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Thread: Dear AEMan
01-25-2005 06:14 PM #1
I'm a big fan of alternative energy also. I agree with alot of what you've written. I wouldn't mind building codes requiring solar cells on every home in the sun belt. I also think it is much more scenic to see large wind mills off our coasts than to not have them there, as others would say. Unfortunately, I think we would disagree on the nuclear power thing. I know this isn't the forum for a nuclear power discussion, but you set the precedent.
Nuclear power will never be necessary in our lifetimes because there is so much energy to be saved on the demand side. Nuclear power has essentially lost in the free market: no nuclear plants have been built in decades. The reason is that they are too expensive, too risky, and that there are other, better, economic solutions to power generation problems and to global warming.
First, if they were economical, they would have been built. I know that a lot of environmental groups get the blame for stopping nuclear power, but the fact is, environmentalists protest a lot of things that still happen. If nuclear power were economical, plants would have been built. Besides, even protests are part of the free market.
Even with their massive subsidies for research, mining, security, waste disposal, insurance, etc., they still are NOT economically worthwhile. To put things in perspective, consider that a nuclear power plant will cost about $5-10 billion--I think the last one I heard of was estimated at $2 and came in at $5 billion--but don't quote me on those numbers. (I used to work for Babcock and Wilcox, who designs power plants of all types.) If we as a country would spend that same amount of money on near-zero-energy homes, we would negate the need for that nuclear power plant altogether.....forever.....! And....we wouldn't have all the associated problems either.
Just recall California's energy problems in 2001. The immediate problem wasn't solved by building new power plants within days, it was solved by millions of people conserving. Conservation is immediate, with an immediate pollution and global warming benefit.
It is always cheaper, more effective, and more immediately amenable to the bottom line to buy efficiency, rather than energy. (That's why I own a Prius.) By eliminating the need for nuclear power plants, we don't just eliminate very expensive power, we eliminate the need for strip mining, nuclear waste disposal problems, tax-payer paid security, proliferation dangers, exposure risks, meltdown risks, terrorist plots, tax-payer paid insurance, etc. ad nauseum. By the way, if the true cost of nuclear-provided electricity were in the actual electric bill of the customer, then I would be all for it. No corporation would ever propose building one if that were the case.
The nuclear salesman may be reappearing on our doorsteps, but we don't have to talk to him--we should sic the dogs on him! Nuclear power is not only a bad idea, but it will also make global warming worse. By sinking hard-earned capital into a very expensive, inefficient solution, that capital is not available for the more economic solutions. I believe I read that a dollar spent on energy efficiency displaces 7 times as much CO2 as a dollar spent on nuclear power. It is better for our country as well as our savings accounts to go after the best buys first.
01-26-2005 07:18 AM #2
Thanks Vince, that's quite a statement!
Let's look at the facts.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has this 2000 report:
438 Reactor plants were operating world wide.
2447.53 terawatt-hours combined.
In 2000 six plants were put on line.
The output added over 3K MW to the grid.
Nuclear provides 16% global elecricity.
Nuclear reliance is:
20% United States
17 Countries rely on nuclear to supply more than 1/4 thier electric power.
In Europe there are 68 new reactors being built to replace the aging ones.
Middle East, Far East, South Asia, China, India, Korea and Japan all have clear plans of expanding nuclear power.
Amount of electricity generated by a 1,000 MWe reactor at 90% capacity factor in one year: 7.9 billion KWh - enough to supply electricity for 773,000 households. If generated by other fuel sources, it would require:
Oil - 13.5 million barrels 1 barrel yields 584 KWh
Coal - 3.8 million short tons 1 ton yields 2,070 KWh
Nat. Gas - 82 billion cubic feet 100 cubic feet yields 9.62 KWh
01-26-2005 07:28 PM #3
I guess I don't get your point. Just pointing out facts of how much electricity is generated by nuclear power plants doesn't mean they're the right choice. Sixteen percent of worldwide energy being produced by nuclear power means 84% is not produced by nuclear power. The fastest growing source of energy is wind power. I've lost almost all respect for business leaders in the last few years due to all the business scandels, but I don't think these folks are building wind farms to lose money.
Yes, there may be some studies that can show nuclear power to be economical. However they generally fail to include the hidden costs mentioned in the previous post: security, nuclear proliferation, terrorist attacks, insurance, outright government subsidies, etc. These are all costs that we pay as a country, NOT the individual user. If they were included in the analysis, then nuclear power would not be economical. If the TRUE cost of the electricity were in the electric bill, then I would be all for it.
In addition, paying off the right politician has a lot to do with bad ideas being promulgated.
I think my original point still stands. That 1000 MWe nuclear power plant that supplies 773,000 homes cost a certain amount of capital. If that capital were instead spent on building near-zero-energy homes, and/or making existing homes more efficient, then that plant would not have been needed in the first place.
One more thing for all the supply-siders to think about. Without conservation, energy demand grows at an exponential rate. It is impossible to indefinitely supply energy to meet exponentially growing demand. The only smart thing to do is to affect demand. And there is plenty of available technology to enable us to do that. It will also save you money.
01-27-2005 04:18 AM #4
Please don't get me wrong, I'm all for conservation. In fact I'm averaging about 58MPG in my HCH, in spite of the winter.
The idea I was making is that many of your points are flawed, please let me point out a few.
Please reference the statistics link I previously gave:
"Nuclear power has essentially lost in the free market: no nuclear plants have been built in decades. The reason is that they are too expensive, too risky, and that there are other, better, economic solutions to power generation problems and to global warming."
"First, if they were economical, they would have been built. If nuclear power were economical, plants would have been built.
The facts I've posted show this is false.
"Even with their massive subsidies for research, mining, security, waste disposal, insurance, etc., they still are NOT economically worthwhile."
I got your conservation message, but this statement isn't factual, as Ihave shown.
"Just recall California's energy problems in 2001. The immediate problem wasn't solved by building new power plants within days, it was solved by millions of people conserving"
Yes, many people conserved more than usual to help this but the immediate problem was resolved (or made worse) by Governor Davis purchasing electricity off of neighboring grids for several times the cost. It was caused by years of miss management.
"By eliminating the need for nuclear power plants, we don't just eliminate very expensive power, we eliminate the need for strip mining, tax-payer paid security, tax-payer paid insurance, etc."
Statistics show Nuclear is much cheaper, strip mining will still go on (Iron, Coal, other minerals).
Security and insurance isn't exclusive to Nuclear.
"If the true cost of nuclear-provided electricity were in the actual electric bill of the customer, then I would be all for it. No corporation would ever propose building one if that were the case."
I'm sure the plants in these areas aren't on the U.S. taxpayers dole:
"Nuclear power is not only a bad idea, but it will also make global warming worse. By sinking hard-earned capital into a very expensive, inefficient solution, that capital is not available for the more economic solutions."
Once again, the facts are contrary.
Personally I'd love to see more windmill fields, I think they simply look amazing, in an elegant way. You can even farm right up next to them. I've also heard that implimenting costs more than what can be generated. About 30 years ago I read about a system that generates energy from ocean waves, but haven't heard anything since.
With Nuclear being the least expensive in compared to our other popular generating fuels of coal and natural gas it just makes sence.
(Except in the case of hydroelectrics, which can lead to other conservation problems)
01-27-2005 07:08 AM #5
We can go on a long time, and I don't have a fast enought connection to get all the information I need, however........
Neither of the sites you provide show the cost of nuclear-generated power. However, knowing people that get their electricity from different utilities, and having previously worked at a company that used to design nuclear plants, as well as coal- and gas-fired power plants....the typical cost for nuclear power-generated electricity is $0.10-0.12/kW-hr, coal and natural gas are usually $0.06-$0.08. Many utilities own several different types of power plants so there is sometimes overlap in these numbers.
Generally in terms of expense: for conventional fuels, natural gas is cheapest, followed by coal followed by nuclear. Wind power, in the right location, is comparable to coal-fired power plants, and solar cells are comparable to nuclear in cost. Unfortunately this information is from articles I have read and I don't usually save them for reference.
From the American Wind Energy Association, wind power is the fastest growing source of electrical energy. It has grown at 28%/year from 1999-2003.
I would say that any power source growing at that rate has to be more economical than other sources.
When I wrote that no nuclear power plants have been built in decades I was speaking about the US. So I'll give you that one since I wasn't specific enough. But there have been many power plants built in the US in the last 30 years, just no nukes.
Statistics do not show that nuclear power is cheaper. If we really wanted to see which would win out, we would need a true free market. We should stop subsidizing all power plants, whether through research, tax breaks, insurance, security, etc. The number one winner would be conservation.
The true cost of the nuclear power plant is not in the customer's bill. Taxpayers pick up the tab for a lot of expenses, and risks. As for all the other countries you mentioned, if we had access to their data, I would bet that there are many hidden costs that the ratepayers are picking up, either through their taxes, or through higher risk due to lower safety standards.
If any nuclear power plant gets built in this country, look for a lot of taxpayers to be footing the hidden costs.
02-05-2005 11:05 AM #6
Do you have the link to that General Atomics study on hydrogen production? Sounds interesting. While Vince is right about the need for conservation and energy efficiency we still need a power source and nuclear is far cleaner than coal as well as having other advantages. I am not an expert, just an opinionated lout who likes nuclear reactors. Eventually we will have helium 3 fusion and beamed energy from solar power satellites, but between now and then, it looks like nuclear will be the way to prevent CO2 increases and attain energy independence by using nukes to make autofuel. Check out http://www.electricauto.com, the Apollo Energy Systems website. They have some impressive hybrid tech using liquid ammonia, a better hydrogen carrier.
02-05-2005 11:42 AM #7
In your favor, Vince, if hybrids get twice as much mileage and the population doubles by 2050, we'd only using as much gasoline as we do today for cars if all were hybrids. Though I see nukes as necessary, conservation and efficiency are just as important or the number of reactors could become alarmingly great. Winds, ethanol, solar, etc. will all be a part of the future. What ever became of OTEC? Why not OTECs combined with stirling motors to make the hydrogen? Of course, I think liquid NH3 is the autofuel of the future for fuel cell hybrids. Maybe I'm just nuts, but investigate AES first before you committ me to the asylum!
02-05-2005 02:43 PM #8
Interesting. The Forbs article above had a very good roundup of all the money and special deals the nuke industry is currently asking for. But apparently, only in the print version.
An astounding list, if anyone can find a copy.
02-05-2005 10:00 PM #9
OK, found the correct article.
Nukes exist only because they can suck up unlimited government (tax money) funds. They do not and have never been a sound ($) business proposition.
What this has to do with hybrid cars is simple. The hybrid is an example of an emerging technology that has great potential to address future energy needs. If we dump billions down the nuke rat hole, those billions are no longer available for long range solutions like the hybrid. For this reason alone, nukes are a bad option.
Hybrids are not our only option. There are also BEVs and wind turbines and photovoltaics and others. There is also great potential for much greater efficiency through technology. If nukes were our only option, they would be, at best, a very lousy option.
How far could we advance solar generation or wind or biomass with this kind of government backing? How much more advanced would the battery in a BEV or hybrid be, by now, if we had spent as much Gov. funds on Battery technology?
My personal feeling is that if nukes produced toxic waist that lasted 25 years, they would be a last resort. Waist that last 250 years would boot them out of the running. But waist that lasts 25,000 years is a ridiculous proposition. The epitome techno arrogance. However, if the nuke backers are able to move the Yucca Mountain facility to Washington DC, I am all for it.
"The industry has lots of friends in Washington, D.C. Last year utilities chipped in $42.6 million in lobbying and contributions to politicians, three-quarters of that to Republicans, reports the Center for Responsive Politics. The Bush White House is sympathetic to nukes. The Department of Energy in 2002 launched Nuclear Power 2010 to get a new reactor built by the end of the decade. It's more than a nudge: The plan also suggests a taxpayer-backed fund for engineering costs; the industry proposes direct or loan guarantees by the feds and electricity purchases by the government.
Utilities have gotten federal subsidies even as the infamous Energy Bill has languished year after year. With all the negative press on the proposed drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Congress has tacked on $35 million here, $29 million there to its annual spending bill to help the nuclear industry conduct site and permit work. When a marked-up energy bill makes the rounds early this year, it will likely suggest further study of options for fuel recycling and earmark $1.8 billion to get new reactors built pronto.
The bill does not yet give NuStart what it wants most of all: government guarantees of construction loans for new, untested reactor designs. Such backing would help lower the cost of borrowing. (Without the guarantee, the bonds would most likely be rated slightly lower than the utilities' other bonds.) But why stop there? The utilities also want two fat tax credits--one allowing them to deduct 20% of their spending on new reactors and a second to lop off 1.8 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power produced by the new plants. That's the same treatment Congress granted wind-turbine makers in 2003.
That last sticks mightily in some craws--particularly that of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Applied to the average 1,000-megawatt power plant, the credit would result in tax breaks of $150 million a year. That's too high a price for Michele Boyd, legislative director for antinukers at Public Citizen, the Nader-founded group. "They want cradle-to-grave subsidies in order to try to make nuclear power competitive," she complains. "
02-06-2005 12:06 AM #10
I used to be as hard on nuke power as you are but I've softened up on it. Even so, hybrids, heat pumps, energy efficient architecture, triple pane argon filled windows (cut natural gas heating expenses but also some could drive hybrids running on CNG saved... or ethanol. Is a multifuel hybrid possible??), winds, solar, biomass, hydro, mass transit, old fashioned walking ( I live in the city and you can walk to all the stores. Suburbia is the energy hogging monster brainchild of Ford where you can't live without a car!), fluorescents and LEDs, are a big part of the future. There will be nukes but conservation and alt. energy sources should be fostered as much or more so to minimize reliance on nukes. In 50 years or less we will have fusion and the fission age will end. Plenty of fuel for hybrids will result from fusion. I see no reason to return to gas hogging if the fusion age yeilds a vast bounty of energy because I see no reason to spend all my money on energy. Gotta wonder about people who drive gas hogs. They must like burning up their money. Sort of like smoking and gambling. Am I getting off topic? Well what if the tobacco fields became energy plantations and they put a Federal tax on gambling to support our national parks??? It all relates.