of various electricity technologies can be found here and here.

Nuclear energy is quite commonly proposed as the solution to reducing GHG emissions. As soon as this gets raised on an article's comment thread, there has been a bad tendency for on-topic discussion to be completely derailed by proponents for and against.

We have repeatedly asked for nuclear proponents to provide an article for this site which puts the case based on published science but so far we haven't had a taker. The proposal would need to be reviewed by Sks volunteers. In lieu of such an article, this topic has been created where such discussions can take place.

However, in the absence of a proper article summarizing the science, stricter than normal moderation will be applied to ensure that all assertions made for or against are backed by references to published studies, preferably in peer-reviewed journals.

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Comments 151 to 158 out of 158:

  1. And another error:  the BNC Discussion Forum is moderated.  Post facto, same as here. 

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  2. The site is moderated. 

    BNC Discussion Forum

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  3. It seems that this discussion have derrailed a bit. I was able to read almost everything. I decided to join the discussion because very recently I done a compreensive research about this subject. In the end, I have made a article, where I conclude that the position for nuclear energy is not the best, comparatively to renewable technologies. 

    - Renewable technologies already have the technical potential to supply all primary energy demand, while nuclear energy is still dependent on important technological advancements. Fusion power is also a promising technology, but its technical feasibility was not demonstrated yet.

    - Nuclear energy is relatively clean and has less land requirements, but its waste management continues to be an expensive and potentially dangerous problem waiting for a definitive solution.

    -Nuclear energy is becoming less competitive relatively to renewable technologies (specially wind and solar power) in terms of levelized costs of energy. Moreover, the costs associated to the management of the nuclear waste tend to increase over time, and the decommission costs of a nuclear power plant remain difficult to evaluate.

    -Nuclear energy is a relatively safe technology, presenting one of the lowest fatality rates, even considering the nuclear accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima. However, its potential for catastrophic events is considerable and have a high psychological effect on people’s mind.

    -A set of technological developments are taking place which would enable renewable technologies to provide satisfactory stability levels to the electric power system in the future, allowing thus the dismissal of nuclear power plants from that role.

    I will not post here all the references I have consulted since it would be messy. Instead, you can read my article. If there any particular subject anyone wants to discuss, I will be glad to do so.

    Here is the link

    Thanks to all

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Good to see an article with a comprehensive list of sources at the bottom.

  4. I'm looking for a critique of the case Michael Schellenberger makes for nuclear energy.  Would there be one in comments in this thread or anywhere else on the website?  

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  5. Sorry for the misspelling...that would be Shellenberger

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  6. At post 90 in this thread I commented on a Shellenberger video.  Shellenberger is a paid shill for the nuclear industry.  His presentations are filled with falsehoods and misinformation.  

    I recommend you read Abbott 2012, linked in the OP.  Abbott is a peer reviewed critique of nuclear power.  Abbott shows that there is no hope of a significant (more than 5% of all power) amount of nuclear power in the future.  Shellenberger has not attempted to answer the issues raised by Abbott.   Who do you believe, a peer reviewed paper or an unreviewed paid shill? 

    I note that even Shellenberger only claims that 50% of current electricity (about 10% of all power) can be generated using nuclear power.  The remainder would have to be generated by renewables.

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  7. Michael @156 ,

    I haven't seen Shellenberger's presentations favoring extensive usage of "nuclear" (and as you do, I strongly suspect it cannot be achieved in a timely & economic manner . . . and it would be a harmful diversion of resources that would much better be spent on "renewables").

    However, readers may have noted an article by Shellenberger titled: "On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the climate scare".

    But I am not in any way recommending his article.  Shellenberger's article is quite appalling in quality ~ it resembles the "holiest" of Swiss cheeses, in that it is burdened with a vast number of logical errors & misleading informations.   In short, a propaganda piece.   Although he appears to make an acknowledgement of AGW as a problem, he slants his message to the position that tackling AGW is non-urgent & can reasonably be postponed for decades (while other world problems get precedence).   Altogether, his article fits in well with the run-of-the-mill Denialist nonsense.  The same flavor, almost entirely !

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  8. Looking for something else I found this post at RealClimate about Shellenburger's OP-Ad (they describe Shellenburger's article as an advertisement for his book).

    One scientist summarizes Shellenburger's OP-Ad as:

    "Is this the problem, then? Half-truths, incoherent cases, sound-good arguments that in total don't add up to a coherent case against environmentalism except seemingly on 4-minute between-commercial segments on conservative talk radio but not in thought-out rational discourse?"

    — David Appell (@davidappell)

    Sounds to me like they don't agree with Shellenburger.  The RealClimate post goes into great detail discussing Shellenburger's main points (I didn't read them all).

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  9. The introduction for this blog topic states: "We have repeatedly asked for nuclear proponents to provide an article for this site which puts the case based on published science but so far we haven't had a taker."

    I am a taker.

    Using the Contact Us form, I submitted a request to provide a nuclear proponent's case for nuclear. On 21 June, 2020. Well, a month later, SkepticalScience hasn't even bothered with the courtesy of a reply - denial or acceptance.

    One thing I mentioned in my note, is that I would not be locked into the Abbott paradigm - as I will explain in my next post.

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  10. One consistent current running through this blog topic is the wonderful peer-reviewed Abbott 2011 and 2012 papers. But they just are not of a high quality.

    First, the two articles are pretty much the same.

    Second, as sauerj's post at Should a Green New Deal include nuclear power? 00:29 AM on 24 April, 2019 points out, Abbott 2012 is an opinion piece, published in their Point of View features, which "The scope of this section ranges from opinions on the importance of particular new concepts or discoveries to discussion of educational and professional trends to personal positions and predictions on various technical topics." - opinions, discussion, personal positions - not peer reviewed science.

    Third, lets go thru the underlying references of Abbott:

    1. "It can also be argued that nuclear power has a key role to play in meeting emissions targets (Brook, 2012) for mitigating climate change."
      • Ok, so the first citation is 'here is an opinion, and here is the citation to that opinion'.
      • It can be argued. Fine. Seems fairly innocuous.
    2. "A nuclear utopian goes much further and suggests that nuclear power can potentially supply the bulk of the world’s energy needs for many thousands of years to come and that perhaps a mix of renewables with nuclear power as the backbone supply is the long-term energy future (Manheimer, 2006)."
      • Ok, so the second citation is 'here is an definition, and here is the citation to that definition'.
        Now we know what a nuclear utopian is. Seems fairly innocuous.
    3. "Currently, the total global power consumption is about 15 terawatts (EIA, 2011)."
      • Ok, the third citation is data. Global power is .... Seems fairly innocuous.
    4. "Today there are about 430 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide (Schneider et al., 2012)."
      • Ok, the fourth citation is more data. There are X number reactors. Seems fairly innocuous.
    5. "Taking into account not just the footprint of a nuclear power station but also its exclusion zone, associated enrichment plant, ore processing, and supporting infrastructure, Stanford's Mark Z. Jacobson (2009) has shown that each nuclear power plant draws upon a total land area of as much as 20.5 square kilometers."
      • Ok, the fifth citation is more data. Seems fairly .... wait a minute, 20.5 km2? That is a lot of land. Nuclear is very dense, so the cognoscenti are immediately suspicious. Better check this citation.

    In Abbott 2012, "Jacobson (2009)" refers to "Jacobson, MZ (2009) Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Energy & Environmental Science 2: 148–173." I believe this is an electronic copy of that very paper: Jacobson (2009)

    And let us see what Jacobson writes, section 6.4: "Estimates of the lands required for uranium mining and nuclear facility with a buffer zone are 0.06 ha yr GWh1 and 0.26 ha yr GWh1, respectively, and that for waste for a single sample facility is about 0.08 km2 [footnote] 31. For the average plant worldwide, this translates into a total land requirement per nuclear facility plus mining and storage of about 20.5 km2."

    Let's look at footnote 31: D. V. Spitzley, and G. A. Keoleian, Life cycle environmental and economic assessment of willow biomass electricity: A comparison with other renewable and non-renewable sources, Report No. CSS04–05R, 2005, The link has changed, but this is where the report cannot be found CSS04-05R.pdf

    What do you mean, cannot be found??? Why are you posting a link then?

    Well, as the Univ. of Michigan states (in 2010, a year (and 5 days) before the first Abbott paper)

    AUTHOR(S): David V. Spitzley Gregory A. Keoleian
    EDITOR's NOTE: This report is temporarily unavailable and will be posted again once a correction on a metric pertaining to the nuclear fuel cycle is made. - October 25, 2010."

    Naturally, I sent a note to the Univ. of Michigan, and they still haven't gotten around to their, um, shall we say retraction? and subsequent repost yet.

    Basically, in Abbott's first claim, versus uncontested data, he starts lowering the paper's quality with a dodgy reference. Does this mean that all of Abbott 2011 or 2012 (where he repeats the claim at the beginning of the paper) is garbage? Or just that section?

    Well, it certainly means that Abbott is not the most careful of researchers, and that at least one of his paper's major claims is suspect.

    Also, my life is too short to go through the rest of Abbott pointing out the other opinions, poor research and sketchy logic. Maybe Abbott should write a proper paper which has less opinion-stated-as-fact, and more fact. Of course, it is fine if in his conclusion he states his opinion, but conflating the two really reduces the quality of this paper.

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  11. Preston Urka @ 159/160 ,

    thank you for your comments.  And as you say, you would not want to be "locked into the Abbott paradigm".

    The question of 20 Km2 of land per nuclear plant is a dubious matter.  To me it seems quite inappropriate to "burden" each nuclear plant with the background support structure of land area involved in mining / ore processing / waste storage.   Even more so, with regard to [future] small-scale plants.  Here, whatever the size, the major concern is that plants be air-cooled, and not requiring lake/river or ocean-front access.   (Just as it is quite feasible for solar farms' panels to be "thinned out" to permit mixed agriculture & pasture usage.)

    I hope you will press ahead with your comments, and disregard the Abbott land-area aspects.  The real heart of the nuclear question is economics & timeliness.   Timeliness is the developmental problem, in view of the current rapidity of global warming and the rising CO2 load.  And the basic economics:  resource allocation and costings of delivered Kwh ~ levelised costing including the short-term and long-term security costings (anti-terrorist, particularly).

    If you can make a good case, then it would certainly be worth your composing a concise article.   Sorry, I am not in a position to comment on [lack of] response from the SkS "head office" ~ but please remember that SkS is a shoestring operation run by volunteers, who are stretched thin for time.  Perhaps they don't have time for "a pig in a poke",  yet I am confident that a well-argued presentation would be welcome . . . even if it takes some weeks of time for the wheels to turn over.

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  12. When it comes to the ability of nuclear power to provide a significant contribution towards AGW mitigation, there is one argument that is perhaps more powerful than any other because it is a fundamental argument which cannot be refuted. That argument is what I will call the 'Pudding Argument - "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

    The nuclear industry has had certainly thirty years to demonstrate its potential as a contributor to AGW mitigation. And what has it achieved? Through this time, the advocates of nuclear have continually waxed lyrically about nuclear being the answer to our prayers (here quoted the World Nuclear Association):-

    "To combat climate change, the world must rapidly reduce its dependency on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear energy is low-carbon and can be deployed on a large scale in the time frame required, supplying the world with clean and affordable electricity."

    However, by the 'Pudding Test', in three decades nuclear has achieved absolutely nothing whatever, this despite many billions of investment (which has solely managed to replace ageing nuclear capacity). The figure below is from World Energy Data showing global primary energy supply 1990-2018 (based on BP data).

    World Energy Data 2019

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  13. Preston Urka:

    The question of the area used by a nuclear plant was discussed at great length by poster Barry earlier in this thread.  Reading your link to Jacobson 2009 (which I linked upthread during the discussion with Barry). I see that the area of a nuclear plant is not important in Jacobson's evaluation of nuclear plants.  He argues that biofuels are impractical because of area used but for nuclear area is not a concern.  I have never seen a nuclear opponent argue that area is a problem with nuclear, only nuclear supporters are concerned about area.  You are wasting our time by pursuing an issue that is not significant.

    Jacobson 2009 currently has 1405 citations (!!!) according to Google Scholar.  Perhaps you might want to pick a more obscure article to claim is inaccurate.  

    I recommend that you write an article with peer reviewed citations and then send it to contact us at Skeptical Science.  Since your posts above do not contain references to argue against Abbott you need to raise your game a lot or the article will be rejected.

    Abbott 2012 was published by invitation in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.   The editors read Abbott 2011 and thought it was important for nuclear scientists to read so they republished it.  The fact that it was published by invitation means that the editors peer reviewed the article and thought it was worthy of publication.

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  14. MA Rodger,

    I liked your description of a pudding.  I thought it was a good comparison.

    I have noticed that you are making a lot of well written posts lately.  Thank you for your informed commentary.

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  15. Ah, Michael, you are bordering on faint praise there!   I would say that MA Rodger has a multi-year track record of excellent posts on several forums** , not just at SkS.   A slightly different style of writing, compared with the outstanding (but now retired) Tom Curtis.   [ ** Forum, like Octopus, should always take the English plural, no?]

    Back on topic ~ and it will be interesting to see if Preston Urka (above) can make a good case.   Since many strongly-pro-nuclear advocates have rather fallen flat in the past, it might be prudent for Preston to first "run the gauntlet" in the comments columns here, before undertaking the work of a formal article.

    I can see the attractions of using numerous small Molten Salt Reactors : partly for redundancy of electric power, especially in sub-arctic regions and/or on smaller islands.  One particular advocate projects a [levelised?] cost of 4 cents per Kwh ~ but he never substantiates this claim.  And I very much fear that such low-cost claims are carefully ignoring the "external" cost of security. (Guarding against a commando-style terrorist raid intended to explode, or worse abduct, fissionable materiel.  And strengthening the containing vessels against a 911-style plane attack.)

    But, as MA Rodger says, there is the Pudding problem.  And the same can be said of fusion reactors, only more so.   Admittedly, the science-deniers use the same Pudding argument against wind/solar Renewable Energy . . . but they steadfastly turn a blind eye to the demonstrated efficacy & plummeting cost of renewables ~ and to the fact that private financiers are putting up money for RE installations, even as subsidies fade out.

    Yet for fission reactors, private financiers are running scared.   AFAIK only Rossatom and other governmental money is actually being used for building new reactors at scale.  (Not that I myself am opposed to a modicum of governmental money being diverted into a measure of nuclear building ~ but governmental money is a question that will likely stick in the craw of those Libertarian extremists, whenever they pause in their efforts to denigrate RE.   And the same Oily Interests which oppose RE, are probably quietly undermining Nuclear.)

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  16. I personally think that the molten salt reactor idea has merit as another wedge to tackle the climate problem, provided that the issues enumerated by Eclectic are appropriately addressed. 


    There are, however, good news on the renewable front:

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  17. Eclectic,

    I am sorry, I intended my comments about MA Rodger to be very strong praise.  His posts have a lot of data and graphs that are good presentations and take a long time to find and put in a post.

    I at post 127 in this thread I respond to an article (linked by a nuclear advocate) by a proponent of molten salt reactors where they proposed using "unobtainium" for the valves that control the salt (Doug C's original post is here).  Apparently no known alloys can sustain the heat and radiation field.  In addition, they require 5 tons of bomb grade uranium to start up the reactor.  Since no molten salt reactor designs currently exist, and the materials required are unknown, it seems like a risky bet to make.

    Renewable energy is currently much cheaper than the projected costs of small reactor proponents.  Given the very long record of nuclear proponents promising cheap power and delivering expensive power way behind schedule I think the decision is easy to make.

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  18. First, let me publically thank Baerbel (who sent me a very nice note via email). Let me also note Eclectic's kind advice on continuing to press ahead.

    I appreciate the challenge MA_Rodger has thrown down. True debate!

    Sadly, this makes the tone of michael_sweet all the more glaring in its contrast.

    MA Rodger's Pudding Argument

    #1 Nuclear has achieved the second-largest contribution to low-carbon electricity (I will confine myself pretty much to electricity vs. total energy) for over 60 years, let alone the last 30. Yes, renewables (when you include hydro) have done more. However, the expansion of renewables over the last several decades has not been in hydro, and hydro has problems:

    • hydro tends to be environmentally destructive
    • hydro has limited scope for expansion
    • most of the best places for hydro are already taken

    However, when comparing the areas of Nuclear vs. other Renewables (Wind/Solar), we might ask just what other renewables are doing for us - not much apparently! I do not subscribe to that view - clearly they have made a low-carbon juice difference in the last few years - just as obviously as Nuclear has.

    #2 Let us not conflate the (lack of) addition of Nuclear with its contribution. The US is a more obvious example.

    Think about it. Over the last 20 years (closer to 30), the only real addition to the nuclear fleet is Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee. With just 100-odd NPPs, mostly 30 years old, Nuclear is still equal to the renewables (including Hydro! truly astonishing!) industry in provision of low-carbon electricity in the US. And compared to the Wind-Solar industry, crushing it. Crushing it. Wow!

    If we had kept on building NPPs at the rate of the 70's and 80's, it is quite obvious (peer-reviewed citation or not) that doubling the amount of low-carbon electricity was possible.

    Alternatively, I suggest to you, MA Rodger, why hasn't the Wind-Solar industry caught up to infrastructure that has stood in stasis (excepting Watts Bar) over the last 20-30 years?

    Moral: Never bet against the energy density of nuclear power.

    #3 However, MA Rodger, if you want to take your argument to its logical conclusion: Why hasn't any low-carbon (hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, etc) generation source managed to win your Pudding Argument against Natural Gas?

    It is rather clear that over the last 20-30 years Natural Gas has been the main (new source) reducer of GHG emissions (by displacing coal) rather than any other generation source, renewable or nuclear. 

    Don't get me wrong, I think Natural Gas is only half as bad as coal. Which is to say, bad. But I view the goal as reducing GHG emissions, and so I will take the non-growth (due to politics) of nuclear, the mini-growth of wind and solar (due to intermittency and lack of installed capacity) and even the only-half-as-bad-as-coal-growth of natural gas in lowering GHG emissions.

    michael sweet's argument? polemic? something like that

    #1 I never stated Jacobson 2009 was inaccurate or bad science. Let me be more clear: Jacobson 2009, publishing a year prior to the retraction of Spitzley and Keoleian 2005 in 2010, did their due diligence. Jacobson et al appear to be careful researchers. In contrast, Abbot 2011 and 2012 are not. It was Abbot's responsibility to follow this stuff up. It was also the responsibility of his journal, Bull. Atomic Scientists to follow this stuff up.

    #2 I never stated Jacobson 2009's main or significant point was land area. I did state this was one of the main and significant points of Abbot 2011 and 2012. I was questioning the quality of the Abbott papers, not the Jacobson paper.

    #3 to address your comment "I have never seen a nuclear opponent argue that area is a problem with nuclear" - I suggest you read Abbott 2011 or 2012 again. Abbott is clearly a nuclear opponent and Abbott is clearly listing area as a problem.

    Abbott's 2011 section title is "II. THE LAND AREA PROBLEM". An entire section is devoted to arguing that area is a problem, but you have never seen it?

    Abbott's 2011 section "CONCLUSION ... There are fundamental limits imposed by ... land resources ...". I believe most readers would view this statement as referring to section II and interpret it as meaning 'area is a problem with nuclear'. In any case, that is how I have.


    If I take you at your word, should I conclude you did not read Abbott's paper. (I have, tip: not worth it - there are much better anti-nuclear papers, Jacobson (not 2009) springs to mind).

    Heaven's to Betsy! I haven't included any (not a single one) peer-reviewed citations in this post. Call the gendarmes out!

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  "Nuclear is still equal to the renewables (including Hydro! truly astonishing!) industry in provision of low-carbon electricity in the US. And compared to the Wind-Solar industry, crushing it."

    And yet:

    "building and running new renewable energy is now cheaper than just running existing coal and nuclear plants"


    "the full-lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies such as coal or nuclear"

    The unsubsidised levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of large scale wind and solar is at a fraction of the cost of new coal or nuclear generators, even if the cost of decommissioning or the ongoing maintenance for nuclear is excluded.

    Inflammatory snipped.  You do yourself no favors by baiting others.

  19. Great Murgatroyd!

    An article, #153, Justino Rodrigues at 01:26 AM on 30 April, 2020, has been posted to SkS which makes claims without any citations whatsoever!

    I note the moderator praised this post especially for its sources, but I feel that a website that goes defunct in under 2.5 months/90 days is perhaps a bit dodgy. is no longer available.
    The authors have deleted this site.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  A backup copy of that page, replete with source citations, is available here.

  20. Preston Urka,

    Rereading Abbott 2011 I find this is his argument:

    "each nuclear power plant surprisingly requires an extended land footprint area of as much as 20.5 km2. While this is a little less than the area it would take for a typical desert-based solar thermal farm (with suitable storage) to generate the same power output, the advantage of solar thermal is in its much lower complexity and its use of unused desert area, whereas nuclear stations tend to take up prime area adjacent to sources of coolant water. Coupling the difficulty
    of strategic choice of location (as in Section I) with this large area requirement questions the ability to scale up to 15 000 reactors"

    The primary issue that Abbott raises is not the total area occupied by nuclear plants, which is similar to solar thermal plants that Abbott supports.  His issue is that the land occupied by nuclear plants is prime real estate.  By contrast, solar plants are frequently located in deserts, on top of buildings, providing shade over parking lots or on poor farm land.  Wind generators are located in remote locations.  Your argument about total land occupied is a straw man. I note that in Abbott 2012 he has refined his argument and lowers considerations of area even more.

    Please provide a list of sites where 2,000 reactors could be located in the USA (that is enough reactors to generate only half of US energy use).  I note that the Vogtle reactors in Georgia are currently in the 11th year of a 5 year build and are not expected to be finished for several years.

    It is not Abbott's responsibility to check all the references of all the papers he cites.  

    I note your complete inability to find any peer reviewed papers that support your position.

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  21. Preston Urka @168,

    Your response #1 & #2 to the 'Pudding Argument' are identical. That is that the achieved CO2 enissions mitigated over the last 30 years by the existence of NPPs (as you call them) exceeds that of renewables.

    The difficulty with wielding this response (#1 & #2) is that this mitigated CO2 was not the result of a CO2 mitigation policy but simply due to the existence of these NPPs 30 years ago. It is in no way part of a policy of using these existing NPPs to "rapidly reduce its dependency on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." So this 'rapid reduction' which the World Nuclear Association are telling us about (as quoted @162) is nought but a fantasy.  I would add another worry for the WNA in that they admit to a 'rapid' requirement in CO2 mitigation but NPPs take decades to deliver from a standing start. And NPP-wise, it is a standing start we remain at today.

    This failure-to-deliver could be blamed on political constraints (rather than technological ones) but why are these political constraints omnipresent? The WNA document linked @162 talks of the French NPPs which were built 1980-2005. Why did they then stop? And why hasn't China or India enthusiastically begun building NPPs?

    You response #3 is not relevant to the 'Pudding Argument' when set against NPPs. (For the record, renewables other-than-hydro [which are not readily scaleable] are doubling in capacity roughly every five years or so. Thus the 'Pudding Argument' set against renewables will be irrelevant in a few short years.)

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  22. Moderator [DB] @ 168
    OH! I totally wish I could interrupt other's posts with my opinion.

    Not mine to dictate how SkS runs its website, but I do believe that in common blog etiquette a moderator should, you know, moderate a discussion. If the moderator wishes to participate in a discussion, then why not login as yourself and participate? But hey, if you want to leave the impression that SkS has its thumb on the scales, then go for it.

    As to your argument, you may have a few interesting points there. I do not see how they directly apply to the Pudding Argument, but an interesting direction to take the argument.

    Moderator [DB] @ 169
    Thank you for providing the missing link.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Moderation complaints snipped.

  23. michael sweet @ 170

    Quite the biodiversitist are you not? I am not so sanguine that someone else's desert turtle is an impediment to progress.

    Also, I think you still do not grasp my argument:

    • in @ 160 I argue that Abbott 2011/2012 are a low-quality papers (I do not state any qualitative opinion, pro or con about Jacobson 2009)
    • in @ 163 michael sweet argues that I am tearing down Jacobson 2009
      • note to moderator - an example of a polemic (contentious rhetoric that is intended to support a specific position) is when an argument is made against a set of statements never made
    • in @ 168 I continue argument that Abbott 2011/2012 are a low-quality papers (specifically noting Jacobson 2009 is OK scholarship)
    • now in @ 170 michael sweet argues that Abbott something or something, but at least he isn't making a .... darnit!
      • "Your argument about total land occupied is a straw man."
        I am not aware that I made such an argument. Look, I don't know whose post you are referencing, but it isn't mine.
      • Ahhh! Found it - I am quoting Abbott and then Jacobson in @ 160. Those are not my arguments buddy. Are you arguing against them now? Or just continuing your polemic?
      • All of @ 160 simply traces through to a dodgy citation.
    • However, I still don't see why Abbott 2011/2012 is anything other than low-quality papers - again, I will not argue within that artificial paradigm.

    My point in @ 160, @ 168 and this post is that Abbott has produced some shoddy work as evidenced by his poor research. Perhaps Abbott should be let off the hook as per your note that Abbott shouldn't be responsible for citations within (I do not agree, as usually the buck stops where it ought to) - however, then Abbott is crediting Jacobson 2009 with the work of Spitzley and Keoleian 2005 - definitely poor scholarship.

    When writing a 'peer-reviewed paper' one cites original sources when possible. Jacobson 2009 was quite clear he was not the original source for 20.5 km2.

    I will cite (gasp! a non-peer reviewed paper) Wikipedia on Palo Verde for a total size of 1,600 ha (normalized to 2,021 kWh/m2 - this is the maximum boundary, the core plant itself is on 100-200 hectares, the great majority of the 1600 hectares is unused, and potentially available for expansion - possibly the space for the 2000 extra reactors already exists!), in the freakin' desert, where they use sewage to absorb the waste heat.

    Wow! Abbott's article really falls apart now - using sewage in the desert over 16km2 (or only a 100-200 hectares core) is pretty flexible. This is far different from Abbott's 20.5 km2 of prime real estate.

    Does every NPP use sewage for waste heat? - no. But can many NPPs use sewage for waste heat? - yes. Is every NPP i the desert? - no. But can many NPPs be sited in 'unproductive land'? - yes. Sure, sue me, I admit existing usage is different from what is possible. On your part, admit what is possible.

    Ok, just to close the loop: The nearby Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is 1460 ha (normalized to 51 kWh/m2, and no, there isn't a lot of idle parkland).

    Are the plant reservations of 1600 and 1460 hectares similar? Sure, if you count 4000 MW @ 83% capacity factor as similar to 392 MW @ 24% c.f. Squinting against the desert sun may help square that circle.

    "I note your complete inability to find any peer reviewed papers that support your position."
    Again, I think Abbott is low-quality. Again, I will not argue within that paradigm of half-truth and shadow.

    Can you explain why you think Abbott is high-quality scholarship? (yeah, I get it is 'peer-reviewed', do you have any other argument there?)

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  24. Preston , if you are looking to submit a "pro-nuclear" OP article to SkS, then it will need to be a well-considered article ~  in both senses!

    Succinct, yes.  Well-argued, yes.  The article would not need to be perfection:  but it would need to rise well above being tendentious or opinionated, and it would need to give a well-rounded summary of the present state of knowledge.   In other words, it should be a resource, a valuable educational asset [this being the basic purpose of SkepticalScience].

    To that end, the article should analyse the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the Nuclear path.

    Best to avoid being side-tracked into Abbott's land-area issue.  Though M. Sweet's water-cooling and "prime real estate" issues would need proper assessing.  And I think my point about anti-terrorist security must be addressed too ~  because the world is changing politically & philosophically, and what was almost unthinkable (before Al-Qaeda) has become increasingly probable (and might even involve covertly state-sponsored terrorist acts).   A huge increase in numbers of small reactors does have a disproportionately large multiplying effect on all issues.

    Future rivals to Nuclear do not include "hydro" (because relatively little room for large expansion in dams).   Similarly not including wave energy or tidal flow or geo-thermal energy ~  which have their own "Pudding" problems.

    The real rivals to Nuclear are the combo of wind/solar.  Add to that, the crucial timeliness issue and all the various economics aspects.  And NIMBY.

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  25. MA Roger @ 171
    Let me express my admiration for your arguments based on discourse. I can see that you are actually reading my argument. I feel we are actually responding to each other in civil conversation. I appreciate your style, if not your conclusion.

    I believe my responses #1 and #2 are slightly different concepts. #1 is a direct response to 'what nuclear has achieved', represented by a global scale chart. In my opinion, the data shows nuclear has contributed to GHG reductions.

    #2 is to question the contribution of Wind and Solar over a similar timeframe, using US data as a reference case. In my opinion, the data shows the growth of Wind and Solar against a static industry. Were the nuclear industry to become dynamic again (through political support, similar financial arrangements, and technical improvements on the drawing board) I believe nuclear could, in comparison, blow away the relatively minor progress Wind and Solar have made.

    As to an unconscious CO2 mitigation policy not being effective, I simply disagree. The effect, intended or not is measurable. More pithily, whichever pudding you eat, the toilet bowl contains the same result.

    NPPs take decades to deliver from a standing start
    (and renewables do not? a list of some of the bigger projects, because once you cross $1 billion your project suddenly gets longer)

    projectproject startcommission
    London Array 2003 2012
    Hornsea 1 2008 2019
    Hornsea 2 2012 2022

    9 years, 11 years, 10 years - about a decade per GW-size wind farm

    • Why did the French stop?
      • The French achieved their (pre-Paris 2015) goal of a highly nuclear electric generation grid.
    • Why have they not built more (post-Paris 2015)?
      • Well, when you are one of the lowest GHG emitters in the world per your electricity sector, you start working on other sectors like transport and industry.

    Note the French have added some wind; although NPPs can load follow demand, wind cannot, and NPPs cannot react fast enough to intermittent wind, so the French added some natural gas to make the wind work - basically French GHG emissions rose slightly due to the addition of wind.

    • Why haven't China or India enthusiastically begun building NPPs? They have.
      • China - 11 under construction. Latest in 2019.
      • India - 7 under construction. Latest in 2016.
      • (or IN)

    "renewables other-than-hydro ... are doubling in capacity roughly every five years or so. Thus the 'Pudding Argument' set against renewables will be irrelevant in a few short years."

    Ok. 2017 data, best the IEA has. LINK
    2017 - Wind:1,127,319 GWh, Solar PV:443,554 GWh, Biofuels 481,529 (others are pretty small, but lets not get too hung up on rounding errors; as it is I am not so sure biofuels deserves a renewable label) = 2,052,402 GWh
    Coal: 9,863,339 Gas: 5,882,825 GWh => 15,746,164 GWh

    A bit under 3 doublings, so 15 years to go totally Coal and NG free. However, 3 years have passed, so 12 years as of 2020.

    Who believes 12 years from now we will have no coal or NG?

    • Germany - does not, they predict 2038 to phase out German coal.
    • China - does not, they predict only 50% chinese renewables by 2050
    • US - does not, they predict world only 50% renewables by 2050
    • etc - hey, go argue with the man, not with me. :)

    No, I do not believe renewables can escape the Pudding Argument.

    My point of the 'Pudding Argument' when set against NPPs is that although NPPs are not competing now, they can compete if the conditions are slightly altered, and if they do, the energy density, dispatchability and high c.f. of nuclear wipes out advantages of other technologies.

    But a more important question remains: Wind and solar are the cheapest, right? New wind and solar are even cheaper than installed coal, right?
    Per Mark Jaccard (LINK I totally recommend his book), where's the urgency then? If society does zippo, capitalists will solve this problem in no time flat based on pure economics. No subsidies, no political fights, no carbon tax, no effort. Paris 2015 - why bother? IPCC - total white elephant. IRENA - duplicating the private sector.
    We need all that stuff (and nuclear) because wind and solar are the cheapest marginal cost energy at the marginal demand - not the cheapest in aggregate. (ex: Can anyone price a contract for solar at midnight?)

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  26. Eclectic @ 174

    As per my thanks to MA Roger, I appreciate your tone and argument as civil and engaged.


    I doubt I can be succinct in my article on this issue, but I can list some items here.

    1. It is really only an issue in plants without cooling towers or their own reservoirs.
    2. We have existing solutions to that issue: build plants with cooling towers or their own reservoirs.
    3. We have existing uncommon solutions, such as Palo Verde's use of sewage.
    4. As Gen IV reactors produce higher-temperatures, one needs water-cooling less and less. In particular, Brayton cycles can be air-cooled.

    prime real estate

    This is a false argument (no, that is not a slam against you) for several reasons. What is the definition of prime?

    1. I accept rooftop solar makes excellent use of otherwise non-prime real estate, but rooftop solar can barely meet half of residential demand. We won't get utility-scale solar on rooftops.
    2. Are deserts and low-grade farmland non-prime? In my opinion, no. In your opinion, perhaps yes, but I'm fairly sure we can agree this is in the eye of the beholder.
    3. NPPs (particularly smaller Gen IV) can be sited within cities, where the power is actually needed.
      • Lowers transmission costs
      • Improves reliability
      • Concentrates the human footprint on the earth
      • NPPs in cities may be a use of prime real estate - my contention is that it is a high-value use of prime real estate. Is there any point to a low-value use of prime real estate?

    So, I hope you see what I mean by a false argument. There may be a true argument in there somewhere, but I fundamentally do not really understand the position at all as presented.

    This is another example of Abbott's low-quality - he simply makes an assertion. No methodology, definitions, or model.

    anti-terrorist security

    I am not sure this is definitive, but I believe the only known terrorist attack against an NPP was against one under construction by an environmental terrorist, not a political group. Chaim Nissim

    Should we arrest all members of the Green Party? Perhaps not.

    Existing NPPs are super-difficult targets. Even if a group can pass the guards, fences etc, the reactor is difficult to blow-up/disable/sabotage due to its massive reinforcement and boundaries. (I believe we can rely upon regulators ensuring equivalent protections for smaller Gen IV NPPs).

    At Fukushima a magnitude 9 earthquake and a 14 m tsunami unleashed far more energy than a terrorist with a backpack, or even thousands of pounds of explosives on a truck could hope to achieve. It still took nearly 24h for the first explosion - in an area crippled from receiving outside aid by the tsunami.

    I contend that it would take hours for terrorists to take over enough of the plant, having to kill/capture 100s of workers to do so, and in that time the police (baring square kms of natural disaster) will have arrived and mounting a counter-strike, to do any damage.

    Cooling pools are easier to access. You just have to know how to operate specialized equpment and be prepared to cut massive safety corners. Even so, again, it will take hours of uninterrupted work to access the spent fuel. Maybe you just want to leave behind a mess - again Fukushima shows us how contained even a massive amount of damage is.

    Try your luck with the dry cask storage. These things have 5 layers to crack through, and it would take specialized equipment and hours to do so. After all, they are meant to withstand massive accidents and to last for 50-100 years.

    You might steal a cask, and crack it afterward at your leisure - so you need a crane capable of lifting 20-50 tons, and a flatbed truck, and at least an hour to manhandle it aboard. The guards and police have no worry about ricocheting rifle rounds off these canisters so you will be under fire during the theft.

    Or, you can make anthrax (hint you need dirt from your garden) or sarin (easy enough to make that 2 attacks so far by terrorists). This sort of sneaky route is low-tech, low-cost, low-training, and worst of all low-visibility to the police.

    real rivals

    Nuclear is the rival of coal. Where nuclear is built, coal disappears. Ontario ends coal

    Natural gas is the rival of nuclear. Where nuclear disappears, natural gas replaces it. Indian Point replaced with gas - go to the EIA if you want official data.

    What is the rival of wind/solar - not natural gas, natural gas is wind/solar's companion, not rival. That is because pretty much only gas can deal with wind and solar's intermittency. (Note, this is intermittency, not load-following; nuclear can deal with load following, a few MW/minute ramps; it can't deal with intermittency, 100s MW/minute ramps)

    Not nuclear as per above. The rival to wind/solar is - yes, wind and solar!

    the tragedy of negative pricing

    People tend to view nuclear and wind/solar as rivals because grids with high % of wind/solar tend to have lots of low or negative pricing. The negative pricing hurts nuclear more due to investment subsidies for solar, production subsidies for wind, and higher finance costs for nuclear.

    Simultaneously people also tend to view negative pricing as a good thing. It is not a good thing.

    1. Value of commodity goods like electricity is roughly equal to their price (note I am really talking marginal price here, which is a bit different, but let's forge ahead anyway). Thus a negative price means negative value. Another phrase for negative value is 'destoying value'. I am fairly sure SkS is going to howl about this, but please, just stop and think really hard about what negative prices mean.
      • examples: garbage/sewage - waste has a negative value, which is why we pay to get rid of it
    2. But is this really bad? Yes - think about the motivations of the following 2 actors:
      • Imagine you run a utility and someone comes to you with a project that will charge negative prices. You won't invest.
      • Imagine you run a public utilities commission and your staff projects a need for more electricity. How do you encourage the investment to make that happen?
      • In other words, we need positive prices to encourage investment to meet demand. That doesn't mean the investor can charge a huge premium, but it does mean they can make a bit of coin to justify the investment.

    These scenarios hold for wind and solar just as much for nuclear.

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  27. Preston Urka,

    I believe all your arguments have already been made and answered upthread in the discussion with poster Barry.  Your posting style is similar to Barry.

    Cherry picking wind projects that had long planning stages before wind was the cheapest power do not support your argument.   Your reference states that for the London Array: "Construction of phase 1 of the wind farm began in March 2011 and was completed by mid 2013."  For Hornsea 1 your reference states: "Construction of the first phase started in January 2018, and the first turbines began supplying power to the UK national electricity grid in February 2019"

    By contrast, at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia (USA) according to Wikipedia, construction on unit 3 started on August 26, 2009 and will not be complete before the end of 2021 in the unlikely event that they stay on the current schedule.  The original completion date was in 2016. The cost is currently estimated at $28 billion for 2 units with more expected additions (original estimates $14 billion) source .

    Jacobson 2009 estimates build times for nuclear as 10-19 years.  Vogtle is already at 14 years and is not finished yet.  Build times for wind and solar plants are 2-5 years including planning.  Since 2009  planning and approval times for wind and solar have decreased as regulators learn what is needed to approve wind and solar plants.  Wind and solar projects are often delivered ahead of time and under budget.

    Nuclear plants sell power at night for much less than the cost of generating the power.

    You are arguing that your inability to find a reference cited by Jacobson 2009 means that Abbott 2011 is low quality.  This is not a logical argument.  The basic calculation of area needed for a nuclear plant is described in Jacobson 2009.  Your example of Palo Verde does not include the land needed for mining, refinement and disposal of uranium and radioactive wastes.  The 16 km2 you calculate is very similar to Jacobson's 20.5 km2.  Since Jacobson 2009 says "as much as 20.5 km2", even if you corrected your error it would not contradict Jacobson.  Palo Verde would never be allowed to be water cooled today.  They would further purify the water and drink it.

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  28. michael sweet @ 177

    Yes, I am a bit familiar (I have read the background) with Barry's posts, but I hope I am putting his arguments more effectively. If you had answered his arguments in a way believable to me or others, I wouldn't be posting here.

    "The basic calculation of area needed for a nuclear plant is described in Jacobson 2009." (michael sweet) - quite true, and he described the calculation of, and values from, Spitzley and Keoleian 2005, a paper which has been retracted, not just for anything, but specifically for "[needing] a correction on a metric pertaining to the nuclear fuel cycle" (retraction). Although this does not invalidate all portions of the Jacobson paper, it does invalidate that section.
    "The 16 km2 you calculate" (michael sweet) - I did not calculate it, I lifted it from a broad description of the plant on WIkipedia, nor is it accurate, as it is mostly unused parkland.

    "Jacobson 2009 estimates build times for nuclear as 10-19 years." (michael sweet) - yes, by including planning time. See Table 3.5, "The planning-to-operation times of the technologies in this table ...10-19 years for nuclear;" (Jacobson 2009). He specifically states planning - so including the planning time is appropriate in my calculation - I was cherry-picking in the sense I didn't do a full study, but London Array was top of my google search.

    Let us compare 2 projects from the same country, same government, same time period - Hinckley Point C (HPC) and Hornsea 1 (HS1). I offer both planning and construction times (HPC, of course is not finished, but using estimated time as most probable - it is left as an exercise to the student to see how long HPC needs to further delay be to do as badly as HS1). 

    Let's do a head-to-head comparison for projects started around the same time.

    Hornsea Project 1 (HS1)

    • cost: 4.2 billion pounds
    • CfD strike-price: 140.00 pounds/MWh
    • nameplate capacity: 1,200 MW
    • project start: 2011
    • project duration: 9 years
    • construction start: 2016
    • construction duration: 4 years
    • construction finish: 2020 (began delivering some electricity in 2019)
    • capacity factor assuming 40% (could not find cf citation for Hornsea I)
    • annual energy: 4,208,000 MWh

    Hinkley Point C (HPC, one of the worst managed projects on the globe; PS, please do not bring up the delays, they are irrelevant to the calculation, I stipulate they occurred, and it merely means they should have hired a competent planning manager)

    • cost: 21.5 to 22.5 billion pounds
    • CfD strike-price: 92.50 pounds/MWh
    • nameplate capacity: 3,260 MW
    • project start: 2010
    • project duration: 15 years
    • construction start: 2018
    • construction duration: 7 years
    • construction finish: 2025 (estimated)
    • annual energy: 25,700,000 MWh (assuming 90% cf; average for nuclear)

    HS1 Results

    • 998 pounds/MWh cost
    • 467 GWh/y project duration
    • 1052 GWh/y construction duration

    HPC Results

    • 875 pounds/MWh cost
    • 1,713 GWh/y project duration
    • 3,671 GWh/y construction duration

    OK, time for the showdown

    • CfD strike-price - HPC wins (92.5 pounds is worse than today's wind, but it was much, much better than 140 pound wind at the time of contract)
      • If you believe we should contrast HPC's 2010 strike price with a 2020 project's, then forget us and try your trading strategy in the markets - full hindsight like that -probably won't get you too far.
    • value - HPC wins (875 pounds/MWh is 12% cheaper than HS1's 998 pounds/MWh)
    • project duration - HPC wins (3.6x faster than HS1, assuming 2025 estimate holds)
    • construction duration - HPC wins (3.5x faster than HS1, assuming 2025 estimate holds)

    HPC wins in every category, despite it being one of the worst managed projects on the globe. Imagine what could have been achieved with better management!

    Yes, nuclear is cheaper and faster.



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  29. Preston Urka @175,
    While your responses #1 & #2 do present different argument, as responses to the 'Pudding Argument' they are but one. Technically, there is no question that the nuclear industry could indeed have been providing a very significant contribution to replacing FF-use and mitigating the resulting CO2 emissions. Yet it has not done so and it looks quite certain that it will not do so, certainly not in a timely fashion. You cite new NPP capacity abuilding in China & India but the net result of this activity (according to the World Nuclear Association) is a paltry increase in global NPP capacity from 400GW to 482GW.

    One of the difficulties the nuclear industry has faced is itself. With designs for their new NPPs sitting in the cupboard, they have seen no reason to take a new step towards more appropriate designs. They have always seen such a 'new step' as being the next-but-one, only for use once they have fully exploited the one they have waiting in the cupboard which needs no more than a few tweeks to go abuilding.

    There is one development in NPPs that perhaps in some respects is taking a 'new step' (although it is more harnessing the technology used for decades in naval vessels). That is Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) which have seen much interest over recent years. Yet, once all the froth is swept from the brew, the World Nuclear Association is still only declaring a "strong interest" exists. Today plans for seried ranks of new SMRs remain on paper only.

    You question my assertion that the lead-time to install a NPP is so long that we run out of time for them to contribute to the establishing of a zero-carbon society. You present a comparison with UK off-shore wind farms. The decade-long journey of a UK off-shore wind farm is mostly caused by the planning process. (The size of such schemes would result in a full public enquiry, something I have experienced first hand with the Navitas wind farm, sadly benothinged by denialists locally & nationally.) For a direct comparison, compare those 10-year periods with Hinkley Point C which began its journey through the planning process in 2008 and, if all goes well, will start generating in 2025.

    You rightly point out that the ability of Renewables to make a significant contribution has not properly passed the 'Pudding Argument'. (In UK we are still 94% dependent on FFs, & 2% on imported wood chips which substitute for coal.) But that (along with Mark Jaccard, who by-the-way seems a little self-contradictory to me) is not a nuclear thing and so off topic here.

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  30. Preston Urka:

    Hinkley Point is described in The Guardian as a "dreadfull deal, the world's most expensive power plant".  If that is the best you have to defend nuclear power I do not need to respond.  Using the projected construction time for a nuclear plant compared to actual construction times for wind is not realistic. 

    Hinkley Point is being constructed by the French.  The capacity factor of nuclear plants in France is only 77% which lowers all your calculations.  Cherry picking high capacity factors does not help your argument.  

    Perhaps it would be better to use costs of onshore wind, which is more commonly built, instead of cherry picking more expensive off shore wind projects.  The United States has ony one, 30 MW, off shore wind farm.  Over 100,000 MW of onshore wind is installed.

    Nuclear is not economic.  There are exactly zero nuclear plants being built world wide without massive government subsidies.  In the past there are exactly zero nuclear power plants built without government subsidies.

    I note that you have still not provided any peer reviewed studies that support nuclear power.  Contually repeating your cherry picked claims does not advance your argument.

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  31. Preston , you make a number of good points.

    Yet each of these points is vulnerable to counter-points.  Of which I can indicate a few, here.   I do not wish to be unrelentingly "negative", but it is my duty to raise these matters for your consideration in your proposed OP article.

    Looking into the crystal ball, I foresee a steady growth in wind/solar RE ~ but not near enough to achieve "zero carbon" by 2050.   (And we still need that 30 years to ramp up  - from a standing start - the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels of non-fossil origin : such as vat-bred oils and/or ethanol etc catalysed through electric power coming from Nuclear or RE source.)   Still, these efforts will at least help ameliorate some of the AGW deterioration.

    According to my rather misty crystal ball, by around 2040 a degree of desperation will impel a more rapid approvals process & development of Nuclear power.   Nowhere near enough for what's needed : but it will be a significant "wedge" of contribution.   (My gaze cannot penetrate to whether these Nuclear Plants will be the Goliaths seen today, or will be the widely-distributed small modular Davids which are currently unborn.)

    As you say, RE has the intermittency problem ~ which the coming decades can (probably but not certainly) resolve with better battery technology.  And with other methodologies ~ one such being the excess/off-peak production of electrolytic hydrogen.  Hydrogen, not burnt in gas turbines, but burnt to drive steam turbines.  Hydrogen from RE, and from "overnight" Nuclear generation.   So "negative electricity prices" will be a non-problem.

    BTW, the overnight problem of "absent sunshine" is not quite as troublesome as you suggest.   Aluminium smelters and suchlike do require steady high power of course.  But 80-90% of domestic house power supply need not be 24/7  ~ for a well-insulated house can manage reasonably on purely day-time airconditioning / space heating / water-heating systems.

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  32. michael sweet @ 180 

    Yes, I agree that HPC is a financial disaster (but then so is HS1 - the real mistake EDF made was not employing the same negotiators for HS1 who managed to finagle 140 pounds/MWh). However, despite such an economically poor plant, it still crushes the HS1 project in terms of value.

    I ran the same calculations at 77% cf and voila! HPC still beats HS1.

    Moral: Never bet against the energy density of nuclear power.

    HPC Results @ 77% cf

    • 1,023 pounds/MWh value (HS1 998)
    • 1,467 GWh/y project duration (HS1 467)
    • 3,143 GWh/y construction duration (HS1 1052)

    Comparing projected vs. actual construction times is acceptable, because that is the data I have - I do not 'make it up' - and I also noted quite clearly that it was so - I do not 'hide it' either.

    Let's remember the LCOE study our Moderator so thoughtfully posted in the middle of my statement - no doubt a reasoned, coherent article that estimated various costs and determined a theoretical value for comparitive costs. Great, nothing against it.

    However, it is quite hard to argue against the real-world, empircal values from actual projects - and a horror of a project, HPC, is simply crushing HS1.

    I also agree with you that onshore wind might be more relevant, but not in the UK, where offshore wind is the big-project non-hydro renewable.

    Onshore v Offshore in the UK

    • 13.6 GW onshore, but over 2500 projects
    • 9.7 GW offshore, but over 38 projects

    What I think is more interesting about the delays of a typical NPP is that it is a megaproject - peer reviewed references at bottom of linked page which are known to suffer this issue, another reason why I chose HS1 (vs. some farmer's 3 turbine onshore windfarm).

    Please acknowledge that I am not a professional researcher and I do not have access to the resources required (like a full-time job as a researcher) to develop a cross-technology, cross-country, cross-currency longitudinal study which can definitively show nuclear/wind/solar etc is the cheapest technology.

    But even those peer-reviewed papers are sensitive to the assumptions and specific scenarios posited.

    I also acknowledge that NPPs require government subsidy - which is not quite the same thing as being uneconomic. If the UK had 100% funded HPC, so what? - the value that HPC will provide is high. Similar to what is 'prime' in 'prime real estate', we can ask 'what is the value of a high-capacity-factor, low-carbon, dispatchable power plant that will last for 60+ years'? Its construction cost is (mostly) irrelevant (as roughly value = earnings - costs).

    Then we can ask an even more interesting question:Why do governments keep subsidizing NPPs? The answer is simply that they do find them valuable. Do you keep buying ice cream with a flavor you do not like? No. We can assume that if you keep buying that flavor you like that flavor.

    We might descend into dark conspiracy theories about the massive political and economic power of the nuclear industry - but that is a myth. Compared to the oil industry, or the natural gas industry, electric utilities and NPP operators are pygmies. Vestas and Rosatom are about the same size revenue-wise.

    Please give a think to the Jaccard question (see bottom of @ 175).

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    [DB]  Off-topic, ideology and moderation complaints snipped.

  33. MA Rodger @ 179
    I am not quite sure to make of your post. On the one hand we appear to agree that:

    • nuclear can provide a significant contribution to replacing FF-use and mitigating the resulting CO2 emissions
    • the nuclear industry is too conservative
    • SMRs appear to be a super-interesting technology
    • some historical NPPs have had excessive planning and construction times

    On the other hand, we appear to disagree that:

    • existing nuclear currently provides a significant contribution to avoiding FF-use and the resulting CO2 emissions
    • all historical NPPs have had excessive planning and construction times
    • future NPPs must have excessive planning and construction times
    • planning time for RE is somehow excusable, while planning time for NPP must be accounted for

    First, the flow of time continues onward whether you are planning or building, either kind of plant. In my comparison of HPC and HS1 @ 178 I list both total projection duration and simple construction duration. Slice it up any way you like, but be consistent.

    Second, we probably should agree to disagree. I simply do not accept that future NPPs must have excessive planning and construction times. This is a question of engineering, finance and management, not a fundamental flaw in the utility of nuclear. Per a comment (paraphrased) from Eclectic, 'if we want it bad enough, we will figure it out'.

    The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.

    I listed China & India new build simply in answer to your question. It is not really an important part of my argument. Your argument was that "these political constraints [are] omnipresent", this data is a counter-factual.

    I do hope that your assessment of Mark Jaccard is based upon your reading of his book. If based upon my representation here, please go get the straight dope from the horse's mouth. His viewpoint is much more broad than I have presented here.

    I might agree that RE is off-topic in a nuclear thread, but I often hear the argument "... but we don't need nuclear because we can have 100% RE ...". Reading this blog topic, I have seen many versions of that argument, so I don't perceive the off-topicity as you do.

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  34. Eclectic @ 181
    Let me set some expectations here: my proposed OP article will not be a full-throated defense of nuclear power. I imagine it as a factual list of points for consideration, to be further discussed in the topic. Those points will have useful references and pointers to further research. Obviously it will be pro-nuclear, but I hope it is not perceived as a polemic. It will be to encourage a total conversation, not to be just another blog post.

    Also, I will attempt to change the title to "Is Nuclear Power an Answer" or "Is Nuclear Power Part of the Answer" vs the rather confrontational title of today.

    I agree RE will continue steady growth and I hope NPPs are not developed under desperate circumstances. If anyone doesn't understand - I also believe RE growing is a good thing.

    I'm not as sanguine as you are about batteries. Intermittency can only be mitigated, but batteries have significant obstacles to overcome. I will acknowledge that 'storage' in general is making good strides, but even after that - how much storage capacity is needed in installation (ditto transmission/distribution) for current grid quality and the real impact of demand management is an unresolved question.

    I accept your statements on "absent sunshine", but I do not understand the meaning. Domestic power is about 20% of total energy use, half of that (10% absolute) is heat - leaving 10% (absolute) electric - and most of it is used at night, not during the day. Why exactly is the cost of solar PV so intriguing to the homeowner?

    Sure you might use solar PV to heat/cool your well-insulated house during the day.

    • residential solar CSP is more efficient and less costly for heating/cooling, but also much more expensive than solar PV
    • most houses are not well-insulated - retrofitting global housing stock over the next 20-40 years - now that is a super-hard task
    • suburban homes with high surface-to-inhabitant ratios is not where most people live on the global scale

    As you state, aluminum smelters and suchlike do require steady power, so again the price of solar PV dropping like a rock is not that interesting.

    • What is the price of 2x solar PV+a-truly-massive-storage-capacity for the night is a more interesting question?
      • 1x solar to get through the day
      • 1x solar to charge the nighttime storage
    • What overbuild is needed to mitigate cloudy days?
    • How many cloudy days in sequence can be mitigated economically?

    (duplicative argument re wind)

    Solar and wind are ever so cheap, but in the end they need other stuff (storage, transmission, demand management. When you add in the other stuff, they aren't so cheap anymore. Nuclear can take advantage of other stuff, but it doesn't need other stuff.

    This is where I don't get the meaning that the price of solar at midnight is not so important. Or that the construction cost of a single NPP is such a killer argument. The total system cost that society bears is what I feel a lot of RE people ignore. Most (or those I follow) NPP people are talking about total cost - how costs and profits are divided out is politics and finance, not technology.

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  35. Preston Urka,

    It is taking me a little time to come up with data since you insist on using data from 2012 in the UK.  It appears to me that the Lazard data cited by the moderator upthread is better data to use, but it is USA based.

    After reading a little I learned why you insist on using very old data.

    Carbon Brief published an article last September titled "Analysis: Record-low price for UK offshore wind cheaper than existing gas plants by 2023".  It included a table showing the cost of off-shore wind has fallen from 160 pounds/MWh in 2017 to bids of 43 lb/MWh in 2023.  The nuclear price is 105lb/MWh, morethan double the wind price.  The HPC price is triple the wind price.  The only mention of nuclear in the article is in the graph axis because nuclear is not economic.

    It appears that the tempory government subsidies to get wind started have worked and subsidies for wind are no longer needed.  After 65 years nuclear plants still require extreme government subsidies.

    As I pointed out to you upthread, it is not necessary to be "a professional researcher and I do not have access to the resources required (like a full-time job as a researcher) to develop a cross-technology, cross-country, cross-currency longitudinal study which can definitively show nuclear/wind/solar etc is the cheapest technology."  If you actually read my post at 177, Jacobson 2009 found that after counting hundreds of projects worldwide that nuclear plants take 10-19 years to plan and build.  Wind and solar plants took 2-5 years to build in 2009 but now are completed faster.  

    The moderator here provides world wide data showing that it is cheaper to build and run renewable plants that just to run existing nuclear and coal plants with no mortgage.

    As for the "massive political and economic power of the nuclear industry" (deleted by the moderator), where I live in Florida the local utility charged $1.5 billion to customers for a nuclear plant when they never even applied for a permit to build it!  In Georgia customers are charged the interest for the long overdue Vogtle plants even thoug hthey have not generated a single watt of energy!1  in2017 customers in Georgia had already paid over $2.2 billion for nuclear power they have not started to receive.

    Nuclear is not economic and takes way too long to build.  Nuclear industry promises of lower costs and building plants on schedule are simply false.  If you use current data nuclear is dead on arrival.  Stop cherry picking old data.

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  36. Preston @184 :  certainly, your proposed OP article should not be "a full-throated defense of nuclear power".

    It is fine for you to be a passionate advocate for Nuclear, but it should be a passion combined with candid assessment of the pros & cons.   And, you must be your own Devil's Advocate.   Detractors of nuclear power do supply some strong arguments, which you should assess frankly and without any misrepresentation or cavalier dismissiveness [ yes, I enjoyed using that phrase  ;-)    ]

    It is only human, to be tempted to score a few points off the (perceived) opposition ~  and you will see lots of that sort of thing in the comments columns.   You must do your best to assess who is speaking/sword-playing in a manner of basic good will & truth-seeking . . . and who is merely trolling or venting or grossly uninformed.

    However, as an OP article author, you are required to be comprehensive and educational.

    You can see merit in the overall economics aspect, of working toward a worthy target per the most efficient allocation of currently-available resources & technology.   And I accept your point that sometimes one should go "outside the box" and select a sub-optimally-economic choice, for the sake of diversification (within limits of course).

    # But enough general waffle.  I would like you to have more of a think about the combination of NIMBY and the fragility of Nuclear power.  The safety of Nuclear power is demonstrated by the past track record (as you have indicated).   But we are moving into a Future of vulnerability to terrorists acts and/or covert political manipulation.   Not just cyber-attacks, plane attacks [ missiles are less deniable !! ], truck-bombs, terrorist commando raids . . . and other conceivable possibilities which I should not mention publicly.

    Even a single OMG event would be a severe setback to the political fate of the Nuclear industry, and also lead to a massive flowering of NIMBY.

    Layers of security "hardening" of NPP targets can be deployed - alas, none 100% effective - but it all costs additional big Big dollars.

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  37. Eclectic,

    Forgive me, but your tone is just a mite condescending given that I have stipulated (in the first 2 paragraphs of @184) all that you have stated (in the first 4 pargraphs of @ 186) - and I'm trying to take it in good faith, not as patronizing as it comes across. However, it is pretty hard not to respond at all ( "as an OP article author, you are required to be comprehensive and educational") considering what now passes for the OP.

    However, it is becoming more and more clear to me that this website is not necessarily a place where debate is welcomed. I agree that in a few places my tone with MS should have been more measured - but the reverse is true also. I don't believe my posts should be rewritten, or important issues deleted.

    Of course, I am preparing an OP from the nuclear section of my book, but it is looking less and less likely I will be either want to or be allowed to, post it here.

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  38. Preston , sorry if my tone seems condescending.  It's not my intention.   I have seen a lot of pro-nuclear arguments over the years ~  yet, short of the demonstrated deployment of cheap/safe small modular reactors, these arguments have seemed distinctly unconvincing (to me).   I am very happy to recant my opinion, as the "facts" change.   And perhaps you were detecting a tone of slight exasperation, as I read the Same Old / Same Old.

    And I have to emphasize that, AFAICT, the SkS website being primarily educational ~  the moderators are wanting more than a list of "pro" items. I believe they want a comprehensive, rounded yet succinct summarization of the Nuclear scenario.  Warts and all, including careful analysis of the lack of progress in the Nuclear sphere.  Which is "quite an ask", actually.  And which probably explains why nobody has achieved that sort of OP article on SkS yet.   A rather high bar to get over ~  but the complexity & importance of the topic is demanding that: in order to achieve the educational target.

    As you are aware, in some quarters there's some hostility to Nuclear power ~  but my impression is that many participants in this SkS website would be happy to accept the Nuclear pathway . . . if a good case could be made for it.   Like me, they remain hopeful but skeptical.   And so I wish you well in your proposed venture.

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  39. Preston Urka @183,
    We spill a lot of words here but with little progress.

    I would suggest that the ambition engendered in the World Nuclear Association projections of 482GW nuclear capacity by 2040, little different to today's capacity, signals a result for the 'Pudding Argument'. With the likes of China & India factored in by the WNA, I see no sign of anything to contradict such a result.

    To clarify my personal position on nuclear as a contributor to mitigating AGW, it has not changed in two decades. I am not convinced by many of the arguments pitched against nuclear but one issue has not been addressed at all by the industry. That is the wasteful use of nuclear fuel which would, with the technology-to-hand, prevent any significant contributon (and leads to a lot of effort by some to identify alternative fuels). This fuel issue alone is the death knell for any significant contribution. Added to that, the high costs push me to the view that the whole nuclear effort is wasteful and the effort should be diverted elsewhere.
    The Small Modular Reactors being considered should address much of the cost issue but it is too late now to reverse anti-nuclear policies and there remains the fuel problem.

    Finally, the lack of ambition seen across the globe for ramping up renewable capacity and for pursuing energy efficiency does not open a door for some nuclear renaissance.

    (And entirely off-topic so I will be brief. I have no intention of reading Mark Jaccard's book or listening to lengthy videos. My by-the-way comment @179 was based on this coverage where Jaccard tells us we "need to be working feverishly to elect climate-sincere politicians and to keep them in power" but also that, even when today "our government is pulling us deeper into climate hell," educating people isn't how to tackle the dilemma, or at least he presents an alternative "you go around them." I struggle with this as well as his magicking 'climate-sincere politicians' into power. Firstly, politicians are also people and secondly they are elected by people.)

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  40. Karin Kirk's recent article for Yale Climate Connections is relevant for this thread (I think):

    We've been having the wrong debate about nuclear energy

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  41. Baerbel,

    The article you linked gave a reasonable summary of the pro-nuclear argument.  Those who read it will note that proposed nuclear options will not be available until the 2030's and the cost is unknown.  Many other problems are left unaddressed.

    The author of the piece is a free lance writer and ski instructor.  Why should I think she knows more about nuclear energy than I do?  By contrast, Abbott is a well known electrical engineer who has studied nuclear power for years.  Most of the points Abbott makes are not addressed in the Climate Connection article.

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