Monday, January 29, 2007

New nukes in the US

The Tennessee Valley Authority announced today that it will seek licenses for two new nuclear plants

This year, TVA directors say they will submit an application to build two new reactors under the government's new streamlined licensing process. They also plan to restart TVA's oldest nuclear reactor after a 22-year shutdown, and by August they expect to decide whether to spend up to $2 billion to complete the unfinished Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant.
Someone knows how to add


Unknown said...

Tuesday's Wall St. Journal has an article that outlines the rush to find sites for new nukes (and the subsidies that go with them.) If y'all think think the ethanol/alternative fuel proposals are goofy, with more hidden agendas than you can shake a stick at, wait until nucular propsals ripen. Everybody study up on terms like actinides, pebble beds, HTGRs, thermal vs. fast neutrons, pebble beds, thorium and don't forget the jackrabbits (hare's lookin' at you) of Yucca Mountain. Impress your friends at cocktail parties for years to come!

Anonymous said...

Wavey (Gravey?) --

The nuclear concepts are *not* goofy.

Nuclear energy is one of the carbon mitigation wedges discussed by Pacala and Sololow.

Those who think that wind and solar can produce all the energy the U.S. or Europe needs are badly misinformed. Look at a pie chart of how U.S. electricity is actually produced. Nuclear and hydroelectric are very much the largest carbon-free electricity sources. The reality is that if we want to address climate change, we will have to shut down a portion of our coal plants and use nuclear energy.

Of course, we ALSO need to drastically increase automobile fuel efficiency, efficiency in buildings, and work on renewable energy. The response to climate change is a huge effort that is multi-faceted.

But, it's a very BAD idea to discount the potential for nuclear energy to displace fossil fuels and their associated pollution and CO2.

The Carbon Wedge game is a good exercise for those who think there's one "silver bullet" to address the climate change problem.

Wavey - your parody of the "nucular" industry sounds like a certain climate-denier-in-chief's pronunciation.

Over the past 30 years the anti-nuclear special interest groups have contributed substantially to the pollution and climate change problem because their blockades and lawsuits have induced utilities to build fossil fuel plants in lieu of carbon-free nuclear plants.

Next time you want to spread your anti-nuclear spin, try coming up with a valid argument or two.

Anonymous said...

Ruth said: "Over the past 30 years the anti-nuclear special interest groups have contributed substantially to the pollution and climate change problem because their blockades and lawsuits have induced utilities to build fossil fuel plants in lieu of carbon-free nuclear plants."

Coal, oil and gas burning electrical plants won out over nuclear because of economics, plain and simple (and lawsuits and liability was only a small part of the cost associated with producing electricity from nuclear power plants.).

Even with the huge subsidies to the nuclear industry, they simply could not (and still can not) compete with the relatively low cost of burning fossil fuels.

The whole idea that the nuclear industry in the US was killed by environmentalists does not hold water.

Nuclear generated electricity has not been able to compete with fossil-fuel-generated electricity -- and the nuclear utilities don't even have to pay for one of the most expensive aspects of the life-cyle: transportation and disposal of the waste. To this day, the waste sits in pools next to the plants where it is produced.

Amory Lovins et al at Rocky Mountain Institutute have studied and written extensivley on the nuclear industry over the past 20 years and they have concluded that

"Contrary to an argument nuclear apologists have recently taken to making, nuclear power isn't a good way to curb climate change. True, nukes don't produce carbon dioxide—but the power they produce is so expensive that the same money invested in efficiency or even natural-gas-fired power plants would offset much more climate change."

Anonymous said...

By the way, Ruth, if you think nuclear power is the way to solve the CO2 problem, "The Return of the Nuclear Salesman" (written by the folks at RMI) might give you some reason to pause.

EliRabett said...

IEHO (speaking in the third bunny) nuclear will be PART of the answer, especially in picking up base load. Sequesterization of CO2 produced in large power plants will another part (see IPCC report on sequesterization). There will be no single majic bullet. Further, careful investigation has shown that the real cost of power generation by any method is much higher than the cost from the pug because of various tax and direct subsidies. That inculdes nuclear, petroleum, coal, solar, what have you.

Anonymous said...

I agree that nuclear may be part of the answer, but the real question is how much? and for how long?

And the statement about magic bullets goes without saying.

I would suggest that you read what Lovins et al at RMI have to say about nuclear generation.

You may be surprised.

They are well aware of the subsidies to the fossil fuel electric industry and have figured those into the costs and have still determined that electricity generated by nuclear is more expensive than by fossil fuels and even many renewables.

Anonymous said...

In a nutshell, here is why nuclear is not the (or even a significant part of) the answer to the climate problem (or even the energy crunch):

"Because devices now on the market can save four times as much electricity as all U.S. nuclear plants make, at just 5 percent of the cost of building and running them, it's cheaper to write off any nuclear plant and provide customers with efficiency. The city of Sacramento, California has done just that. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District closed its Rancho Seco nuclear plant, and is recreating itself as a utility based on photovoltaics and energy efficiency. The result: more jobs, less pollution, stable electric prices, and a more sustainable and prosperous community."

That is not to say that all currently operating nuclear plants should be closed down, since they will play a role in the transition to a reneawable energy economy, but the question of whether to build new ones is easy to answer because they simply make no economic sense.

I would challenge anyone to prove otherwise. Just make sure that you factor into the cost of nuclear electricity the $200 billion plus (some economists have put the estimate close to a trillion dollars) that has been used to subisidize the nuclear industry. Also factor in the cost to dispose of the waste and to decomission and dispose of the reactors themselves.
The latter two unfortunate realities are rarely included in the analysis by those claiming that nuclear energy is the answer we are looking for.

Also, please do not argue that nuclear energy "costs more than it needs to because of unnecessary safety requirments". The safety requirements are (and were) dictated by very real risks and the fact that the nuclear industry in the US has a very good saftey record is a direct outcome of those requirements.