After the Coal Plants Close, Where Will the U.S. Get Cheap Electricity?

Posted on February 16, 2012
Posted By: Mark J. Morabito
Topic: Nuclear
According to ExxonMobil's newest energy report The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, "By 2040, worldwide electricity demand will be 80 percent higher than it was in 2010," and "electricity generation will account for more than 40 percent of global energy consumption."

In light of that projection, two news items that flew under the radar at yearend raise an important question: are we approaching the end of cheap electricity?

Bellwether No. 1: New EPA air pollution rules have gone into effect. Predictions are that as many as 68 of the U.S.'s 600 coal-fired plants may close because of negative operating economics associated with making the plants comply with the EPA's stronger rules.

Bellwether No. 2: Global energy giant BP announced it's going to completely exit the solar business after 40 years, shuttering all of its large-scale solar operations. If a legacy energy producer like BP, the world's fourth largest company, can't find an upside and is ready to pull the plug after four decades of investment, could it signal the beginning of the end of solar?

Renewable Energy -- A Fool's Errand?

BP's announcement aside, a billion dollars worth of recent bankruptcies from the likes of Solyndra, Range Fuels, Evergreen Solar and a growing list of others throws up a forest of red flags. How much longer will investors pour billions of dollars into technologies that are hugely expensive, dependent on government subsidies and may never be practical for large scale adoption?

Former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman got to the heart of the matter in an opinion article in which she pointed out that by 2035, America will need 24 percent more electricity than it consumes today. "And while renewable energy sources such as wind and solar offer tremendous clean air benefits, they aren't reliable enough yet to provide power when we need it the most and are not practical options for states where these resources are limited."

In the absence of a storage solution, solar may see limited use in distributed generation applications whose backers have deep pockets, and wind will continue to add a small percentage of intermittent power to the grid, but neither solar nor wind has the ability to supply the day-to-day baseload electricity needed to run an industrial society -- the electricity we now get from coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear. Nursing homes, police stations and hospitals can't hang "closed" signs on the door just because the sun goes down. Trying to go all out renewable would result in a city-wide armada of smoke-spewing diesel generators firing up at dusk, pumping out smelly exhaust and carbon dioxide every night in order to keep the lights on.

Carbon Penalties and Geopolitics Will Push Up Prices.

Cheap natural gas will take up the slack for a while, but how long? In their report, ExxonMobil predicts a carbon dioxide penalty of $60 -- $80 a ton on coal by 2030, which would make coal "more expensive than natural gas, nuclear and wind power." They predict the demand for natural gas will rise by more than 60 percent through 2040. Like coal, natural gas is another fossil fuel that is vulnerable to a carbon tax. And today's prices for natural gas are hitting bottoms thanks in part to the vast shale gas reserve estimates. But if the price escalates as a result of geopolitical turbulence, a reduction in reserves, or environmental problems delaying its extraction, local power bills will follow suit.

What is the Solution?

Expand our reliance on nuclear energy. In the days following Fukushima, Germany and Italy declared they would pull the plug on their countries' nuclear energy, but while Japan began shutting down its reactors for safety tests, Prime Minister Noda stated that Japan needs its nuclear generation capacity for economic survival. If Germany follows through with its promise to replace its present nuclear capacity with renewables, according to a report by Versant Partners, the price tag for the German energy policy would be $2.177 trillion, or 68% of Germany's 2010 gross domestic product. Could they survive the economic impact? Meantime, China, India and Russia have fully embraced nuclear, putting their money where their mouth is by moving more than a hundred new nuclear plants through the planning-design-development-construction pipeline. Additionally, all three countries are scrambling to secure fuel supply by bidding for stakes in uranium deposits around the globe. And those aren't the only countries beefing up nuclear capacity. South Korea, Vietnam, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and numerous others are investing heavily in nuclear generation. The World Nuclear Association reports that worldwide uranium demand from power plants exceeds the amount of uranium annually mined by about 22 percent. For two decades the gap was bridged in the U.S. largely by enriched uranium converted from Soviet warheads. That contract is slated to end in 2013. Consequently, exploration programs and permitting for new U.S. uranium mines are moving ahead full speed in the western states -- most notably Wyoming and Texas, two states that fully understand and welcome the positive economics of robust resource development.

A Nasty Black Eye Begins to Heal.

There's no question that the nuclear industry's three accidents since 1979 and the wall-to-wall media coverage of them delivered a black eye to the public's perception of nuclear power -- despite the fact that nuclear energy holds the record as the safest source of electricity per kilowatt hour and could serve the clean electricity needs and meet any air pollution and renewable portfolio standards in the U.S. single-handedly for centuries. What is rarely reported is that in the aftermath of each of those accidents, the industry's plant designers and operators worldwide joined forces to improve plant design, safety systems, and operator protocol, delivering continuous improvement. As a result, today's generation of nuclear power plants is technologically more advanced, more efficient and safer than at any point in history.

On Feb. 9, 2012, the NRC voted to approve the first new nuclear power generator to be built in the U.S. in 33 years. As significant as this milestone is in and of itself, equally notable is the last paragraph of the NRC's press release in which they announced approval of the twin AP 1000 reactors at the Southern Company's Vogtle site in Georgia. In the release, they highlight a key design requirement: "passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention." The industry learns, adapts and improves.

Conclusion: Say Goodbye to Cheap Electricity.

Why that conclusion? First, stricter EPA rules will lead to closures of coal plants during a period when demand for electricity is forecast to rise. Second, by 2025 carbon taxes will drive up prices for power generated by fossil fuels. Third, natural gas-fired generation plants will take up the slack from coal, but the price of that electricity is vulnerable to price swings of the fuel. Fourth, expensive large-scale solar begins to die out, but wind energy, loved dearly by government policy makers and paid for in large part by tax-payer subsidies, will be forced deeper into the mix to meet renewable portfolio standards. (When did a government mandated program not drive up costs?)

If we really want reliable, low cost, zero-carbon electricity to power the U.S. economy through the 21st century, the most efficient path to that goal is to expand the nation's fleet of nuclear power generators.

Authored By:
Mark J. Morabito, J.D., is founder and Executive Chairman of Crosshair Energy Corporation (NYSE Amex: CXZ), a development stage uranium mining company with projects in Wyoming and Labrador, Canada. Mark is also Chairman & CEO of ForbesWest, a Canadian company that specializes in identifying, funding, developing and managing resource-based opportunities, and provides management, geological, regulatory, tax, corporate development and investor relations services to mining companies throughout North America.

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February, 16 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I think that we can clear this up in short order. The voters and their political masters can play the game any way they choose, but nuclear is here to stay. Regardless of what she says, Merkel does not want to dump nuclear energy. What she wants is another term or two in the Bundestag, or whatever they call it now, and she thinks that by joining the anti-nuclear booster club she has a better chance of obtaining it.

Let me say however that in the long run it will have to be nuclear plus renewables and alternatives. Sometime, usually late at night, I think that I will get up and spend a little time trying to figure out exactly how this would work for the folks in the cheap seats, but then I remember that I might be able to convince the fools who make the decisions in the Swedish academic world to let me teach mathematical economics again, and so I don't do anything about solving that problem.

Let me add one thing. The stupidity about the future energy picture that we encounter virtually every day is due to the abysmal teaching of energy economics. Once I thought that this problem would be solved after people like me wrote a few textbooks, but I was wrong. The only thing that can cure a large percentage of energy economics teachers is an envelope containing a pink slip, on which they are informed that they have one term in which to turn their game around, and if they can't that pink slip is their passport to another occupation.

February, 16 2012

Harry Valentine says

The article raises several very valid points . . . . decision makers will definitely have to reconsider nuclear as a future source of electric power, both fission and fusion power (using boron).

Chancellor Merkel's stand on nuclear is a "knee-jerk" reaction to the Fukushima disaster . . . . had that nuclear power station been located on Japan's northern shore (next to the Sea of Japan), the world would never have heard of how a tidal wave incapacitated a seawater-cooled nuclear power station. Japanese officials knew of the propensity for tidal waves to occur in the Pacific Ocean, long prior to the construction of Fukushima power station.

The future of North American nuclear power may likely include seawater-cooled power stations, including on the shores of the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), Long Island Sound, Hudson Bay and Cape Cod Bay.

Also, lets not rule out micro nuclear (Toshiba, Nu-Scale Energy) and improved air-cooled nuclear. The South Africans have among the largest air-cooled thermal power stations in the world . . . cooling technology that could be adapted to nuclear power.

February, 16 2012

Jim Beyer says

How is Solyndra different from Nuclear Power? Solyndra could get Wall St. to invest in it! If nuclear is so great, then Wall St. would be handing them money to build nuclear power plants. But it's not happening. Remember WPPSS? Dollar adjusted, the $2.5B default of WPPSS was more than 10X worse than Solyndra.

This is a good article and it makes valid points, but the two elephants in the room w.r.t. nuclear power are:

1. Gov't regulatory nightmare needed to build one. 2. Cost controls on any large project, esp. one with lots of #1.

Note I'm not mentioning safety issues at all.

February, 16 2012

Len Gould says

I thing this article's bashing of the solar generation industry is misdirected. The list of companies going bankrupt is simply a symptom of unrelated events in the financial "industry LOL". Solar will eventually prevail, only a question of timing and how to get there.

February, 17 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Jim, I don't believe that Wall Street is capable of passing out money for nuclear installations if it made economic sense. The smartest politician in Sweden is the head of the 'Left' Party, and he says that in a country in which the temperature can reach -30 Celsius, wind and solar and something else can replace nuclear. The present energy minister thinks the same thing, and these are not just intelligent but very well educated people.

The young Wall Streeters are well educated too, but they dont understand what they should understand about nuclear, and if they do understand they are afraid to say. They dont want to offend people, especially when they can get good salaries and bonuses without doing what they would have to do if the world was the way they say it is in Econ 101.

The eventual energy scene will be nuclear and renewables and alternatives, but renewables and alternatives without nuclear is not going to make it. Of course, regardless of what anybody says or thinks there will be nuclear in the form of breeders, but we dont need to open that can of worms.

February, 17 2012

mike alexy says

This article poses an interesting and important question

However, problems with the article began in the first section wherein the author identifies two “bellwethers”. First, he wonders whether BP’s exit from solar PV may signal “the beginning of the end of solar”. Did Kodak, that stalwart of photography, by recently announcing its departure from digital cameras indicate the death of digital photography, let alone photography in general? Did the exit of such industry heavyweights as Univac, Burroughs, NCR, Digital Equipment or others indicate the beginning of the end of computers? Have the travails of RIM, Palm or Motorola signaled the impending demise of cell phones? Of course the answer is no. Similarly, BP was a minor player in the PV industry with less than 2% of industry capacity. Further, to be competitive its technology could require substantial investment. BP’s exit may indicate multiple things, such as: the dynamics of the PV industry; an inappropriate or poorly executed business strategy; changing priorities; etc. It is hardly an indicator of the PV industry’s impending demise.

The second bellwether identified was that “68 of the U.S.'s 600 coal-fired plants may close because of negative operating economics associated with making the plants comply with the EPA's stronger rules.” The implication is that such closures would have serious effects on US electricity generation and costs. Taken at face value, these numbers imply that the US would loose about 11% of its coal-fired capacity. Given that coal presently provides about 45% of US electric energy, this would imply a loss of about 5% of generated energy. While this is meaningful, in most regions there is sufficient excess generating capacity to support this loss. But should we accept this loss at face value? And, are there cost effective, alternatives capable of being implemented quickly?

In fact, the coal-fired plants proposed for closure are very likely to be, old, small, less efficient, more expensive to operate and relatively infrequently used when compared to the average US coal-fired plant. If these plants operate at half the average capacity factor for coal-fired plants, the actual energy generation “lost” will be about 2- 3%. If these plants are also half the average size, the impact is 1% - 2%. This is unlikely to significantly impact overall US electricity rates. (It is possible that rates in some specific areas will increase. But, even the most extreme forecasts for localized rate increases are less than those experienced during the 10 years from 1999 to 2008.)

The article provides the usual straw men as alternates to the dilemma: cold, dark hospitals, police stations and homes; “an armada of smoke-spewing diesel generators”; unpredictable (and trending higher) natural gas prices; “technologies that are hugely expensive” such as solar and wind; or, the author’s own preference, nuclear. I won’t discuss these options in detail. Rather, I would note that multiple studies have demonstrated that use of waste heat from existing facilities for power generation could more than compensate for closed coal plants. Similarly, in a study I am performing, it appears that the impending conversion to LED technology of street, parking facility and outdoor area lights could offset a substantial portion of the generation provided by the closed plants. Both of these options could be implemented quickly. And, both appear to be more cost effective than building new nuclear plants. As another option in the Southern tier of States, thermal storage for chilled water air conditioning systems is a long proven, cost effective means of load shifting (and potentially reduction of some load). Use of this technology throughout Texas alone could offset up to 10 of the plants most likely to close.

The author appears to want the reader to believe that the US must soon implement a widespread nuclear construction program. Nuclear can have an important role in future US, and global, energy supply. However, it is not the only option, nor is it always the best.

February, 18 2012

Michael Keller says

A number of the pending coal plant closures involve old stations that mostly grand-fathered their way out of using proper pollution control equipment. When the US Congress enacted the landmark environmental legislation in the 1970''s, I doubt the intent was to have ancient, heavily polluting units running forever.

As to the near-term future: the price of electricity in the US should be reasonable and stable for maybe five years due to ample supplies of low-cost natural gas and low-cost nuclear stations that have paid-off the money borrowed to build the units. The price would be even lower, however, if money was not being foolishly diverted to build renewable energy units that are simply not needed when looking at demand versus supply.

As for Europe - I think they've screwed up and will pay a heavy economic price. China and Asia will continue to deploy what makes economic sense for them, while more-or-less ignoring the radical green movement.

Long range? Hard to say, but I suspect technology will continue to drive costs lower while reducing pollution. That is exactly what has occurred over the last half century, with the exception of the premature excursion into expensive renewable energy.

February, 19 2012

Len Gould says

Ten years ago we were discussing on this site articles in the popular and trade pressses discussing the endless maintenance of ancient heavily-polluting coal generation plants simply because they were able to use an unintended loophole in anti-pollution legislation which allowed old plants to be grandfathered around the current emissions requirements because they wern't worth the investment in corrective systems. I agree with Mike and Micheal, the closures forecast in the article are likely long overdue and of very little consequence.

February, 21 2012

Jack Ellis says

Fred's correct. Renewables alone aren't adequate without enormous amounts of storage that in aggregate will be incredibly costly. Nuclear by itself isn't flexible enough to meet demand that varies throughout the day. No one technology can do the whole job.

Having been in a coal plant or two over the course of my career, I'd just as soon see them go away because there's no such thing as clean coal - only dirtier coal and cleaner coal. Under the best of circumstances it is a vile, nasty fuel.

For their part, the nuclear folks need to focus relentlessly on safety. Run properly and with the right attitude among management and staff, nuclear plants are safe and clean. But like flying and seafaring machines, they are extremely intolerant and unforgiving of the slightest error, omission or carelessness.

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

February, 21 2012

Bryan Leyland says

I think it's worthwhile injecting a few facts into this discussion.

1st, new renewable energy technologies cannot provide more than a small fraction of the amount until a low-cost efficient and large scale technology is discovered for storing electricity for days and weeks and months. But even if it is discovered, the installed capacity of the power stations will greatly exceed the demand so the cost of the power plants themselves and the transmission system and storage system will be enormous.

2nd nobody died at Fukushima as a result of radiation. We can be quite confident that nobody will die because the maximum radiation level was no greater than natural radiation levels in Iran and France where medical tests have shown that the population is healthy. The only people that did die died of heat stroke as a result of a panic reaction that turned off perfectly good, safe nuclear power stations that, in turn, shut down air conditioning. There is ample evidence that radiation limits could be increased by a factor of 200 without the slightest risk. This would make a huge difference to their cost and public acceptance of nuclear power. But nobody wants to talk about it. Not even the nuclear industry.

3rd, the fact that there has been no significant global warming for the last 10 to 15 years proves that man-made carbon dioxide does not cause dangerous global warming. Therefore, carbon taxes are nonsense and the present drive for so-called “clean" renewable energy is a massive waste of money driven by those who are getting rich from the subsidies that should never have been there in the 1st place. The poor consumer is the one who pays.

February, 21 2012

dennis baker says

The primary source of GHG is fossil fuel burning electrical generating facilities. 7 Billion humans generate vast quantities of excrement. I believe this excrement is capable of providing all human electrical demands. Right now hydrogen is perceived as a negative by product, of Nuclear Energy, when it should be the product, as the Pentagon has considered. reference info Request for Information (RFI) on Deployable Reactor Technologies ... Large scale conversions sites are intended to replace fossil fuel powered electrical facilities the Primary Source of Carbon Emissions. In what officials now say was a mistaken strategy to reduce the waste's volume, organic chemicals were added years ago which were being bombarded by radiation fields, resulting in unwanted hydrogen. The hydrogen was then emitted in huge releases that official studies call burps, causing "waste-bergs," chunks of waste floating on the surface, to roll over.

Dennis Baker 106-998 Creston Avenue Penticton BC V2A1P9 cell phone 250-462-3796 Phone / Fax 778-476-2633

February, 21 2012

bill payne says

New Mexico tech recent natural gas report shows that natural gas production is declining in the state. And 'Approximately one-half of natural gas production is obtained from wells drilled within the last five years.'

Here i2003 report summary.


New Mexico has produced s x 109 billion bbls of crude oil and t x 1012 ft3 trillion cubic ft3 of natural gas since production of these resources began in the 1920’s. During 2011, u x 106 million bbls oil and v x 1012 ft3 gas were produced in New Mexico. Available estimates of undiscovered resources indicate a minimum of w x 109 bbls oil and between y and z x 1012 ft3 gas remain to be produced in the state.


What are the values of s, t, u, v, w, y and z?

No response, so far. :-)

Here are sone photos, mp3s, and videos of the liberal arts 'educated' in a New Mexico Gas Company rate hearing.

The US apparently produces only 7% of the uranium it consumes, Byron King reported.

The energy dilimma

may point to economic problems caused by energy?

February, 21 2012

Richard Koda says

Don't count coal out yet. From new articles appearing last month, researchers at the University of Southern California's Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute say their new CO2 extraction method based on "fumed silica" achieved some of the highest rates ever reported for removing the potentially climate-changing greenhouse gas from the air under humid conditions. Professor Surya Prakash says he expects to see his team’s CO2 recycling technology in commercial use within three to five years.

February, 21 2012

Jack Ellis says

It's probably a bit early to conclude no one was made sick by or died from the radioactive releases at Fukushima. Even if no one did die, there's a huge public trust deficit that has to be repaired.

I think we can safely leave the debate over climate change and any impacts caused by fossil fuels out of this discussion because there are other reasons for pursuing cheap ways to exploit renewable energy. Probably the most important is that fossil fuels are not inexhaustible in spite of our experience over the last 150-200 years. At some point in the next century or two, the citizens of this planet are going to deplete its stores of coal, oil and natural gas that took several million years to create. If mankind isn't prepared for that time, there is no doubt in my mind that countries will go to war in order to secure what little fossil fuel remains, and the consequences for civilization as we know it could be quite dire. Most of us will have departed the earth by then, but it is likely that your children and almost certainly your grandchildren will have to deal with the consequences. Would you like to help mitigate those consequences now while there's time, or are you perfectly willing to let the cards fall how they may?

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

February, 21 2012

bill payne says

Time to lighten-up.

Energy is an area of interest, not of ability or expertise.

Saturday February 18, 2012 bill talked with filmmakers Phil and Cee Pfeiffer between Cerillos and Galisteo, NM.

Here's Phil's fracking lecture.

Here's Phil.

And here's me trying to find out why electrical wires are involved with a windmill!

February, 21 2012

Don Hirschberg says

A very good article and one that needed to be written, although I’d revise the title premise “After The Coal Plants Shut Down…” to “If the Coal Plants Shut Down…” After all, CO2 emissions are going up so rapidly that shutting down US plants will mainly only make it easier for China, India, and others to supply their existing and new coal burners they are building like crazy.

I am a bit surprised at the projection of only 80%more electrical demand in 2040. (That is only 2.01% per annum, 1.021^28= 1.79) Population growth, that is just staying even, would require 1.3%more per year. So how is 0.71% supposed to take care of new users such as electric cars and even take a nibble into the deficiency of billions with no electric service whatsoever? The arithmetic doesn’t stretch.

I’d have predicted a much higher demand in 2040. But I had better be careful as there is no assurance we (our present civilization) will get to 2040.

Permit me an interesting aside. The author uses the term “bellwether” perhaps effectively. The primary definition is for a wether (ram) wearing a bell whose job it is to lead the flock. It also means one who leads a group, especially a thoughtless, sheep- like group.

February, 21 2012

Don Hirschberg says

In paragrph 2 above, where I wrote 'That is only 2.01%..." I should have written "2.1 %..." I wrote it right in the calc. so none of my deathless prose is affected. Sorry.

February, 22 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

The issue isn't arithmetic, Don. IIt's money, stupidity and ignorance. Walk through the elegance of Stockholm on a bright summer day, and as they say in the Tony Bennet song, wake up and feel life. But if you read or understood spoken Swedish, you would hear well educated young ladies and gentlemen sounding off that the place is an environmental hell on earth.

Where getting rid of coal is concerned, 'they' will get rid of it after the last available shovel of it has been directed into a furnace somewhere on this old earth. I don't know anything about atmosperic physics, nor am I interested, but I definitely believe what you say in the first paragraph of the above comment. China and India are not through with it yet, and incidentally, you don't hear anything about the Chinese exploiting their shale gas.

If our friends and neighbors want to know how the world works, just turn toward Germany. Merkel knows as well as I do that her anti-nuclear program is looney-tune, but so what: It MIGHT get her another term or two in the Bundestag. After all, the former physics student from the depths of East Germany never thought for a second when she was watching those equations being put on some blackboard that one day she would be flouncing into the Elysee Palace, arm in arm with the odious Sarkozy.

February, 22 2012

Richard Foley says

I don't think electricity is going to be cheap anymore ! Policy types, regulatory officials and economists should inform the public of this new coming era of more expensive electricity.

February, 22 2012

Scott Greenbaum says

I read all this stuff. More Generation needed. Everyone appears to forget that the largest source of future energy is energy conservation. It is the best economic solution to the problem. Just look at the last 25 years of lighting efficiency improvemeents. 25 years ago I designed around 2 watts per square foot for office buildings. Today i am desiging around 0.75 watts per square foot. We can use less electricity if we commit ourselves to it. Energy Conservation is the economically best source of future power needs. The cost of one Nuclear power plant spent on energy conservation will replace more than base load energy produced by lower demand and consumption.

February, 22 2012

Alan Muller says

The only really impressive aspect of the US nuclear industry is its ability to suborn the political system. A long-term, systematic effort in this regard seems to have been highly successful. But nuclear electricity economics suck, as everybody knows. to pretend that solar, whose economics are improving steadily, has no future is absurd. US nuclear capacity will expand only to the extent that the true costs are unloaded onto taxpayers.....

February, 22 2012

Jim Beyer says

The other problem with nuclear power is its centralization, whereas so many other things in our society are being developed in a decentralized sense these days. Does that matter? I'm not sure. They aren't stringing phone lines in Africa; they went straight to cell phones.

February, 22 2012

Jerry Watson says

I have been counting out solar photovoltaic for a long time it has always been way to expensive, but a $1 watt the author is a 180 degrees out it is just now becoming interesting. Solar was best served and underutilized for water hearting. At a $1 a watt Solar should have a significant role in the southwestern US. It should be able to supply significant peak loads when power is the most valuable. Of course, in the US I doubt we can do the smart thing we probably start installing solar panels in Maine and work our way toward Arizona. Sadly this puts me in agree Tam Hunt.

Why would the US have higher KW cost short term? Cheap gas cheap coal and solar coming into its own should not mean high priced power. $1000/kw solar panels with no fuel seems like a winner for peak serving without storage.

Here is a lofty goal enough solar in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona to push fossil generation in those states to plant minimums during peak solar incidence. Of course some group will lobby to build a high line from San Diego to Bangor at cost equal to the GDP for a hundred years. We can seem to stop with smart what must continue into ludicrous.

US solar photovoltaic manufacturers are yelling foul because of low priced Chinese panels. I say if the Chinese want to sell panels at half the cost of production let them subsidize a large US solar build. They can buy T-bonds with the proceeds

One last point is a fear that frack gas will be short lived. Here is a prediction the US will continue to improve its shale gas extraction technology.

Who knows the US may be able to get the Chinese to build it some $2000/kw nuclear. Almost sounds like the China owns the US doesn't it?

February, 22 2012

Ellen Kurtz says

As a layperson, not a member of the industry but as a consumer of electricity for 81years, I have been puzzled by the huge non-conversion of homes particularly here in the sunny southwest to indivdual solar production. We ourselves have sucessfully used a solar unit for heat (homemade from our neighbor's beer cans) for over 30 years. Is this due to reluctance on the part of the industry in losing customers or the reluctance of consumers to the initial cost and upkeep, and in some cases, appearance? It need not come from acres of solar collectors. It seems to me that using this on individual residences would free up millions of kilovolts for those industries and services (hospitals, emergency services, etc.) that need 24/7 coverage. The application for long distance transmission lines with its loss of energy due to friction over those long distances continues which in turns triggers the need for more energy at the source be it coal, hydro-power,nuclear, natural gas or solar. Long distance transmissions lines are so last century. Why can't it successfully be local or individual? Research and emphasis should be placed on local generation eliminating the need for long distance transmission lines

February, 22 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I have no problem at all with solar, wind, and all the rest of the renewables and alternatives. A certain amount of them is OK with me. My concern as a resident of Sweden is that the nuclear sector remains what it is or is increased slightly. The good Alan Muller says that nuclear economics "suck". Let me tell you the pitiful thing about that opinion: if he expressed it in a room filled with economists who know as much about nuclear economics as I do - and that is a lot - nobody would make a serious attempt to prove him wrong.


February, 22 2012

John Bender, PE says

Small scale nuclear is the key- marine sized units, such as here:

Begin by siting on large army and navy bases, and having the US Navy operate them as the NEW public power.

Let commercial entities compete with the public power when they're ready.

February, 22 2012

Richard Goodwin says

Converting older coal plants to Natural Gas – Peak vs. Base Loading

The cost to upgrade an older, smaller coal-fired power plant is about the same as converting to Natural Gas. As long as Natural Gas prices are below $4/MMBTU these converted plants will be used as Base-Load facilities. When NG prices rise to between $4 – 6/MMBTU Electric Utilities will begin used converted NG plants as Peak Load Facilities.

The present political and media climate oppose new coal-fired power plants. Due to low natural gas pricing many electric utilities are choosing to operate their NG plants at greater capacity and reduce operating capacity of their coal-fired units e.g. City of Lakeland FL.

Energy economics will determine the near-term mix between Natural Gas and Coal-fired Power Plants. Coal is in decline in USA but wait until demand for NG increases as was the case in 2008 when many electric utilities began planning for new coal-fired units. Please note that electricity costs increased - expect the same after 2013.

Richard W. Goodwin West Palm Beach FL

February, 22 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Ellen, You are a breath of fresh air to this forum and I am sure that Len Gould would agree with what you say about solar hot water heating. Solar does make a great deal of sense for some locations on the planet. In your location there is no doubt that it makes perfect sense to heat your hot water with solar panels. It very likely is economic to make electricity with solar panels too - except storing the power requires batteries of some sort - which are hard to make from beer cans. But for countries like Sweden Canada and much of the US north east I am afraid solar makes no sense at all.

Also solar hot water heating only frees up electrical supplies if the hot water tank was electrically heated. If your hot water tank was fuelled with gas as mine is then installation of a solar hot water system would make no difference to the electricity system.

In Canada where I call home clearing mounds of snow from the solar collectors on the roof in winter would appear to be a dangerous occupation. Malcolm

February, 23 2012

Jim Beyer says

Hello Ellen, and Welcome!

You bring up a good point that I don't think has been expressed. There are 3 broad markets for electricity residential, industrial, and business.

Industry has very high use per customer, and cost per kW/hr is crucial, as is reliability. Costs associated with transmission and metering are low (relative to the overall cost) because rate of usage is so high.

Residential is just the opposite; low use per customer, so transmission and metering fees are high (relative to the overall bill). Cost per kW/hr is less critical as monthly connect fees (what you have to pay in any case) can be a big part of one's bill. Reliabiliy should be high, but it's not like the residential consumer is going to lose a run of silicon wafers if the power trips out.

Business customers (retail, offices, etc.) are somewhere between industial and residential.

Anyway, something like solar panels make more sense on the residential side, it would seem. The consumer (in a net sense) pays a high rate per kW/hr used because of connect fees, etc. which are not mitigated by high usage.

Residential and Industrial consumers are basically two completely different types of customers wherein certain things make sense for one and not the other.

February, 23 2012

Fred Linn says

Gemasolar solar thermal power plant supplies power for 24 hours straight

February, 23 2012

Jerry Watson says

I have briefly studied southwest summer load profiles and solar PV generation profiles in that area. It appears to me that the system could easily support 30% to 50% of system peak generation coming from controllable single axis PV without storage. In this area the peak load is roughly twice base load, in the morning hours the solar would need to be detuned if system mins couldn’t support full output. Solar output would peak around 1000 and remain fairly stable to around 1700. With 30% PV fossil generation would start ramping up around noon rather the current 0600. Assuming the peak to be 200% of base at system peak at around 1700 fossil load would only be around 150% of base for the peak. The fossil generation would continue to ramp up until around 2000 at 180% of base. It appears 30% PV would shave 20% of the peak and shift the fossil generation peak 3 hours later plus reduce fuel consumption by 15% for the day.

One key parameter I do not know is normal base load mins. This 30% PV scenario assumes 50% to be near the turndown mins. If the system can be turned down to 25% of peak PV could easily replace 50% of peak generation mix without storage. Around 0600 fossil loading would have to drop to make room for solar and slowly ramp back towards the base load value reaching the equivalent of the nightly min at the system peak and then ramping up to compensate for the PV drop in generation. Fossil generation would still peak around 2000 at 180% base but fuel consumption would be reduced 25% without any storage. In both of these scenarios solar utilization would be near 100%.

Lets pick the low hanging solar fruit first and using some logic and planning for the common good. If the Long Island Solar Farm was relocated in southern Nevada it would produce around 30% more energy. The US has a logical starting place for large scale PV and it is not my home state of Florida or Tennessee were I currently reside. The southwest is a huge area lightly populated other than California. Providing 25% of the energy for the 15% of the US population in area would result in a 3% reduction national wide fossil fuel consumption for electrical energy production. After this was complete then maybe FL and TN would make sense, but I have rarely seen the US use a lot of logic and have no reason to think that will change.

February, 24 2012

Michael Keller says

I'm puzzled. Why would you want to install solar PV? It is exceptionally expensive in most areas of the US. The drivers should be: need for additional power; least-cost; low-pollution consistent with regulations. CO2 emissions should not be a consideration, as whatever we do is immaterial in the broader scheme of the planet.

There is a completely irrational fear of fossil energy being deliberately promulgated by mostly the left. Point of fact, mankind would never have evolved without the use of fossil fuels. The supply is limited, so we need to efficiently use the resource and develop cost effective alternatives. Renewable energy is simply not yet cost effective. Deployment of overly expensive energy sources serves no purpose, other than to enrich those unable to compete (… and yes, that would include nuclear power if you have much lower cost alternatives).

February, 24 2012

Jerry Watson says


Find some current pricing PV it is a tenth of the 1998 price of $11 watt the 2007 price was still $8 a watt. As a consumer I can purchase 290 watt panels for a $1.33/watt. My conjecture is large scale PV should be under $2/watt. PV has made a massive shift it its economics.

February, 24 2012

Jim Beyer says

At the risk of annoying Michael Keller:

Let's say you can get it installed for $2.00/Watt. So, assuming 10 years, 30% utility, we'd have 10x8760x0.3 = 26,280 Watt-hours or 26.2 kW-hrs. The 'cost to me' rate is over $0.20 per kW-hr, but let's just call it $0.15. So that $2 displaced $3.93 in electric bill. Now that's over 10 years, but the rates are likely to go up over that period of time. Also, you might be able to get more like 20 years out of a solar panel bank.

So, I don't see the pricing as that ridiculous for the consumer, provided they can deal with the hassle of having them installed.

February, 24 2012

Len Gould says

Micheal "being deliberately promulgated by mostly the left" -- correction, should be "being deliberately promulgated by anyone who can read".

February, 24 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says


Nice cost figures but missing some fundamentals here. Does not matter what the cost is if the installation produces no KW. Here in Canada we just got dumped on with snow. The solar panels standing in farmers field here (heavily subsidized by the Government) were completely covered in wet sticky snow that appears to stick very well to vertical solar surfaces. Without the grid the farmers lights would be out. In Arizona and the US sunbelt - sure you can make those arguments. In Canada and most of the northeast USA you have to be out of your mind.


February, 24 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says

So what was all that about no nuclear plants in the USA and no-one willing to finance them?

"Feb 9th Rueters newsfeed. The NRC voted 4-1 to allow Atlanta-based Southern Co to build and operate two new nuclear power reactors at its existing Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. The units will cost Southern and partners about $14 billion and enter service as soon as 2016 and 2017."

Apparently someone is prepared to pony up $14 billion to build two more nuclear units.

These two plants will produce about 2500 MW 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

How many milliwatts of power was produced by the 24 hour solar panel Fred (Linn)?

The future of electricity is nuclear because it is cheap, safe and reliable as it always has been.


February, 24 2012

Don Hirschberg says

I spent some time looking into the Spanish Gemasolar plant that produces electricity 24/7. I was impressed and I’ll share what I learned.

Rated electrical power: 19.9 MW Net electrical production expected: 110 GWh/year (which amounts to a .63 capacity factor.) Solar field: 2,650 heliostats on 185 hectares (That’s 457 acres) Heat storage system: the molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed. (The salt I understand to be KNO3)

I am confused about the temperatures. I see both 500 C and 900 C mentioned.

To supply 25,000 homes. (Perhaps a fair appraisal in southern Spain but only about 10,000 all- electric homes in northern Arkansas.)

I don’t have any idea of the comparative economics. Anyone?

To get a sense of proportion we might compare this solar installation with the newly approved Georgia nukes. 2500/19.9 X .90/.63 = 179. That is to say it would take 179 of the referenced Gemasolar installations to make as much electricity in a year as the two new nuclear reactors. And it must be noted that the Spanish installation was built at a very favorable location, an optimum location for solar generation.

February, 25 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Malcolm, nuclear will do all right because, as I pointed out recently. it will be favored by improvements in technology. If it wasn't for the game playing taking place now, those two plants would be on the block for about 5 billion each. Where do I get 5 billion from: I get it from reading and listening to people who know more about this issue than I do, by which I mean not listening to or reading things by Fred Linn.

What's going on here? After leaving the army I studied some German in Vienna with a man who 'soldiered with languages' in the German war machine. He put it as follows: the day after Hitler declared war on the US, he and people like him knew that Germany had lost the war, The others - the fantasists and single issue fools - didn't get the message, and as a result the German cities were turned into rubble by the US and UK air forces and the Soviet army broke into Germany. Obviously, if the others had gotten the message something could have been done to have avoided that punishment

The others haven't gotten the message about nuclear either, and so if the oil price keeps going up we are going to face another macroeconomic meltdown. And if they had gotten the message - well, I'll save that for my memoirs.

February, 25 2012


If the decision is to go for Nuclear Power Plant then the next question is what is the location and what is the most Optimum Power Plant Size?

Nobody wants to have this kind of plant in their area considering the disasters involved..

Only time will give the solution.

Certainly Nuclear Plant is not the right solution

Why we call Power obtained from coal is cheaper?

Attach the cost associated with it for recovery of CO2 and other pollutants.

Then Solar and Wind Power will be more economical .


February, 25 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Only time will give the solution to you Mr Lakhapate, but I ALREADY have the solution. For this country, Sweden, two or three more reactors are needed. Please note, I am not asking for a reactor for every street corner - just two or three more, managed by intelligent people and regulated by intelligent people. Don't ask me however to find these intelligent people, because some of the hightest energy bureaucrats in this country are completely and totally stupid where energy is concerned.

As for solar and wind power, I admit that for Sweden they are more economical - assuming of course that you cannot add and subtract. Here in Sweden engineers and managers are very competent when it comes to adding and subtacting, but as far as I can tell they are willing to construct any kind of nonsense if they receive subsidies, and that is true in many countries.

February, 25 2012

Roger Arnold says

There have been very upbeat reports from Sandia Labs regarding performance of supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle turbines. If things work out in practice as well as the early testing program suggests, then the US will soon be seeing gains in its generating capacity that will far outweigh near-term closures of older coal-fired plants.

The S-CO2 turbines are apparently able to achieve thermal efficiencies close to Carnot limits in remarkably compact packages. By replacing its steam turbines and condensers with S-CO2 Brayton cycle turbines, a PWR or older coal-fired plant could go from 35% thermal efficiency to 45 - 50% with no increase in hot-side fluid temperature. That's a 30 - 40% gain in power output from the same thermal input.

Summary article on Next Big Future is here

February, 25 2012

Kent Wright says

Don Glad to see your comparison in land use, which is another fair proxy for overall economics. As you have pointed out the land use for one of the most optimal locations in the world for solar thermal generation is 457 acres for 19.9 MW electric. In agreeing with your numbers, I see then that we’d need at least 457x179 = 81,800 acres, or 128 square miles, committed to solar thermal in order to match 2500 MW of nuclear in a year’s production of electricity. Each additional MW of solar thermal would demand land in the same proportion, or less given that not all solar sites can be optimal.

In contrast, the two 1215 MW nukes already built at Vogtle are on 3150 acres of land, taking only 1.3 acres per MW. The two new units will add 2500 MW on that site without demanding more land, therefore, the land use goes down to .65 acres per MW. I would further say that those numbers are typical for most nuclear sites. For example, Browns Ferry’s three nuclear units represent over 3300 MW on 840 acres of land thereby using only .25 acres per MW.

Incidentally, most of the nuke sites in the United States were planned with additional growth in mind so most sites could easily double their MW capacity without demanding more land.

Thanks for bringing up the subject.

February, 25 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Prakash, From some earlier posts you will observe that I do in fact live very close to one of the largest nuclear installations in North America. So I refute your proposition that and I quote......

"Nobody wants to have this kind of plant in their area considering the disasters involved."

I do. This is because the actual risks involved are miniscule. The perceived risks - as promulgated by the media and other know-nothings of this world are exaggerated to the point of hysteria. As I have pointed out time and time again no-one, I repeat NO-ONE has been killed as a result of Fukushima and the radiation released from it is no worse than living on top of some natural geological formations in India. I would MUCH rather live next to a NPP than a coal plant - because I know the emissions from such a plant would indeed destroy my health over time as does the operation of mining coal which routinely and predictably kills thousands upon thousands of miners every year. Apparently THAT risk is OK. Well it is not.

Now of course I would not want to live in an earthquake prone area whether or not there was a nuclear installation close by.

Nuclear installations - even old plants like Fukushima - battered by the worst earthquake in the history of Japan and one of the worst tidal waves every recorded there has killed nobody. I think that is quite safe and the risks very acceptable.

The next time you get into your vehicle Prakash consider that you have a 10,000 times higher risk of being killed by driving it than I do living next door to a nuclear power plant.

To paraphrase you

"Nobody wants to drive this kind of transport in their area considering the disasters involved"


February, 25 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says


That is fascinating. I have not looked up the link yet but these are the real technological innovations we need. A 1000MW(e) reactor actually produces 3000MW(th) of energy. Greater efficiency in converting the 3000MW(Th) to electrical energy at the rates quoted would make a 3000MW(Th) reactor capable of producing 1350 to 1500 MW(e). This means the existing 105 plants in the US alone could easily be adapted to produce 50% more electricity for a relatively modest capital cost. Conventional plant is quite cheap compare to the nuclear side. Very interesting and a great deal more practical than covering the planet in solar installations which I will repeat again do not work when they are covered in snow and ice. Spain - perhaps. Canada - not a chance.

I have always admired the work of Sandia Labs, and if this works on a large scale it could change things dramatically.


February, 25 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred, I agree nuclear not only will do alright but is doing alright now. As Don Hirshberg has noted on many occasions nothing comes remotely close to providing the amount of electricity that will be required by a world population of 7 billiion eager to have what the West already has. China knows it. India knows it. The West did know it but seems to have forgotten what life is like without electricity.

I have to admit it is the fault of engineers - not the bankers or the oil men or Wall Street - we made the grid system so reliable and so cheap that every kid in North America thinks the stuff comes out the wall. They have no idea where or how the power gets to their latest X box. Just plug it in a switch it on. The reliability of the nuclear, coal and gas plants masks the unreliability of the renewables so well it makes the public think that windmills actually are useful. It makes it appear that solar panels actually work at night and in the winter when they are actually covered in snow producing zero kilowatts.

Shame on us for making the system so darned good every one takes it for granted.


February, 25 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says

There were a couple of posts above (Scott Greenbaum et al) regarding energy conservation that deserve some comment. This is the so called "Negawatts" movement. As an engineer this is simply energy efficiency which is practiced by all power engineers everywhere every day. We are always looking for better and more efficient ways of producing, transmitting and consuming electricity. Large power plants whether they are coal oil nuclear or natural gas powered use lot of internal electricity so this is big business for us to use the product as efficiently as we can. There is nothing at all wrong with making light fittings or any energy consuming appliance more efficient in performing its intended purpose or using electricity in better ways. I do not think there is a power engineer on the plant who would disagree with you.

But I caution you that you cannot conserve what you have not produced. Much of the worlds population has no access at all to electricity (I guess that is the ultimate in conservation - not to have any) but I am equally certain that most people in the West prefer to live in comfortable centrally heated condominiums and houses where they can watch TV rather than in a mud hut where they have to walk 10 miles to get water. People are funny that way. Never could understand why conservationists would not want to live in Somalia where they have 100% electricity conservation. Don't produce any - don't consume any.

Sure making better use of any sort of energy is a smart thing to do both on the production end and on the consumption end and indeed has been done for years and years. While it is hailed as something new it really is not. Simple thing such as turning off lights when not needed, or using more efficient lighting are all great but when you do not have an electric light switch to turn off conservation becomes somewhat difficult to do.

That is the difficult question to answer. How do we provide 7 billion people with a high standard of living without wrecking the planets and covering it in solar panels and windmills. My solution - and I consider it the only truly viable one - is nuclear power. Don H thinks it is a lost cause already - perhaps he is right. But I would like to see if we could do it.

Engineers like challenges of that sort.


February, 25 2012

Don Hirschberg says

Some comments good and bad about engineers, Malcolm. Since the first public peeps about oil/energy problems we have heard innumerable times how lousy we are at making electricity, how lousy our engines are, and on and on. Journalists, professors, politician would tell us daily how twice as much energy gets “wasted” as gets used. How disgraceful! How mean we are to put all that CO2 in the atmosphere and wreck the world.

Never, not once did I hear an engineer say, “Wait one goddam minute. We have been improving efficiencies for 200 years – that’s what we do.” Without having a clue as to how it happens critical ignoramuses open their tap and get hot running water, plug into the wall and get electricity every day for refrigeration cooling and heating. And so forth and so on. I heard the President today telling school children today to study hard so they can solve our energy problems implying we nincompoops who have screwed things up. (I once tried to find out if Obama ever took a science course. I found nothing except from another searcher that Obama’s science education did not go beyond junior High level. From listening to him I can believe the assertion.)

And when California with its premier universities was promoting the “Hydrogen Economy” did we hear one peep out of the practicing and academic engineers that hydrogen fuel is now and forever a non-starter. We heard about the “Hydrogen Economy” for years. We were admonished to think outside the box even when the box contained the laws of thermodynamics – and such as the multiplication tables and Periodic Chart.

Along the line I wrote a letter to the BMW Boss chiding him for his hydrogen economy BS. It gets worse. The senior VP and Chief Engineer of BMW wrote me a long letter extolling the development and virtues of a V12 engine to run on hydrogen! I wrote back that the engineers he had on the project were either ignorant of fundamental thermodynamics or were shamefully venal and willing to prostitute themselves. I understand it is possible to get an engineering degree these days without rigorous thermodynamic credits. Unbelievable. Well, I have run across so-called engineers who seem only to know computers and closely related subjects.

No, I am not a Luddite. I precede solid state electronics. But I would remind that the computer age came too late to design the supersonic jet, nuclear bombs and nuclear generating plants, oil refineries, steel mills, Aluminum production, plastics, satellites and much else – all done first with slide rules. The first vacuum tube large computers did ballistic calculations for WWII artillery firering tables.

February, 26 2012

Jim Beyer says

Hello Don,

Your last comment deserves a thoughtful response, which I'm a bit too tired to give my best for right now. I did much of the same thing arguing with GM about hydrogen. I even got my question ("Why are you wasting your stockholders money on a technology that will NEVER be deployed?") read to Larry Burns in an auditorium of a few thousand people. Since then, Burns and his boss Rick Wagoner are gone, and GM was restructured following bankruptcy. Hydrogen is at least on the back burner for them, now.

You pondered why they (many automakers) chased hydrogen. It's a good question, because they aren't stupid people. My opinion is that one big plus that the automakers wouldn't drop is that it made their product pollution-free. The cars just emit water vapor. Nevermind that the overall system might be less efficient and costly - they'd get the EPA or whatever off their back because their cars are no longer polluting. (Shortsighted, I know.)

That's when I figured that methane (renewable or otherwise) is overall a better choice of fuel than hydrogen for vehicles. Denser, able to be made from renewable sources, existing infrastructure. Hands down, better than hydrogen.

With more examination, I realized that hydrogen (as a fuel) was in this uncomfortable zone between batteries and methane, and any improvements of either batteries or methane storage would squeeze the sweet spot of hydrogen utility that much further. It's a dead end technology, barring fantastic improvements in storage and fuel cell technology.

February, 26 2012

Fred Linn says

Ken Wright------------" Don Glad to see your comparison in land use, which is another fair proxy for overall economics."----------

Your numbers for the nuclear plants do not include mining and refinement operations for nuclear fuel, and contamination and disposal.

The Fukushima exclusion zone is about 450 square miles X 640 acres/mile = 288,000 acres. And no power output. And no indication of when---if ever, the exclusion zone status can be safely lifted. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is over 1,000 square miles and has been in effect for over 20 years.

The land use figures you cite for the Gemasolar site include the generation facility---and all fuel collection, processing and storage. There is no danger of radioactive contamination or meltdown. The storage medium is Potassium Nitrate, saltpeter, a natural substance that is a key ingredient of fertilizer. An explosion or leak of Potassium Nitrate would be no more environmentally damaging than spilling fertilizer. The most extensive measure needed to mitigate any problems would be dilution with water.

I'd say, solar power by this standard is CLEARLY superior nuclear power.

February, 26 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

There is money to be made in believing in or saying that you believe ilies, and course producing lies can sometimes be very helpful. Lies helped this American soldier enormously, and I make no secret of it. Now, if you take the statement by Fred Linn that solar power is CLEARLY superior to nuclear power, that is not a lie: he just doesn't know what he is talking about.

But in a paper that I am trying to publish now, I say that people like Linn will eventually get the message, but it wont be as a result of polemics or debate - it will come through revelation. They will just wake up one morning and come to the conclusion that they are tired of being ignorant, and in addition paying for staying in that state.

Jim says that hydrogen is a dead end technology. I'm not sure, because technology might eventually be able to give us what we want from it. Might. What I am glad to say is that in this country, Sweden, most engineers and managers might nod their heads when they encounter lies and stupidity and ignorance, but like my good self they are too anxious to be recognized as smart and competent to buy into nuthouse conclusions like SOLAR POWER BEING SUPERIOR TO NUCLEAR.

February, 26 2012

Kent Wright says

Two common threads, or premises, in the anti-nuclear movement that unfailingly appear are these:

1) FEAR. Nuclear is to be feared and fear alone should trump all benefits.

2) COMPETITION WITH SOLAR. Nuclear power is holding back advances in solar power, so if nuclear is prevented solar will prevail.

On the first premise, the safety record of nuclear power is still unrivaled. Despite fearsome speculation, death by nuclear power accidents is extremely unlikely, as PROVEN by Fukushima. And of course the exclusion zone will eventually be lifted just as it has been lifted for the bombed sites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As for Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, I hear the wildlife is doing exceptionally well because humans are forbidden by law to re-inhabit the area. After more years of careful observation, I suspect humans will be allowed to thrive there again as well.

On the second premise, solar and nuclear simply do not compete for the same mission on the electrical grid. One is perfectly suited for average round-the-clock base loads and the other is imperfectly suited for variable loads for now and the foreseeable future anyway. Nevertheless, there is plenty of opportunity for perfection of solar, if it is achievable, and that opportunity never has been nor ever will be inhibited by nuclear power. The only thing inhibiting the advent of solar is its own cost.

February, 28 2012

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred Linn, One could make exactly the same argument for solar panels. They do not take into account the mining of silver which is required to make them plus the mining and refining of all the other materials that go into their manufacture. The energy density of solar electric panels is too low for any practical use and I seriously doubt that the amount of energy that goes into making them is ever fully recovered by the energy they recover from the Sun. That is a losing energy proposition. The energy density of nuclear fuel is of course enormous and even when the land used for mining and refining the fuel is taken into account we can produce very large amounts of energy with very low land use.

And of course Kent is correct. The only thing that limits the use of solar panels is they are simply far too expensive for the small amount of electricity they produce and no amount of Government subsidy will change that. Should the physics of solar collection change and the energy density increases then perhaps they will become viable. But they are not now. The average price for electricity on the market today was about $24/Megawatt hour. The Government is paying $80 per megawatt hour for small scale solar. With economics like that we will soon be the next Greece. Malcolm

February, 29 2012

Len Gould says

Malcolm. I wouldn't mind seeing some reference for some of your claims regarding present state-of-art solar PV. eg. IF materials shortages were severe as you claim, wouldn't the obvious solution be to implement focusing concentrators with glass or plastic lenses, a system which has often been demonstrated at 500:1 concentration. eg. I've read reviewed articles which prove that solar thermal returns all the embodied energy of construction in three to six months.

Your positions on solar are almost exactly the same as greenpeace on nuclear.

March, 06 2012

Fred Linn says

Ferdinand, Malcolm, and Kent-----if you want to set yourselves up as energy experts and gurus-----it would help a lot to do your homework, and at least know something you profess to be so knowledgeable on.

You guys are a pack of idiots.

You haven't even looked at the link I provided.

Malcolm---solar thermal power uses radiant solar energy to produce heat, not electricity. Solar thermal power does not rely rare elements---and needs FAR less technological and infrastructure support than nuclear power.

Solar thermal power is so simple, it can be constructed easily in a workshop or garage using the simplest of components, many of which can be cobbled up out of cast off junk. Thousands of such working devices have been constructed, I've constructed and used them myself. You can't do that with nuclear power.

Solar thermal is easy to store. The ancient Anasazi Indians in the desert southwest constructed their cliff dwellings to use solar thermal mass to heat and cool their cliff dwellings. They achieved heating and cooling of as much as 40*F from ambient---cool in summer, warm in winter. They used only stone age technology and their knowledge of celestial movement to design and build their pueblos. Today, over 800 years after the Anasazi have disappeared----their pueblos are still heated and cooled by the sun. Total fuel bill for over 1,000 years of heating and cooling? $0. And no radioactive waste to be stored for thousands of years.

Kent-----------" 1) FEAR. Nuclear is to be feared and fear alone should trump all benefits."------------

Blissfully ignorant is not brave, it is just stupid.

Solar thermal power is 100% efficient.

March, 06 2012

Len Gould says

Fred. When I say "solar thermal" I'm referring to electricity generation using a solar steam boiler and turbine / generator, parabolic troughs or towers. Perhaps parabolic dishes with stirling engines. Differentiates from PV. You're talking about solar heating, which is nice but won't operate an elevator or thrashing machine.

March, 06 2012

Ferdinand E. Banks says

So Fred Linn calls me an idiot, does he. Well, my grandchildren call me a fool every chance they get, and so I think that I could get used to idiot if it were necessary. But you see, fool or idiot or worse, I am NOT going to read any link that the good Fred Linn provides me, nor am I interested in comic books or skin magazines.

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