The Energy Collective Group

This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

9,844 Members

Article Post

An Inconvenient Reality: Nuclear Power is Needed to Achieve Climate Goals

On a quiet Wednesday afternoon, I decided to go and see Al Gore’s update on climate change, “An Inconvenient Sequel:  Truth to Power”.  While certainly a powerful update on the importance of climate change and on the need to do something about it, I was disappointed.  Why?  Because, once again, after repeating the phrase “climate crisis” many many many times over its 140 minutes (would really like to know how many times this phrase is repeated), the solutions presented exclude the one with the largest potential, nuclear power.

While showing us melting glaciers and extreme weather, a case is then made that renewables are finally taking hold and the future is now within reach.   The film claims there are jurisdictions that are indeed close to 100% renewables and talks about some already achieving 100% for limited periods of time.

We have talked about this before in our discussion of the recently published study that criticized the popular Marc Jacobson paper claiming a 100% renewable United States is achievable by 2050.  It simply cannot be achieved; and it’s time to focus on a larger basket of solutions that can actually solve the climate crisis.

The large Banning Pass 615 MW wind farm in California provides as much energy as one fifth of a standard 1,000 MW nuclear plant – is this what we consider environmental progress?

After watching the movie, I went to the web site and signed up for emails from the Climate Reality Project.  On the first email, there was a box asking for donations labelled “Science Matters”.  And yes, it does.  Science tells us that nuclear power provides large amounts of low carbon electricity economically and reliably.  In fact, during the recent Hurricane Harvey that flooded Houston Texas, it was the South Texas Project nuclear plants that kept running ensuring ongoing electricity supply.  If you want to advocate to resolve the climate crisis, then all science matters, not just the science that supports a certain point of view.

However, there are also important lessons to be learned for the nuclear industry from this movie.  First of all, the environmental movement has succeeded in making the word “renewable” completely synonymous with both “low carbon” and “clean”.  There is little argument from the public when stating renewables are the solution to climate change.  Whereas in reality it is “low carbon” energy that is needed.  Look at any country’s projections for the future and they will talk about their target for renewables, not for low carbon energy.  If we really have a “climate crisis”, then limiting the solution to a subset of what is available when it comes to low carbon options will not lead to the outome that we all need.

There is no doubt that Al Gore is a very credible champion in the fight against climate change.  The nuclear industry does not have the same although change is in the air.  As we discussed last month, there are now pro-nuclear NGOs with credible leadership.  In the movie, Al Gore offers training to support those who want to become climate advocates.  This includes lectures and the provision of useful presentation materials.  I suggest that this is what is required for the nuclear industry.  Provide training in nuclear advocacy and offer up materials to be used.  While there is excellent information available on industry websites such as the Canadian Nuclear Association, the Nuclear Energy Institute and of course the vast resources on the World Nuclear Association site, I would suggest there is still more work to be done.  We now live in a visual world so let’s make sure we offer a large photo gallery and useful charts and diagrams that can readily be dropped into any presentation.  This includes factual information on other forms of energy as well such as wind and solar – and information on countries such as Germany who have taken decisions on their energy future that clearly show their progress, or lack thereof.

So, if the movie is right and the world is in crisis, it makes absolutely no sense to not use all the options available to humanity to solve this crisis.  Limiting the fight to options that are clearly insufficient is akin to madness.   At the end of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power,” the audience is asked to take the pledge to be inconvenient — to keep demanding schools, businesses and towns invest in clean, renewable energy.  We agree, be inconvenient and also demand that nuclear power play the significant role that it can to really make a difference because the inconvenient reality is that renewables are just not going to get us there.

Sometimes we need to ask if, for many in the environmental movement, decarbonization is really the goal?  Imagine a world where all the electricity was suddenly generated by nuclear power eliminating carbon emissions completely so that the climate crisis was solved.  Would Al Gore consider this a win?  I just don’t know.

Original Post

Content Discussion

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on September 28, 2017

Hmm, a decades old wind farm as example? Well, why not compare it with a resarch reactor of 10 MW from the 1950’s which was in a comparative state of develpment? 10 reactors to replace a wind farm then?

Honestly why should nuclear provide something usefull, with the tiny and further crumbeling supply chain, the eterneties between planning and grid connection, would make it come by far too late do do something useful in globaly relevant scanle?

It does not make much sense.

Solar installs >100GW capacity (grid connection, not planning) this year, and expands it’s supply chains rapidly. And provides power much cheaper. The same, with a slower progressing supply chain, onshore and offshore wind.
As we’d say the train has pulled out for nuclear, it’s gone.
Competitors in the market are bigger, better, faster.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on September 28, 2017

Milton, Michael Bloomberg made a TV appearance last night to promote his new book, co-written with Carl Pope of Sierra Club, acknowledging the importance of addressing climate change. He didn’t bring up the fact that Chesapeake Energy had paid his co-writer $24 million to promote natural gas and help kill nuclear.

As much as I applaud a business titan’s acknowledgement of climate change, it’s not encouraging that even the tenth richest man in the world will overlook these facts to help sell a book. Is it?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on September 28, 2017

Helmut, the Banning wind farm was built during the eighties as a tax dodge. Shippingport, not a “ressearch reactor of 10MW” but a 60MW nuclear power plant, was generating clean electricity day and night thirty years earlier.

Shippingport was decommissioned by 1989. When will renewables advocates remove their own rusting crap from the desert, or should they be allowed to leave it there?

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on September 28, 2017

Yes, the nuclear industry has failed in the propaganda war – failed miserably.
People trust Greenpeace. Thy have been extremely active in bringing out what is obvious false “information.”
Only seldom they have been careless and exposed themselves.
See the exception to the rule on http://wp.me/p1RKWc-mu
It is outside logic that the German government has not seen – or better realized – the facts.
Apparently “green votes” are more important than realities and national economy.
Not only in Germany.
Also here it should be obvious for those who want to. See http://wp.me/p1RKWc-11F
For good reasons the nuclear industry dos not like to participate in the general mudslinging.
Still something should be done.

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on September 28, 2017

Unfortunately it is common to mention “installed capacity” while trying to forget that both solar and wind are not available 24-7
The following data will give room to some realistic thinking.
– Solar (PV) in Germany: Never more than 20 %
– Wind in Denmark: Max 50 %
– Wind in Germany: Seldom beyond 30 %
– Nuclear: More than 80 % with scheduled closures.
We need to have a level playing ground when we compare.

douglas card's picture
douglas card on September 28, 2017

20 years to pay off Nuc or Wind. After that how much does it cost to keep Nuc running for 20 more years compared to wind? 1/3 for the wind. No extremely harmful waste and potential for recycling much of the components.

The comparison is new Nuc compared to NEW wind. New wind gives 1/2 the power of comparable Nuc- NOT 1/5.
No Nuc plant that is similar to most of the ones in use will be built – ever. Next gen might get a shot, but it doesn’t look good.

douglas card's picture
douglas card on September 28, 2017

It will be replaced, as all of them will, with the newer models that are much better than extremely dirty nuclear.
Why do you care what happened to Shittingport. It is not and cannot be anything close to a useful example.
What happened to the waste when it was decommissioned. Cradle to grave cost? Lets hear that example.

douglas card's picture
douglas card on September 28, 2017

Why? Why aren’t any entrepeneurs or venture capitalist investing in Nuclear? Are you suggesting Nuclear is dead( it is) because Greenpeace’s lies are too powerful? lol
Last time I watched Fox ‘News’ it was obvious that no entity can compete with them for slinging bs, uh, I mean propaganda. Why don’t you get them on board with your dream of a Nuclear future?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on September 28, 2017

It is well known, that the development of industrial scale nuclear power stations started several decades before the equivalent development of wind power, and with many times higher volumes of money.
The decomissioned wind turbines are removed too, but there are a lot of alternative facts around this in nuclear fanboy groups, showing always the same photos of the same broen turbies, which have long since been removed in fact. I had something loike this in mind: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forschungsreaktor_M%C3%BCnchen which is also from the 1950’s.
but also with shippingport you need more than one nuclear power station to replace the output of that early wind farm.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on September 28, 2017

Nobody beside you talks about nameplate capasity. Talk is about price per TWh delivered. Nuclear is famous for unsheduled long lasting closures.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on September 28, 2017

By the way, shippingport was closed after 25 years, and was removed at high costs. San Goronio pass wind farm, which you are refering to, is still operational after more than 30 years and delivers more and more power:

http://www.wind-works.org/cms/uploads/RTEmagicC_San_Gorgonio_Pass_Generation.jpg.jpg

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on September 29, 2017

No, the nuclear industry did an excellent propaganda war.
Resulting in being the by far most subsidized method to generate electricity, and still producing 10% of the worlds’ electricity despite being >3times more expensive than other methods which also emit far less CO2 per MWh produced!

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on September 29, 2017

We should use the most effective tools to battle the climate crises.
That implies that far less effective tools should be left behind.

Those most effective tools are now wind & solar (cheap, fast implementation, less CO2/MWh). But those need additional sources or storage when their penetration surpasses 50% because their production varies substantially with the weather.
Hence those additional sources have to be flexible.

Nuclear, being base load, is far away from the flexibility needed…

Bruce Menzies's picture
Bruce Menzies on September 29, 2017

We agree, Milton. When it is dark and the air is still, we need nuclear power to keep the lights on so renewables don’t measure up for base load. Nor does gas-power because it chugs out CO2 that causes global warming and thus increases the frequency of extreme weather events. Most importantly, as we have shown, the entire cost of the 3.2GW UK Hinkley Point C nuclear power station equals the cost of carbon alone of Hinkley-lifetime energy-equivalent gas alternatives. Should we not stop apologising for nuclear and make this clinching carbon case?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on September 29, 2017

Or expand grids to use wind and solar, which is the cheaper solution. Expanding e.g. interconnectors to allow a renewable power production in UK between 0 and 250% of demand by wind and solar being balanced by the interconnecors is cheaper than building the spare capacit y neccesary in a nuclear power supply for UK for 100% of demand neccesary tocover unplanned outages of plants alone.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on September 29, 2017

It is well known, that the development of industrial scale nuclear power stations started several decades before the equivalent development of wind power

It’s well-known that the Smith-Putnam wind turbine was in full commercial-scale operation in 1941, thirteen and a half months before the first controlled chain reaction in a makeshift reactor built of a pile of graphite blocks in a squash court at the University of Chicago.

We know the lies told by Greens, Helmut Coal.  You can’t fool us.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on September 29, 2017

Thank you for showing this 1.25 MW Smith-Putnam turbine from 1941. I thought that the first real wind turbines for electricity production were developed in Denmark.

Still, looking at the old design with its two blades, etc apparently, time stopped for wind turbine developments until…..

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on September 29, 2017

douglas, all of this information is easy to find. The total cost of decommissioning Shippingport was $98 million.

For 20+ years, most of the Banning turbines have been frozen still by corrosion – once investors got their tax break, it seems they wanted nothing to do with them. Can you provide an example of a single wind turbine which has been “replaced with a newer model”?

Then tell me who will “decommission” the cadmium telluride-poisoned soil underneath this solar farm after it destroyed by Hurricane Maria:

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/09/28/us/28usvi12/28usvi12-master675.jpg

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on September 29, 2017

Plenty of new investment in nuclear, both overseas and in the U.S.:

http://newfiremovie.com

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on September 29, 2017

Rec’d for “Helmut Coal”. You are, indeed, a poet.

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on September 29, 2017

Personally I think the systematic and clever misinformation from Greenpeace and followers has created the present negative attitude against nuclear.
There should be no doubt that this has resulted in unreasonably demands for safety against fictitious happenings.
See http://wp.me/s1RKWc-94
We will never be able to stop the looming climate catastrophe unless nuclear get level playing field.

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on September 29, 2017

Nameplate capacity:
You will see it again and again under different terms: e.g. Capacity.
As far as I know solar plans to stop at nighttime.
You may call it planed.
Some 200 days a year, the European wind turbines are running – almost idle.
And when the wind-speed is halved, the output drops to one eighths.
Although often denied, the north European wind is almost synchronized.

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on September 29, 2017

Just have a look at http://wp.me/p1RKWc-mu

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on September 29, 2017

And nothing followed for decades – so nothing in any industrial direction, just a single experiment. That wind power was known as possible source for power for a longer time is known.
Just look at the budgets of the manhattan project and the makeshift reactor, and of the experiment of Smith Putnam.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on September 29, 2017

Nuclear is actually plenty flexible enough to follow user demand. Adding solar and windpower to a grid increase the need for flexibility, they don’t provide it!

In warm climates (California, the Middle East, North Africa), the addition of solar is a good complement to nuclear. But in cloudy or cooler areas (e.g. UK, Canada, Northern Europe, Japan, most of China, most of India), adding solar just means more fossil fuel will be locked-in to provide the needed flexibility.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on September 29, 2017

And nothing followed for decades – so nothing in any industrial direction, just a single experiment.

Quite right.  The technology was plainly within reach of medium-sized companies.  Aside from the research tax credit or whatever was in effect at the time, subsidies were not required.  And it was a commercial failure; the machine was not repaired and inspired no follow-on efforts from anyone, even post-war when capital was plentiful.

That wind power was known as possible source for power for a longer time is known.

Wind power had been used for many centuries.  It had been abandoned once dispatchable power sources were invented.  This should tell you something.

Just look at the budgets of the manhattan project and the makeshift reactor, and of the experiment of Smith Putnam.

You cannot compare the budgets of commercial technology development of centuries-old methods and top-secret military projects.  They are two radically different things.

Had there not been war brewing when fission was discovered, it’s almost certain that the first “atomic pile” would have been a very public effort and done on the cheap, with patent applications already filed.  Who knows what the first commercial applications would have been, but shipping and electric generation would have been pretty high on the list.  “Piles” with graphite moderators and molten-lead cooling would have been cheap, not requiring enriched uranium and not susceptible to Chernobyl-style failures, so would likely have been the earliest commercial successes.  Digging black rocks out of the ground to burn for energy would have naturally died away.  And you, Helmut Coal, would have been left without anything to complain about.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on September 29, 2017

Finnish research data on electricity generation costs for different new power plants in 2017:

The following types of power plants are studied: nuclear power plant, combined cycle, gas turbine plant, coal-fired condensing power plant, peat-fired condensing power plant, wood-fired condensing power plant, wind power plant and solar power plant.
The calculations are carried out by using the annuity method with a real interest rate
of 5 % per annum and prices relevant to Finland with a fixed price level as of March
2017. With the annual peak load utilization time of 8000 hours the production costs
would be for nuclear electricity 42,4 €/MWh, for natural gas based electricity 68,9
€/MWh, condensing peat based electricity 75,7 €/MWh and for coal based electricity
with CCS 75,9 €/MWh, when using a price of 15 €/tonCO2 for the carbon dioxide
emission trading. Of renewable electricity condensing wood based electricity the
production cost is 76,2 €/MWh, that of land based wind electricity (2860 h/a) is 41,4
€/MWh, sea based (3875 h/a) 68,9 €/MWh and solar based (982 h/a) is 99,6 €/MWh.

http://www.doria.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/143861/S%C3%A4hk%C3%B6n%20tuotantokustannusvertailu_ok.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Professor Vakkilainen who is one of the authors also noted that one should add 15 euros/ MWh to wind costs and 29 euros/ MWh to solar costs to cover their total costs which include storage, additional transmission capacity and backup power costs.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on September 29, 2017

How about Germany? You will shut down 85 TWh of nuclear generation by the end of 2022. That’s equal to all electricity generated by onshore and offshore wind in Germany today.

My crystal ball tells me that Germany will not double its wind generation in 5 years. Or produce 85 TWh more electricity with wind and solar combined in 5 years.

And the really bad news? Even if Germany did achieve that, it would still lead to increase of coal generation since there are still days when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. After 2022, on those days there is no more nuclear, only fossil fuel generation left.

Herr U's picture
Herr U on September 30, 2017

the eterneties between planning and grid connection

Ehm? What? You are aware that as long as politicians stay out of it nuclear plants are normally built in 42 to 60 months once the red tape is cleared, right?

For instance Barakah-1 did it in 58 months (currently waiting for red tape to clear to start fuel loading, will start up at the same time as Barakah-2 that seems to end up with the same construction time)
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 and 7 did it in 37 and 40 months.
Shin-Wolsong 1 did it in 50months.
Qinshan Phase III-1&2 did it in 48 to 50 months.

That is about 12MWe to 35MWe per month per reactor (per plant it is about 20 to 90MWe per month, if you exclude the HWRs it is 20-35MWe/month/reactor of buildtime).
And yes, that is two PWR-designs, one BWR design and one PHWR design.

With the exceptions of first-of-a-kind (KK-6 is an oddball there), when regulation changes mid-build or when politicians meddle most reactors tend to be built in less than 60months.

And to avoid any accusation of cherrypicking too much lets take the three latest reactors to connect to the grid:
(Name, model, con.start, first.critical, first.grid)
FUQING-4 CNP-1000 17-Nov-2012 16-Jul-2017 29-Jul-2017
CHASNUPP-4 CNP-300 18-Dec-2011 15-Mar-2011 1-Jul-2017
YANGJIANG-4 CPR-1000 17-Nov-2012 30-Dec-16 8-Jan-2017

In case anyone missed it – it normally takes longer time to clear the planning/red tape than it takes to build the reactor (in some cases entire plants are built faster than it took to get approval)

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on September 30, 2017

douglas, I’m sure renewables decommissioning crews are rushing to clean up cadmium telluride leaching into the ground after this once-proud facility in Puerto Rico was leveled by Maria. Aren’t they?
http://thorium-now.org/images/puerto_rico_solar.jpg

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on September 30, 2017

Milton,
The transformation of the world’s economies and build-outs of systems for 90% RE will never happen, unless massive nuclear plant capacity, at least 1,500,000 MW, is built by 2050, and that capacity would have to provide much of the world’s electrical energy to replace fossil fuels with synthetic fuels and other electrical consumption.

Modern renewables (wind, solar, hydro, bio, etc.) would provide part of the world’s electrical energy. At present modern renewables provide about 10%.

Here Germany’s example of shutting down nuclear and using coal to replace it.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop-21-world-renewable-energy-and-world-trade

Germany’s CO2 emissions (from all sources) are about the same as in 2009. There is no way Germany, a big industrial nation, will meet its 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050 targets.

The Energiewende surcharge on electric bills of German households was about 8 x 24 billion euro = 192 billion euro during these 8 years to gain ZERO CO2 emission reduction. Germany’s boasting about COP-21 and criticizing the US is just empty rhetoric.

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/german-carbon-emissions-rise-2016-despite-coal-use-drop
http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de/4-1-Home.html
http://revue-arguments.com/articles/index.php?id=76

Year CO2eq Reduction below 1990
million Mt %
1990 actual 1251
2009 actual 907
2016 actual 906
2020 target 751 40
2030 target 563 55
2040 target 375 70
2050 target 250 80

Germany’s consumption of electricity from renewables has increased from 30.8%, 32.7%, and 35.1% in the first half of 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively.

But regarding the consumption of thermal energy for buildings, industry and commerce, and fuels for transportation, there has been so little change that the overall energy consumption from renewables has increased from 14.7%, 14.8% and 15.2% in the first half of 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, which means Germany will not meet its 18% goal in 2020.
http://www.dw.com/en/germanys-renewable-energy-use-rises-but-only-just/a-39513796

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on September 30, 2017

Great article Milton. I think that it may be time that a lot of us took a good look at what we are trying to do.
Science has told us that we need to reduce carbon emissions. The trouble starts when the political masters translate that to mean that we need to fully get rid of fossil fuels and switch entirely to renewables – and while at it, we need to get rid of nuclear as well. I wonder where that latter part came from? As you correctly point out, nuclear is clean. Why was it lumped in with fossil fuel?
There are the people that love to compare Capacity with Energy – and they come to some conclusions that are just plain wrong. In 2016, fossil fuel provided more than 80% of the total energy in the US, and renewables were well under 10%, depending on how one counted large hydro. There is a huge hill ahead, and fighting over what will be needed is foolish. I was on a panel recently where the others (an academic and a gentleman from the solar industry) claimed that many places now get up to 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. I suggest that what they are doing is comparing MW of capacity. Where the supply is intermittent, the comparison is meaningless.
We are going to need all of the clean energy that we can get. Electricity, which appears destined to provide the major means of delivering energy to users, is currently providing (2016 – from the LLNL Energy Flow Diagrams) less than 20% of the total energy delivered to customers. We are going to need a LOT more electrical energy. To assume that a source that is intermittent and provides less than 10% of today’s total is remotely capable of meeting all future needs seems very unlikely.
Storage is another issue. I am convinced that storage will play a huge role in our future. To most people, storage means batteries. There can be no doubt that batteries will have a great role, but they are far from being the only source of storage in the electric grid. And safety problems appear to be causing real problems for vendors. Storage is a system that will move the time of use or generation of energy in the grid. There are essentially 3 places where energy can be stored – as fuel prior to generation (hydro reservoirs are a large source), load based storage (Domestic Hot Water was identified by PJM as a large potential for storing energy), and grid storage using batteries or other devices. Fuel and load storage generally require no conversion, and can be very efficient, while battery storage requires several conversion systems, each of which have an impact on overall cost and efficiency.
And then there are other services, provided by conventional generation, that are not provided in the amounts needed by renewables such as wind and solar. Inertia, voltage support (reactive power), dispatchability, and others are important. Some wind advocates claim that new wind turbines supply inertia, but the numbers are very small. The best source of inertia is nuclear, because of the weight of the rotating equipment, and the speed of rotation (1,800 or 3,600 RPM). Inertia increases with the square of the speed of rotation.
So it is time to put some real thought into this. We will need to carry out several key initiatives…
1. Conserve electricity at the user level – this has already been done to a large extent with more efficient motors, VFDs and new lighting systems.
2. Improve the overall efficiency of the grid – currently 30-35% driven largely by the steam cycle. Reduce delivery losses by reducing the flows of reactive power and smoothing the flows through either distributed generation, load management or storage.
3. Prioritize the sources of energy that are available and compare the needs with the supply. Coal with its very high emissions/GJ is probably a good place to have started. EVs run at over 60% efficiency, while fuel powered cars are about 20%. One needs to consider the source of supply of the electricity.
Clearly this is a problem with few solutions. Last winter, many of us watched people in rural Ontario faced with a choice – buy food or pay for electricity – there was not enough money to do both.
We need a careful and thoughtful examination of where this is going. My crude calculations suggest that we will need all of the solar and wind that we can get. But we will also need nuclear, hydro and perhaps other sources as well. We will also need to conserve and take large steps to be more efficient, both in the grid and in the applications.
This is not a fight of nuclear vs wind or other comparison. We need to focus on emissions, and find ways to meet the need with what we can get – at an acceptable cost. That is not going to be easy.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on October 2, 2017

Good comments Malcolm. However I would caution that regarding the future of energy storage, some options are promising, while others are likely false hopes.

In some cases, storage which is implemented for another purpose can also help the grid. Some examples are night time charging of BEVs and water supply reservoirs who’s daily discharge can be aligned with grid demand.

On the other hand, storage which exists only to help the grid will have a much tougher economic challenge: grid scale batteries, pumped hydro storage, and over-sized hot water tanks have provided much hope to solar enthusiasts, but it is far from clear that they will ever time-shift a substantial fraction of our electricity.

A third category which must be understood are the electricity applications (whose output is not dispatchable electricity) that only work when the price is near zero, e.g. the power-to-fuel industry. These industries can become significant electricity users as more use non-fossil energy sources causes increasing periods of electricity over-supply. But they don’t help much with the grid economics, and are no more helpful to the grid than curtailment.

Ultimately, storage will never be free. As we try to add more and more non-fossil energy sources to the grid, we should expect that the more the sources are dependent on storage to form dispatchable generation, the greater the difficulty we’ll face in achieving deep reductions in fossil fuel use, simply because fossil gas is so very effective as dispatchable generation.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 2, 2017

Which means, that there is everything going ahead according shedule in the poer sector, including phasing out nuclear, bt there are problems with efficiency of buildings and of Cars with ICE, which did not delier their part as promised e.g. by the car makers. Which will mean that coupeling of heat and traffic sector with power sector must be increased, to use more clean power instead of fossil fuels in the heat and traffic branch. Which is a big topic for nect gouvernment. Everybody here knows this.
But the claim that nuclear power stations will decrease emissions of ICE cars is sometimes interesting.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on October 2, 2017

Willem, not sure where your 1,500,000 MW figure came from but it’s in the same ballpark as An Alternative to Gasoline: Synthetic Fuels from Nuclear Hydrogen and Captured CO2, a 2007 MIT study which estimated 670 new nuclear reactors in the U.S. would be capable of rendering U.S. consumption of energy 100% carbon neutral.

If the U.S. were to build new nuclear at the rate it did in the early 1980s, it could happen by 2050. By exporting both the fuel and the technology, could we conceivably supply the world with carbon-free liquid fuel?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 2, 2017

Which will mean there will be more power from Gas power stations at such times, or imports of wind and solar power from other places which have a surplus. While at other times expoerts will reduce coal pwoer output abroad.
Last year it was 80TWh net power production by nuclear, this year it will be less.
There are above 50 TWh of exports, which can be reduced as well. 10-15 TWh of solar power output will be added too.
And there is some likelyness that the paths will be corrected upwards for wind and solar, whith the low costs for both today this will not be a financial problem. And in case they would follow Siemen’s wishes to add 7 GW offshore per year, this would be compensated in less than 3 years.
A lot of things can happen. Adding wind and solar is happening fast if necesary.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 2, 2017

It is synchronised more or less up to distances of 1500 km -not more, not less.
And if 100GW solar are added worldwide, this adds 130-150Twh/year new solar pwoer production. New nuclear this year looks like 15 tWh/year or so new generation minus abot 15 TWh/ear or so decomissioned generation.
Nuclear was never fast. Then it lost on price. Now it’s loosing on scale. Seems the market is heading in a different direction than nuclear.

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on October 3, 2017

It is a common mistake to call nuclear extremely dirty and say that the waste is problem.
Find a little different on http://wp.me/p1RKWc-LC
And, if you are not tired: more on http://wp.me/s1RKWc-94

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on October 3, 2017

Decommissioning and the costs will be seen as very different depending on different regulations and different attempts for demonizing nuclear.
I have collected some – hopefully relevant – information on http://wp.me/s1RKWc-96

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on October 3, 2017

It is synchronised more or less up to distances of 1500 km -not more, not less.

On the last page on http://www.reo.dk/CustomerData/Files/Folders/7-debatten-pdf/303_wind-14-laender-2016-3.pdf
You can follow the total distribution of wind power for the following countries:
D – GB – F – SP – SE – PL – DK – BE – FI – A – NL – HU – CZ – CH

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 3, 2017

Again the reference to your nice fake news site, at least fake news in context to this discussion
It still does not show any correlation. but if you look at the data e.g. of swizerland alone, and the whole selected mostly western europe coutries with nearly all generation around the south part of north sea, you see how standard deviation is already shrinking significantly.
Which means alreasdy with the extremely uneven distribtion of power generation, which is mostly concentrated in a small earea, this shows a significant reduction of backup/storage needs.
Add the whole area, build wind power in more places than just the southern north sea, add medium anticorrelate photovoltaics, and it shrinks further to the amout you want to have, e.g.to fit to existing hydropower storages, or backup biomass generation, or whatever else is the level the system designer in charge requires.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 3, 2017

Which is usual for all power generation,. To get the red tape cleared for wind power takes several months, the actual construction a few weeks. Clearing red tape for a larger roofop solar system takes several weeks, building it some days.
The total amount of red tape correlates to the kriticality of the technology. Construction time also correlates to the complexity.
nuclear is a critical technology, including a lot of significant risks, and is coplex. So it is slow to deoy, and to increase the crumbeling supply chain of nuclear is even slower.

Herr U's picture
Herr U on October 3, 2017

Nuclear actually isn’t that complex (about on the scale of a chemical plant), its safety systems are complex however.

Slow to deploy is a matter of how you see it – if you have a country with continous builds you can put up reactors surprisingly fast.
But if you do one-offs you will get one reactor in the same ten-twelve years as you could get twelve reactors.
So yeah – long leadtimes, normal average per month of construction output but with an ludicrous high upper average ceiling if properly planned.

Crumbling chain of nuclear? Take a look at L&T, GEH, Toshiba Japan, Rosatom, Kepco, CNNC, CGNPG, and probably also SNC-Lavalin. And don’t forget ENEC.
Just what part of the chain do you mean is crumbling? (Well, ok, the west, but that is why the world get russian, korean, japanese and chinese reactors).

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on October 3, 2017

That post Maria solar farm is in fair shape compared to the Punta de Lima wind farm nearby: every Vestas turbine has blades destroyed.

I suspect Maria will put an end to offshore wind notions in hurricane prone waters.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on October 3, 2017

That post Maria solar farm is in fair shape compared to the Punta de Lima wind farm nearby: every Vestas turbine has blades destroyed.

I suspect Maria will put an end to offshore wind notions in hurricane prone waters

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on October 3, 2017

“Nuclear was never fast”

In the late 70s, 80s, a new reactor came online every two weeks.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 3, 2017

No it was a experiment like if somebody would have piled a lot of uranium around some old waterpipes in a unused barn to build a nuclear reactor, because in principle it should work somehow this way if you pile enogh urainium this way to get a chain reaction, and then to find out that it does not work so easy to build a nuclear power station.
Beside that some wind turns some rotor which again turns some generator, the experimental system of that time has not ery much in common to a woring ind turbine, and accordingly it failed.
real development started decades later, and did lead after years of research and development to systems which work reliable for decades.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on October 5, 2017

In practice nuclear plants are inflexible as the costs to throttle are very high.
Also shown by this graph demonstrating the rigidity of German NPP’s:
https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fd6d13aec2d943c2be4fce819b85932cdfa3f706556ba85f793e6fede4264854.png

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on October 5, 2017

Bas, your graph shows nuclear’s capacity factor is near 100% at all day-ahead spot prices in Germany – at any price, it’s the first choice of German grid engineers because it’s clean, it’s safe, and it’s economical.

Where are renewables? They’re not shown, because their usefulness doesn’t depend on price at all, but the time of day and the weather.

Now – which energy sources are flexible, and which are rigid?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on October 5, 2017

The graph shows the relation between Capacity Factor (CF)
and Day-ahead prices. It shows a.o. that nuclear continues to produce at a CF of ~65% while it has to pay €100/MWh for the produced electricity.
Demonstrating the inflexibility of nuclear.

Neither the TSO nor grid engineers have influence on the production of generators. Those only have to meet transport demands of their customers being generators and consumers.

Generators and consumers trade power at the power Exchange in Leipzig. A generator is not allowed to deliver more or less than he sold. A consumer is not allowed to consume more or less than he bought. Fines for those who don’t obey the rules.

Renewables are not included as many still enjoy guaranteed fixed sales prices for their production. So they operate independent of the market price.

Pages