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On Cost of Closing San Onofre Nuclear Plant: 13.6 Billion

@Robert Bernal

You appear to have accepted the arguments of the antinuclear opposition. I would guess that you might be one of the molten salt / thorium reactor proponents who claim that all will be better and nuclear energy will prosper if we simply move on to "better" technology.

Based on my reasonably deep well of knowledge about the safey and reliability of light water reactors over their fifty year operating history - approximately 25,000 reactor years worth LWR operations around the world (about half of that number comes from shipboard power plants) - the real issues that lead to such a strong organized opposition do not stem from the weakness of LWR technology. LWRs certainly have their challenges, but most have been mitigated with good design, maintenance and operation.

There are people that will oppose any nuclear technology that actually makes it into the market place. Some of them hate nuclear because of its tenuous relationship with nuclear weapons. Some hate nuclear because it provides abundant, reliable energy and they would prefer for human society to revert to an earlier, less powerful time when people only had access to "natural" energy sources.

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, there are people who oppose nuclear energy because it competes directly with their favorite sources of energy and income - coal, oil, gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal. If not artificially restrained, it is a formidable competitor that not only captures market share, it drives down the market prices of all other forms of energy because it represents an increase in the supply without increasing the demand.

Energy suppliers hate the idea of selling fewer BTUs at lower unit prices per BTU. So do their bankers, equipment suppliers and other investors.

Rod Adams

Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 31, 2013    View Comment    

On Cost of Closing San Onofre Nuclear Plant: 13.6 Billion


Your statements are not true. The operators shut down unit 3 immediately upon the receipt of the radiation alarm. 

It is never quite kosher to use a self-reference, but I published a carefully reasoned, referenced analysis of the technical reports filed by both SCE and the steam generator vendor. It is far too long to post as a comment.

Although the internet is a place that protects anonymity, my professional training and work history is published for all to see.

Readers can feel free to evaluate that information to determine if they would rather believe my analysis or the work of an anonymous commenter with a history of statements in opposition to the beneficial use of nuclear energy on a variety of sites.

I will leave people with a final link - I wrote this post to contrast the reaction given to the small leak of essentially pure water from San Onofre to the reaction to a fatal refinery accident and release of massive quantities of toxic material.

I wrote that long before the decision was made to use that tiny leak as an excuse to shut down a two unit facility that provided approximately 15% of California's electricity in favor of massively increasing the state's natural gas consumption. It is clear to me who the real winners are in the battle to make people irrationally fear nuclear energy - the oil&gas companies are taking additional earnings of $2-$10 million to the bank every day.

July 31, 2013    View Comment    

On Harming Humans by Reinforcing Nuclear Energy Fearmongering


Thanks for the comment. Feel free to write your own pithy blogs. I may be a little verbose at times, but that is my right. Space on the web is virtually infinite.

June 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Wind Energy Growing Faster than Coal in China: False Math

@Robert Wilson

There is something funny about the statistics page - - referenced in the original article - at least as translated from Chinese into English using Google translate. It says that from 2011 through 2012, Chinese electricity production from nuclear increased by 12.6% to 982 billion kilowatt-hours. That would indicate that nuclear production in 2011 was 872 billion kilowatt hours. 

Those numbers cannot be correct considering China's installed nuclear capacity of roughly 14 GWe - -  even though that number is rapidly growing.

Plants totalling 14 GWe of capacity can only produce 123 billion kilowatt hours of electricity at 100% CF. My guess is that the nuclear component of the report is off by a factor of 10.

(Note: US nuclear electricity generation in 2012 was just 769 billion kilowatt hours - - which is down by 5% from the 806 billion kw-hrs achieved in 2007, 2008, 2010)

I'm not arguing about your commentary, just pointing out that the numbers quoted from the original source might be subject to some revision.

May 21, 2013    View Comment    

On Risks to American Nuclear Energy from "Non-Proliferation" Excesses

@I K

The blunder if you want to call it that, was that perhaps not as much effort was placed into running the things optimally.

I don't disagree. Part of the issue is the way that the electric power industry has been structured since the breakup of the Insull empire. For many years, there was a legal prohibition that prevented equipment vendors from owning and operating power plants. That drove designers to focus on selling products and services. Basic human nature led them to ignore operations and even led them to making design choices that would add cost to operations so that the customer was driven to purchase more products and services.

Arguably, the very best designers and operators of razor blade making equipment in the world work for Gillette. The company does not sell its equipment and expertise; it sells razor blades.

IMHO that is a model that would be seriously competitive in the energy market - a power plant designer and manufacturer that operated its own equipment. 

May 20, 2013    View Comment    

On Risks to American Nuclear Energy from "Non-Proliferation" Excesses

@I K

The biggest blunder of nuclear was that at the beginning of its commercial life outages/maintenance took too long. The very same reactors now achieving 95% plus CF were only getting 50% or so decades ago. If only near the beginning of the western nuclear builds the management systems were in place to allow quick refuelling and maintenance then America would probably have built another 200 reactors taking her grid to 75% nuclear 25% other (mostly hydro). Europe would have followed.

That is like saying that Apple's biggest blunder was that the MacPlus was not an iPad.

Believe it or not, it takes time to put systems in place and to learn how to accomplish complex tasks. It does not help when some of the "leadership" in charge of key portions of the technology development effort really did not want anyone to learn how to use fission energy effectively because doing so would reduce sales of hydrocarbon energy.

We have some of the best operating nuclear plants in the world in the US, but we never really learned how to build new ones in a cost effective manner. We let way too many distractions get in the way and we ignored some of the most basic lessons of achieving economic performance through the use of series manufacturing techniques. We also allowed the wrong people to drive the technology in the wrong direction.

I, for one, refuse to believe that Americans are hopelessly doomed to continue on our present course and speed. We have the skills needed; we must put them to better use.

May 20, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Plant Too Expensive to Compete With Natural Gas?

@Jerry Watson:

I am well-versed in the challenge of supplying natural gas to Florida and about the high rate of utilization of their current pipeline infrastructure. I have also followed the difficult challenge of building long infrastructure projects (roads, electric transmission lines, and gas pipelines) in Florida for the past 40 years or so. (My dad was the supervisor of transmission substations when FP&L built their 500 kva "coal by wire" project to move electricity from large coal plants they owned in Georgia down to southeast Florida.)

See, as just one example, this article from December 2012 that describes a long running problem for the state.

Secondly, costs for complex industrial products like nuclear power plants do not come down by themselves and they will not come down by waiting for new technology. They come down by practice and learning curves. "Learning" curves are not driven just by allowing people to practice and become better at their job, they are driven by reusing designs, increasing production rates to spread overhead costs, and reusing tooling and other capital equipment.

I am sorry if you think that building systems that will last for 60 years is not worth the effort. The reality is that electricity is not a fad product; it will continue to be in demand long after the Vogtle plant is retired. It is not a product where technical innovation makes old infrastructure obsolete - there are sixty and seventy year old power plants operating today that are quite competitive because they convert cheap fuel to electricity in a reasonably efficient manner.

There is no doubt in my mind that nuclear professionals need to become more cost conscious and bring our projects to completion in less time and with less effort. It is not about "sharpening our pencils", though. It is about doing things correctly, working to eliminate non-value added processes, resisting non-safety added regulatory ratcheting, and working to stop the ability of frivolous suits to add to the cost of construction.

May 19, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Plant Too Expensive to Compete With Natural Gas?

@Jerry Watson

One more thing - my concerns about the challenge of building out the natural gas pipeline infrastructure are not limited to Florida. A few years back, the American Public Power Association issued a detailed report about the implications of an increasing reliance on natural gas that indicated a need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars into pipelines.

Part of the problem is that there are few natural gas pipes that can supply the sites that currently house coal plants. That is logical; why would any pipeline constructor build infrastructure that would be lightly used? Those power plant sites are well supplied with water and with transmission lines, but they cannot be easily converted to burning natural gas.

They can be converted to homes for small modular reactors that can get their fuel delivered by a few trucks every few years.

May 19, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Plant Too Expensive to Compete With Natural Gas?

@I K

The point I am trying to make is that the headcount cost at a nuclear plant is roughly 10% of the overall cost of electricity from the plant. Of that, only about half of the headcount cost is associated with operators and maintainers. If you want to reduce costs, it would have more impact to work on reducing other costs first.

May 17, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Plant Too Expensive to Compete With Natural Gas?

@Ronald Wagner

You are blatantly lying or ignoring reality with the statement "There is no analysis that shows nuclear plants to be competitive considering all the true costs." In Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, utilties are required to produce extensive analysis of power plant costs before being allowed to make an investment decision. In all three states, those analysis indicated that nuclear was the best long term value for customers. It was not only "competitive", but it won the competition.

Natural gas is abundant NOW, in North America. It is not abundant in Japan, China or Europe and it may not be so abundant in the future as we consume it here at an ever increasing rate. According to the latest estimates by the Potential Gas Committee, the US has about 2600 trillion cubic feet (TCF) if you include all proven, probable, possible and speculative resources. 

That estimate does not make any computations about the cost associated with tapping those resources or about the cost of moving the gas to market. Not all of the newly available fields are as convenient as the Marcellus. Right now, some of that resource base is being flared off in North Dakota since it is produced in association with shale oil and there are no pipes available to move it to market.

The US consumes about 26 TCF per year, so even without any increases in consumption all of our gas will be gone about the time that my grandchildren pass away. What happens then?

May 17, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Plant Too Expensive to Compete With Natural Gas?

@I K

I like people. I like employing people in productive work where they are making a salable product that serves customer needs.

Sure, we can automate everything. Then no one has a job and no one can buy any of the products that the automated machinery makes.

I would far prefer paying nuclear power plant operators and maintainers than oil and gas oligarchs in Russia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, or Iran.

On the other hand, if you would like to help me convince regulators that fences and alarm systems are as protective as the hundreds of security guards that they require as staff for nuclear plants, we can have something to talk about. I am not big on paying people who are armed to the teeth to just sit around waiting for something to happen.

May 17, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Kills More Birds than Wind Energy?


This post is not about bird kills as much as it is about the faulty "studies" that have made their way into the common lexicon and energy conversation.

If Sovacool is this careless in producing a study whose facts could be so easily checked by someone with just a bit of curiosity, how reliable is his often quoted work on the lifecycle CO2 emissions of nuclear energy? It is clear that he not only has "confirmation bias" but that he is willing to publish faulty science based on easily discovered nonsense.

That is the real message of this piece.

May 3, 2013    View Comment