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The 7 problems of Nuclear Power

image credit: An old Troll Oak

Dear beloved colleague Energy Centralizers :-) 

Well, here is a professional evaluation with documentation, on why Nuclear Power may not be such a good idea, after all. Some of the problems mentioned in this report are commonly known. Some others of them are not. 

Enjoy the reading, by Professor Marc Jacobson, Stanford University.

1. Time from planning to operation is too long

2. Cost - based on LCOE - is too low, way too low.

3. Weapon proliferation risk (as documented by IPCC)

4. Meltdown Risk - not only design, but human error and terrorism must be factored in

5. Mining Lung Cancer risk 

6. Miscalculations of CO2 equivalences must be corrected!

7. Radioactive waste

Here the full article:

https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/the-7-reasons-why-nuclear-energy-is-not-the-answer-to-solve-climate-change/

 

On a professional note of writing this short notice here - the above is based on professional evaluations by professionals with experience, which I do not have. Your professional response would be most appreciated.

Sincerely

Rational Intuitive (Denmark)

David T. Svarrer

CEO

 

David Svarrer's picture

Thank David for the Post!

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Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jan 27, 2020 4:00 pm GMT

Well said.  Curiously enough, an eighth problem is described in this same newsletter, i.e. consumption of water for cooling.  The lack of sufficient cooling water has caused the shut down of nuclear plants temporarily or, in one case, permanently.

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Jan 27, 2020 5:53 pm GMT

David - unfortunately this is a one-sided analysis, some points are valid; some are comparisons to things that don't exist.  In my opinion both technologies are required, but here are some of the weaknesses:

1.  Solar and wind apparently use no materials in their contruction nor do they have any waste impacts - only nuclear plants have this issue.  Of course this is not correct. Just the process of mining and processes silica.  Then there is metal and other materials in both wind and solar plants.

2.  There has never been any connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons - civilian nuclear reactors have a very very low concentration of uranium in their fuel and processing this radioactive waste is very expensive and difficult, the average terriorist cannot do this.  Advanced nuclear weapons can be made from special reactors but this process does not start with light water reactors which all new reactor being built today are.  

3.  Stopping all new plant development to "wait for" nuclear plants and "letting" people die from air pollution is not being proposed by anyone.  Since the world is still growing its use of coal, any electricity from nuclear is displacing some coal and as such is saving lives.    

4.  The volume of high level nuclear waste is minor - several football fields, much much less than the dangerous chemical wastes produced by the silca manufacturing processes:  mining, arc-furnances, doping, acid etching, etc..  The storage is less safe than it should be in the US due to politics - the Federal government has an obligation which rate payers are funding for long term storage and they are not providing simple safe storage.  Even with the Federal government failures there have been no cases of the current storage solution failing and impacting the environment.  Also remember in the US all reactors are required to have a fund to decommission and dismantle the plant, no other technology has this requirement, so when all of the solar and winds plants are shut down, there is no assurance they will be removed.  

5.  Comparing the installed costs of plants without evaluating their capacity factors does not provide an accurate comparison.  Onshore Wind plants have a capacity factor of 30-40%, offshore Wind is higher, but costs are 3-4X higher.  Solar has a capacity factor of <20% to over 30%.  Nuclear plants have a capacity factor of 95% - so they can justify a 3-6 X higher first cost just due to their ability generate more energy.  

Things that are missed:

1. Land use - wind and solar have a tremendous footprint - so we have to level land, eliminate trees and other vegetation.  Wind can co-exist with ranching and farming, solar cannot.

2.  The cost of electricity storage needs to be included, as well as the environmental impact of its manufacture, operations and disposal. 

As with most energy issues, there are many differences and layers, China added 4 GW of nuclear generation last year, over 50 GW of fossil generation - lots of coal.  So nuclear can be built and it will reduce carbon.  Smaller nuclear footprints can mitigate some of the issues vs. larger sites, but even these sites will take time to develop and build, these new plants can be air cooled vs. water cooled.   

Paul Chernick's picture
Paul Chernick on Jan 28, 2020 1:29 am GMT

I don't follow some of your points.

"1.  Solar and wind apparently use no materials in their contruction nor do they have any waste impacts - only nuclear plants have this issue." David did not mention the materials used in nuclear construction and only mentioned radioactive waste, primarily in the context of on-site storage of waste fuel.

"2.  There has never been any connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons - civilian nuclear reactors have a very very low concentration of uranium in their fuel and processing this radioactive waste is very expensive and difficult, the average terriorist cannot do this." Yet you don't need to stop the average terrorist, you need to stop rogue nations, international cartels, and non-state actors (like Wahabi Saudi billionaires). Nor do terrorists or other bad actors need to further concentrate U235; they can separate Pu from spent fuel. Actually, some countries have done that for them. "France, Russia and the United Kingdom also have accumulated huge stocks of separated civilian plutonium; indeed, one-half of the global stock of separated plutonium is civilian." (https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2009-03/features/complete-cutoff-designing-comprehensive-fissile-material-treaty) And you don't need to make a nuclear bomb; you can make a dirty bomb with spent fuel.

"3.  ...Since the world is still growing its use of coal, any electricity from nuclear is displacing some coal and as such is saving lives." So keep the ones that are safe and reasonably economic running. But don't waste time and money building more.

Your point 4 is too fluffy to deserve a response.

"5.  Comparing the installed costs of plants without evaluating their capacity factors does not provide an accurate comparison.  Onshore Wind plants have a capacity factor of 30-40%, offshore Wind is higher, but costs are 3-4X higher." That might be true, since onshore wind is down to below 2 cents/kWh, and off-shore is 6-8 cents. But "Offshore Wind Prices Have Fallen 75%" from 2014 to 2018 https://www.utilitydive.com/news/offshore-wind-prices-have-fallen-75-since-2014-heres-how-to-de-risk-pro/543384/ and another 32% from 2018 to 2019 (https://www.utilitydive.com/news/global-offshore-wind-prices-drop-32-bloombergnef/565719/). On-shore wind has similarly fallen consistently over the last couple decades.

You have also forgotten that nuclear plants have stunningly high O&M costs and require continuing large investments. So you need to add together the recovery of construction cost, O&M (including overheads), capital additions, and fuel.

More to the point: what fixed cost can a developer afford to bid for energy delivered by a new plant? For on-shore wind projects bid in 4Q2019, it was $15-20/MWh in the Plains, about $28/MWh in the Midwest, and $40/MWh in California. For solar, it was $25/MWh in the Plains and California, ~$32/MWh in the Midwest. Nuclear? Better you shouldn't ask. No one has been willing to offer fixed-price nuclear in the US. EDF has contracted to sell power from the Hinkley Point C plant in the UK at £92.5/MWh, or $120/MWh. Areva lost lots of money on cost overruns on Olkiluoto 3 in Finland and Flamanville in France, which started construction in 2005 and 2007, respectively, and are still limping toward completion, perhaps in 2021 and 2023. (Areva basically went bust and its nuclear construction operation was transfered to the state-owned EDF. Westinghouse went bankrupt trying to build the Summer 2&3 and Vogtle 3&4 nukes in the US.) We'll see whether EDF can finish Hinkley C.

On your second list:

"1. Land use - wind and solar have a tremendous footprint - so we have to level land, eliminate trees and other vegetation. Wind can co-exist with ranching and farming, solar cannot." No, you don't need to level land for solar or wind. Solar is great on hillsides, and wind on hilltops. Supplying all US electricity entirely with solar would require something like 0.5% of the US land area. (https://www.freeingenergy.com/how-much-solar-would-it-take-to-power-the-u-s/) Some fraction of that could be on rooftops, carports, south-facing walls, photo-voltaic windows. See https://landartgenerator.org/blagi/archives/127 for more comparisons.

2. "The cost of electricity storage needs to be included, as well as the environmental impact of its manufacture, operations and disposal." LADWP has selected a solar bid for under 2 cents/kWh, plus 1.3 cents for storage (per kWh stored, apparently). Still a good deal. Of course, there are environmental impacts of almost any manufactured good, including nuclear plants (a lot of steel and cement, copper for the cabling, uranium and zinc for the fuel, and so on), PV panels and supporting structures, wind turbine blades and towers, storage electrodes, electrolytes and containers. It's hard to find a major input to any of them that has the worker health effects of uranium mining. If you want to include the health and environmental effects of all the inputs, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

 

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 28, 2020 6:33 pm GMT

Dear Paul, 

Thanks for your serious response. I will further backup the original - though short - article this coming weekend. 

I have the same attitude like you. We MUST stick to facts. I would be the first to jump ship to nuclear power, if I found it safe. It is indeed extremely efficient with - was it - 24,000,000 kWh per kilogram (enriched) Uranium? Even if we cannot fission more than maybe 3% - let's for the arguments sake say 1% (!) - it would indeed be worth it all, that is - 240,000 kWh per kilogram - provided that it was safe :-(

It is completely outrageously packed with energy. 

But - the 7 mentioned issues are - most most unfortunately - still such serious an issue, so that it is out of the question in any foreseeable future to risk life on this planet further than what we have already done. 

And, Paul, what you may not know, is that I am working with one of the worlds current approximately 40+ ongoing energy disruptors, and we are working on producing the worlds maybe currently cheapest (safe) energy resource - which is based on steel, glass, aluminium, copper, plastic and electronics. The weight ratio is approximately steel:800, glass:1100, aluminium:128, copper:80, plastic:7, electronics:5. We are also using a small PV solar panel, which we do not have the weight on. All materials with exception of electronics are 100% recyclable or even cradle-to-cradle.

The construction we are working on right now, "pays" for its carbon footprint in 18 days of 6 hours of sun each (let's say 4 weeks!). The remaining expected life span of 49 years and 48 weeks it will produce 90,000 kWh of energy from each 1 kW effect, and will thereby save the equivalent of some 18,000 kilogram of CO2 per kW effect. (Calculations to be confirmed/certified).

We are working with 7 others in this "industry", and none of us are "bound" by any umbrical cord to what we do. In fact, if something suddenly crops up, being more safe, more secure, more clean, than what I am doing - I jump ship there and then.

My life long experience is in ICT, and as soon as we are done here, I go back. I am working with this due to that we need a rock solid energy generation which is distributed, localized to each person, family or industry, and stable.

More later, during the weekend, but Paul, I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us. It is good to know that there are others who really take stable, safe, secure power generation more serious than their own pockets !!!

Sincerely

David Svarrer

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Jan 30, 2020 9:32 pm GMT

David - I agree stick to facts.  The fear that some have of nuclear power cannot be overcome, it their mind the risk is too high:  waste, nuclear weapons, etc.. Even though there is no factual support linked to actual deaths in the US or any link between nuclear power and weapons.  

If we look at death rates - driving in America would be banned - 40,000 die every year.  Also look at rates and caused of deaths in non-OECD countries, the lack of energy and clean water kills almost a million people per year.  

The chance of a future problem exists for all technology. If you ignore the risk/energy consumption/environmental impact of the manufacturing and installation of vast quantities of solar panels and energy storage devices you are ignoring facts because they don't align with your mindset.

As I said we will need all sources of clean power in the future and believing that any one or two will provide the answer is just hope.  Solar and wind will be large piece of the near term solution.  

Your comment on solar and farming is hopeful, but doubt that any production farming is going to drive around hundreds of piers/supporting supporting the panels.  Are there any examples (facts) of mega scale (100's MW) solar PV panels and farming?   

I could go point by point on the various responses, but it would make no difference.  

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 31, 2020 7:54 pm GMT

Hi @Gary Hilberg, 

You wrote:

David - I agree stick to facts.  The fear that some have of nuclear power cannot be overcome, it their mind the risk is too high:  waste, nuclear weapons, etc.. Even though there is no factual support linked to actual deaths in the US or any link between nuclear power and weapons.

You cannot stick to facts by declaring it. Your first statement is "I agree stick to facts." and you continue right on, with "The fear that some have of nuclear power cannot be overcome, in their mind the risk is too high: waste, nuclear weapons, etc.." 

Where is the facts behind that statement? 

Then you continue: "Even though there is no factual support linked to actual deaths in the US or any link between nuclear power and weapons"

And - we have just read @Paul Chernick's response - which contains the facts about it? 

You cannot declare the facts away...

The fact about that nuclear weapon proliferation is directly linked to the presence of "civil nucler power" is being mentioned daily - if this was not a problem, why then, is the entire world on Iran's and other countries' case? 

Please, Mr. Hilberg.

Furthermore - why do you make this (and I self...) an emotional case? I do not have fears, Mr. Hilberg. I am indeed not emotional about this. I actually do not fear a thing. I just find it absolutely unnecessary to sacrifice life on Earth for us to get a few more decades of (Nuclear) power, before we are forced, to do something about how we PRODUCE the power. 

I have skipped responding on the rest of your article, as the premise for responding is not really fair. 

I request, Mr. Hilberg, that you take another approach than lowering the ones you are discussing with to emotional morons. But indeed, it is a good way to ridicule strong arguments such as Mr. Paul Chernick's. But is it fair? 

Well, Mr. Hilberg. At least I do not think so. I feel that your ways  are bordering rudeness, not only towards me, but also towards Mr. Chernick, and I find that it is really not nice. 

Please correct me if I am wrong. 

Sincerely

David Svarrer

Paul Chernick's picture
Paul Chernick on Feb 1, 2020 9:09 pm GMT

Gary,

I'm sorry that you don't feel like discussing the origin of your beliefs, or editing your earlier post to comport better with reality (if you agree with the data I posted). Can you enlighten us on the relative use of materials and emissions in constructing renewables and nuclear? relative decommissioning costs and the difficulty and cost of recycling or reusing the equipment? anti-proliferation potential and cost of the nuclear designs you are enthused by?

I would love to find that new nuclear was safe, economic and practical. So convince us that there is hope.

Admittedly, you are best off just dropping some of your anti-renewable biases (like that silly one about having to level a tremendous footprint for renewables. One estimate of the US land area necessary for 100% renewable energy: 0.22% of U.S. land for footprint, 0.86% for spacing between wind turbines. For the world, the values are 0.1% of the oceans and 0.5% of land area for spacing of wind turbines, plus 0.17% for the solar footprint.

http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/143Country/19-WWS-UnitedStates.pdf and https://www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(19)30225-8

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 29, 2020 8:44 pm GMT

Things that are missed:

1. Land use - wind and solar have a tremendous footprint - so we have to level land, eliminate trees and other vegetation.  Wind can co-exist with ranching and farming, solar cannot.

Gary, this is not true. Solar mixes even very WELL with farming. 

A calculation which is known, where you simply estimate the amount of roof available per human, multiply with PV's efficiency of 16%, the average insolation of 1800 hours, and compare it with our current global energy consumption (159 PetaWatt-hour per year) and divide up in hours per year 8640, and number of people on Earth, you will get that we have enough roof space to power all of 159 PWh from roof tops alone! 

On the farming side, when you mount PV up in 2 meters height above the ground, and mount them smartly such that the sun does not leave a permanent shadow somewhere on the ground, then between -30 to +30 degree latitude, use of Shade/Sun cover (50%/50%) even makes it possible to expand the types of vegetables you can grow under the shade.

When you get further up, above +23.5° latitude, the sun never cross over Zenith anymore, and you can now put your solar concentrator devices, standing up, vertically or with a sharp slant. This means that you can have several hundred square meters of solar concentrator on a much lesser area. 

You can therefore harvest energy during the "weaker" hours and from the weaker regions of Earth, using a smaller land based foot-print.

You are furthermore assuming that I discussed PV? I did not. I am discussing heat production. 

So to another of your comments: 

2.  The cost of electricity storage needs to be included, as well as the environmental impact of its manufacture, operations and disposal. 

No it does not have to be included. I was not discussing electricity production. I was discussing solar concentrated power, which you can store in a stone storage, and pick it out either as heat for domestic or industrial use (temperature and net effect can be varied), via TEG's, steam or as Karnot cycle energy. 

ON the manufacture - you are again assuming too much. I am discussing what I know about - we are - like 40 others in the business - producing a solar concentrator system which has no poisonous materials: Its made of stainless steel, glass, aluminium, copper (wires), and a tiny footprint of electronics (weight percentage, below 0.1% of the equipment). So - we are NOT talking about PV with its known environment issues. We are discussing a solution which we estimate to have a durability of 50+ years with minimal maintenance.

Our model can be disposed completely via full recycling. None of our materials are glued, so we can separate raw materials and return them for 100% recycling. 

Paul Chernick's picture
Paul Chernick on Jan 27, 2020 10:56 pm GMT

I think you mean "2. Cost - based on LCOE - is too high, way too high."

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 29, 2020 8:31 pm GMT

Sorry @Paul Chernick, I had shortened the statement wrongly. The statement should have said: 

2. The estimated LCOE cost of Nuclear Power is too low, way too low

You will find the resemblence in Professor Marc Jacobsens report and the hard core evidence of it too..

Thanks for making me aware. Good day.

Hans-Henning Judek's picture
Hans-Henning Judek on Jan 29, 2020 1:00 am GMT

Living in Japan and having experienced the effects of the Fukushima incident firsthand, no argument will ever convince me to accept nuclear power as a solution for our energy woes. As no private cars were allowed yet, I was 3 weeks after the incident with a government car in Minami Soma, which is 20 miles north of Fukushima No 1. Observing the effects on the lives of people strengthen my already pre-existing opposition to nuclear power. I have 2 points that will never be overcome.

1. The human factor: we all remember Chernobyl, which was quite obviously a human error. But also Fukushima was one. To save money for pumping cooling water uphill, the existing hill was cut down and its height lowered. It was already known that huge tsunamis with up to 30 m height had happened in the past. So for me, it's incomprehensible to lower the height. The 2nd major error was to install the emergency generators on the ground level. On the upper floors, they would have survived this tsunami and continued cooling the reactor. And anybody remembering the accident in Tokai Mura, where workers were cutting corners and mixed nuclear material in a bucket instead of following the procedures? It's always the human factor.

2. The nuclear waste problem: we have nuclear energy for over 50 years now and nowhere in the world is a safe place to store the waste. In Finland is the most probable solution in preparation, but it is very expensive. In 2018 Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited has announced a further three-year delay in the schedule for completing the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Construction of the plant began in 1993! The target was reprocessing nuclear waste and produce MOX fuel for fast breeder reactors. That is plutonium mixed with uranium.

Preventing proliferation? Arrgh.... There is always someone, who needs money. And who says that a full-fledged atomic bomb with enriched uranium is necessary to cause severe damage? A dirty bomb is enough. In Fukushima, millions of black bags with low-level contaminated soil are sitting unprotected outside. I am very sure that if someone seriously looks for stronger "stuff", he will find it.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 29, 2020 1:28 pm GMT

Really interesting to hear your experiences being on the ground in the wake of Fukushima-- thanks for sharing. 

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 29, 2020 8:29 pm GMT

Yes, @Hans-Henning Judek, I think we can apply the risk analysis methodology which is being used within IT. As long as something is possible, it will be tried / used. 

The allegory is far fetched - but - one of the things being tried now within our security R&D labs where I work (we do other things than just Renewable Energy), is to go 20 years back in time, and plain simply use ROM based software, then combine it with hyper advanced encryption hashing, then a hardware based watch-dog system linked with a hardware programmed memory manager - and - then the memory is safe. 

Should any intrusion happen - it cannot guess the encryption before the delay or disturbance in the code injection or the checksum run by the watchdog on all code segments will reveal a change. Change results in instant restart of the circuit - thereby any malware is lost/forgotten.

This totally stops the malware. 

Then we implement our power systems with this system. More information available - its a question away :-)

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