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Nuclear Dreams and Realities

Once upon a time I was approached by a customs officer at Indianapolis Airport (U.S.), and when he asked this suspicious looking teacher what he did for a living, I told him that I taught mathematical economics. The look on his face made it clear that he didn't know what that was, and so later the same year, upon returning to Sweden from Singapore, and experiencing the usual harassment about my presence in Scandinavia from the security personnel at Helsinki (Finland) airport, as well as my humble plans for the future, I confessed to teaching and doing research in energy economics.
The ladies and gentlemen at Helsinki's airport understood perfectly what that meant, because the new (1600 Megawatt = 1600 MW) nuclear reactor in Finland - called Olkiluoto 3 - that was supposed to be constructed in 5 years, to cost 5 billion (U.S.) dollars, and to supply a large slice of Finland's electricity, might require more than 8 years to go from 'ground break' to 'grid power' (where a 'grid' is a collection of wires). As for the additional 3 billion (or more) dollars that will be the aggregate cost of this delay, a financial journalist assured his readers that the constructing firm - Areva, of France - will have to "eat" that extra money, which can be construed as the penalty for not fulfilling the terms of the contract entered into with the Finnish purchaser of the reactor.
Before continuing, we can note what appears to be an approximate relation between construction time and the present cost of a reactor outside of China and maybe South Korea. On the basis of the initial sales arrangements in Finland, and later the reported agreement between South Korean reactor manufacturers and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), perhaps a good estimate is a billion dollars a year. I consider this outlay temporary however, because I am familiar with the present and estimated future cost of reactors in e.g. China. That cost (or something close to it) - which is likely the lowest cost globally - will eventually prevail for all reactor producers in the industrial world!
Given the opportunity, I would argue at great length that because of the importance of electricity, we need every energy source that we can muster, which includes nuclear and perhaps every conceivable kind of renewable, although I would have a hard time just now convincing my students or myself that paying 8 billion dollars (or more) for a nuclear facility is an acceptable outcome. I won't argue with the Finns however, because there has been talk in that country of ordering another very large reactor, and some observers have apparently suggested that two would be better.
The nuclear operators in Finland have had good experiences with (both Swedish and Russian) equipment, and more relevant have concluded that nuclear is and will remain the best way to obtain the most inexpensive electricity for their industries and households. I can understand what is behind this decision, although it is not the kind of thing to sing about in the Karaoke clubs of e.g. Stockholm, given the long held belief of the Swedish media that Scandinavia has much to learn from countries on the rim of the Kalihari. Finland has one of the best school system in the world, and as a result the general level of intelligence is such that detrimental energy experiments and irresponsible beliefs are not attractive to a majority of Finnish voters.
I can sympathize with this situation, because one thing that my stay in Sweden has taught me is that comparatively inexpensive energy, and a world- class level of technical education (especially at all levels of all secondary schools), are the key to an optimal macroeconomic future. From that I go directly to Professor Arthur Schumpeter's (1942) conception of technological diffusion. It has to do with the comparatively rapid adoption by successful firms of optimal technologies and modes of thought introduced elsewhere, which is the reason I claim that the cost of reactors in China will eventually prevail in ALL of the reactor building world. Of course, where nuclear is concerned, diffusion is not - for obvious political reasons - a self propagating industrial process. As a result, as I often argue, governments should take part, by which I mean take part with subsidies when projects make economics sense.
The Swedish government took the initiative when it became obvious in this country that it would be a mistake to play the fool and jeopardize economic progress by relying on suppliers of energy resources who were thousands of miles away, The result was the construction of 12 reactors in just under 14 years, and those reactors gave Sweden some of the least expensive electricity in the world. This would still be the case if the Swedish government had not listened to goofy arguments about deregulating electricity. According to a long discussion in my forthcoming energy economics textbook (2013), those reactors eventually provided over fifty-percent of Swedish electric energy (in kilowatt-hours), though slightly under fifty-percent of capacity (in kilowatts).
In my courses in and lectures on energy economics I never miss an opportunity to point out that although I concluded in my book Scarcity, Energy and Economics and Economic Progress (1977) that the optimal policy for countries who do not control large amounts of nuclear fuel is to construct a minimum of nuclear capacity, the global economic and demographic situation has radically changed, and regardless of my beliefs then or now about energy policy, a new generation of nuclear equipment is or will soon be on the launching pads in every part of the world. By every part I definitely mean Germany and Japan, because regardless of what the politicians and civil servants in those two countries do, say or think, a majority of voters will not tolerate the attack on their standard of living that is implicit in a nuclear retreat.
In an article just published in the New York Times by Matthew Wald (2013), he outlines the apparent cost fiasco now being experienced in Georgia (U.S.) with the construction of two nuclear reactors called Vogtle 3 and 4. His article ends with a dire forecast by Mark Cooper, an economic analyst affiliated with the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment. According to Mr Cooper, those reactors will cost $10 billion more than the alternatives. (NOTE: not $10 billion, but ten billion MORE than the ALTERNATIVES!) This is why the word "dreams" is in the title of the present contribution, although I might change that word to nightmares in the long and brilliant lecture on natural gas that I contemplate giving to friends and neighbors at some institution of higher learning in wonderful summer Sweden, assuming of course that the invitations that I have solicited are forthcoming, which unfortunately is not certain..
But if I do receive a bidding, I would never consider questioning in detail Mr Cooper's economics or mathematics, because if he were really a serious economic analyst he would comprehend that the correct economic cost for nuclear equipment at the present time - for industrial countries with the engineering and managerial aptitudes of e.g. North America and Sweden - is the cost in China, and perhaps even lower. It would also be clear to him that since it is the intention of the Chinese government to provide the industrial sector in China has enough reliable energy to outshine the industries in Georgia or any other state or 'hood' in the U.S. (or for that matter any country on the face of the earth), the U.S. Congress has no choice but to restart the nuclear construction business.


Banks, Ferdinand E. (2013), Energy and Economic Theory. Singapore, London and New York: World Scientific.
(1977). Scarcity, Energy and Economic Progress. Lexington Massachusetts and Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company (Lexington Books)
Goodstein, David (2004). Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil. New York and London: Norton
Schumpeter, Joseph (1942). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. New York: Harper.
Wald, Matthew (2013). 'Nuclear faces critical test in U.S.'. The New York Times (June 13).
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture

Thank Ferdinand E. for the Post!

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Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 19, 2013
" ... because regardless of what the politicians and civil servants in those two countries do, say or think, a majority of voters will not tolerate the attack on their standard of living that is implicit in a nuclear retreat."

Not so sure about that. We already see the severe erosion of the economic fortunes of the middle-class in the US as a result of creeping socialism which is slowly inflicting higher costs and higher taxes while wages have remained stagnant or actually declined. "Green Energy" is increasing the cost of energy as well. This has all been tolerated by the voter because the process has been slow - kind of like the fable of the frog being boiled to death by slowly heating up a pot of water.

As to Mr. Cook, he is clearly anti-nuclear, so his analysis must be taken with a grain of salt. It is quite easy to skew economic analyses by making certain seemingly innocent assumptions.

If the current forecasts completion costs for the Georgia plant are somewhat correct, the plant will be roughly 8 to 9 times the cost of building a natural gas combined-cycle power plant (lowest cost alternative). However, the cost of building a power plant is only part of the story. The machine uses fuel, the cost of which must be taken into account. Further, how often and when the machine runs directly impacts production costs as well as the market price of power you can expect to receive.

My earlier article (June 25) provides a "hand grenade" comparison of the "overnight" price of power from new power plants in the US, with natural gas costs about what they are today. Is this analysis accurate for say Europe, China, Japan, Korea, etc? Hell no, as the cost of natural gas is easily double (or more) that in the US.

You will note that I have not discussed renewable energy. That's because from an economics standpoint, it makes little sense. From a an environmental standpoint, it is just dumb - might as well pee into the ocean and expect the seas to rise. Further, providing large amounts of unreliable power for a modern, energy intensive societies is idiotic.

Which leads me to my final point. The folks have been fed all manner of distortions and outright lies by those out to control them. The real question is, will the elitists get away with it?

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 19, 2013
Michael, I think you mean will the voters get away with it. But you are right about the lies and distortions. A dumb US president starts a war on the basis of a lie, and he is followed by an ignorant president who should be in show business instead of the White House.

But about nuclear energy you don't need to worry, if you are worrying. At this point I like to remind the people in the cheap - and other - seats that I was a soldier in Japan and in Germany, which of course is almost irrelevant, But not quite, because those two holidays taught me enough about Mr and Ms Consumer in those to countries to be certain that they put their standard of living FIRST - not second but first.

As for the voters in the US, they can continue to play the fool for a few more years if they want, but sooner or later they will have to get the message. Note, I said the people in the US. In Japan, despite Fukushima, nuclear will be back in a few years, and in Germany the talk about doing away with nuclear was strictly a ploy to recruit enough voters to keep Ms Merkel at the head of her government. On this point let me repeat: Merkel and her gang don't care beans about wind and solar, because they are going to buy electricity from the countries close to them, and they can afford to do so in case you are interested.

As for Mr Cooper, he is not a socialist, sir. He is a common garden charlatan who needs to be taught how to think, but if that should happen - which is unlikely - the heavy-duty thinkers at the Vemont College of Energy Knowledge would give him his walking papers for exceeding his authority.

Finally, read David Goodstein's book OUT OF GAS, and also my long lecture NATURAL GAS ECONOMICS: AN INTRODUCTORY LECTURE THAT INCLUDES SOME ASPECTS OF SHALE GAS. The point is that EVERYBODY EVERYWHERE can learn enough energy economics without going down to their local universities to have their intelligence insulted by half-baked academics like Mr Cooper and his colleagues.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 19, 2013
How do we get a copy of your lecture?
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 19, 2013
Good article, Fred. Agreed, other than a bunch of lawyers tying the job up in courts, and picketers interfering in any way possible, building a nuclear power plant shouldn't take more than about 4 years at perhaps $2500 / kw. Works in China.
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 19, 2013
Michael, I'll send my article to the Energy Pulse people in about t week, because I want to make sure that it does not contain any 'stupidities'. It is much too long to publish in this forum, but they can send it to you if they have your e-mail address. Or maybe I should say obvious stupidities. Of course I would send it directly to you if I had your e-mail address. And let me please assure you that that article/lecture contains only a couple of simple linear equations, and once you read that lecture, you will OWN your audience..

4 years sounds right to me, Len, and if those reactors are constructed in the same spirit that the Swedish reactors were, they will cost less than $2500/kW. But given their plans for expanding their energy supplies, and the shortage of water in China, I doubt whether they will play games with fracking, but will try to get the Construction time for reactors to less than 4 years, Of course, they might decide to go slow with reactor construction until they have a commercial breeder.

One more thing. The contention by Mr Cooper is a scandal, a disgrace, and he and his employers owe an apology to the students who have gone to their institution believing that they will obtain the knowledge about energy economics that they want and need. On the other hand, where educators and energy researchers here in Sweden are concerned, they should be on the receiving end of apologies, because they are completely and totally without any usable knowledge of energy economics, and the presence of students expecting to be educated in any branch of economics is not what they bargained for.when they applied for their positions, .

But please note. In case Tam Hunt is out there, I am not in the business of Selling reactors. I am just talking about the way it will be in the long run... .

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 20, 2013
Agreed, Fred, $2500 is probably high. I got it by taking the $1440 / kw at which Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. was marketing their new ACR design into the US for about 10 years ago, applying 1.5% / yr inflation for 13 yrs to it, then adjusting by $0.97 / $0.62 for the fact that the $Cdn has strengthened by that ratio in the time period. Result was $2497 . However, AECL couldn't have been intending to buy all inputs from Canadian suppliers in $Cdn, especially concrete, steel, labour, so the $ adjustment should only be applied to perhaps half the inputs. Result $2046 / kw. Of course at that price the customer had to supply the land and the permits.
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 20, 2013
I Think that a good guess/estimate is $2000-2500/kw. Maybe I should say the correct estimate, because I ALWAYS assume that the lowest price in Sweden, or China, or Canada, etc is the lowest price to everyone, unless of course somebody is asleep or tripping on scag. That is what economics is all about. It is not about some fool coming to the conclusion that the price of a kilowatt of nuclear based electricity is what Mr Cooper Thinks it is.

At the same time I agree with Mr Cooper and his ignorant colleagues that nuclear is nothing to play games with. In a decade or so energy is going to be more valuable than ever, which means that renewables will have to be exploited to the maximum degree, which in turn means that there will have to be a source of absolutely reliable power available, which for me means nuclear.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 20, 2013
At the risk of being a wet blanket, $2500/kw is really low. TVA is completing several nuclear plants they mothballed years ago and I don't believe they are that low.

As far as the CANDU reactors are concerned, the recent refurbishment costs (billions) for several plants do not auger well for building new plants. Also, as a general note, the cost of the reactor is relatively small. The cost of all the other steel, concrete piping, electrical, etc is the biggest driver. Labor tends to be roughly 30 to 40% of the costs. On top of that is a roughly +35% adder for Owners indirect costs.

The recent huge cost increases associated with the Finnish AREVA reactors are also disheartening.

A $5000/KW estimate is probably on the low side for most places other than Asia.

My email is

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 20, 2013
I'm not surprised that the price is $5000 in most places,, or even the nuthouse price of $15,000 that we get using the calculus of Mr Cooper, but that has no meaning to my good self. That the price is e.g. 2000-2500 in Asia and 5000 elsewhere means that elsewhere managers, engineers and governments are smoking jimson and dancing the Dirty dip instead of taking care of business.

Go back to the second World war and ask what was the situation at the beginning. The US was what they call in Sweden the 'jumbo' competitor. At the end Uncle Sam was NUMBER ONE. It's the same thing now. The ignorant president and his dumb stooges have got everything wrong.

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 20, 2013
This Record of an email from McMaster University titled AECL Technologies presents ACR in two-day workshop with US regulators carries the following quotes, dated 2002. This sets the cost of the ACR 700 at $1000/KWe (in pairs), which I later saw adjusted to $1440 for the ACR 1000 (1200 MWe) in a news release I can no longer find. This document from Article in World-Gen 2004 confirms the price, as well as the offer to sign fixed price / time contracts for construction.

[QUOTE]AECL Technologies Inc. began a two-day meeting today with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Rockville, Maryland as part of a pre-licensing process for the Advanced CANDU Reactor™ (ACR™). Launched earlier this year, the ACR combines the best of both light water and CANDU reactor technologies and promises to be the first nuclear option with an overnight capital cost of $1000/kWe and a levelized unit energy cost of $30/MWh for twin 700 MWe units, making it fully competitive with natural gas.

"The ACR is designed to compete and win against gas-fired technologies and as a result, generators looking for a near-term solution have expressed a strong interest in our technology," commented Ken Hedges, General Manager. "These meetings with the NRC are an important next step towards making the ACR a licensed option for these generators. We are pleased to present the robust design to the NRC and we believe that the NRC will find the ACR's extensive safety features impressive."


There are currently 31 CANDU reactors around the world. AECL has maintained an active construction program and, since1990, has designed, constructed and overseen seven major reactor projects around the world. Four are completed, one unit achieved first criticality in China on September 20, and two are under construction-all on time and on budget. [/QUOTE]

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 20, 2013
A big problem for AECL may be that the Canadian govt. refuses to provide assistance for foreign customers, since the local lobbies make a big noise about any possibilities, and they influence voters. You won't find the Cdn govt. going on the hook for any cost overruns like AREVA in Finland. Another problem for AECL is the construction incompetence of their competitors, which means no-one believes quoted costs anymore, including their own, even though they've proven their ability as recently as the Quinshan project in 2004.
Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 20, 2013
I am extremely skeptical that a new CANDU reactor can compete with a new natural gas plant unless natural gas is well north of $10/MMBTU (which is not that far away if a country is importing Liquefied Natural Gas).

That being said, simply contrasting a combined-cycle plant with a conventional nuclear plant (including the CANDU) shows a huge difference in size as well as mechanical, electrical and structural complexity. The combined-cycle plants are the lowest cost to build of any power station, and by a significant margin. The only way this advantage can be overcome is if the cost of natural gas is extremely high, which is not the case in North America (at least for the time being).

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 21, 2013
I have no doubt that the Candu people can come up with a reactor that is competitive with natural gas equipment in any part of the World. Guaranteed. Something to remember here is that he 'life' of a reactor is now at least 60 years. In 60 years global population will be more than 10 billion people, and natural gas might be on the scarcity list.

Yes, there are a lot of half-educated types who have been paid to sing the praises of gas, but intelligent people don't pay any attention to their goofy logic. There is gas on both sides of Finland - Russia and Norway - but the Finns chose nuclear. It I thought about that decision, I would probably say that their new reactor should have been constructed in Sweden (and Finland), but the Swedes played the fool and dumped their facilities for constructing reactors. Dont forget though that when they were putting in their nuclear sector,, they constructed 12 reactors in just under 14 years.

Then what is wrong in the US. Answer - nothing is wrong. It's just business as usual, with lies and misunderstandings going strong.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 21, 2013
The life of a reactor may be forecast to be 60 years, but that has not been the case for San Onofre, Crystal River, Fukushima and several others. Things break and the economics of running the machines for long periods change. Technology marches on and the obsolete are overtaken by the better and more cost effective. Happens all the time as a result of scientist and engineers striving to make things better.

There is much more "stuff" involved with today's nuclear plants than natural gas plants and that is why the nuclear plants cost so much more to build. That engineering fact cannot be overcome by the CANDU reactor, regardless of what you may believe.

As far as building nuclear plants are concerned, the 1st commercial unit in the US went from an idea in a speech given by President Eisenhower to an operational plant in about four years. The combined-cycle power plants in the US are the most cost effective power stations and that is why we build them. Places without fuel (like Finland) face completely different economics - if I was a Finn, I'd be damned if I'd rely on natural gas from Russia.

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 21, 2013
Micheal -- "There is much more "stuff" involved with today's nuclear plants than natural gas plants" -- Agreed, but have you also considered that there is a lot more fuel costs involved with generating with gas? Even at current prices, natural gas fuel costs are double those of a nuclear generators, provided some common sense is used in managing spent fuel.

This quote is from CNNMoney 2012/05/09 website " A new nuclear plant with state or federal support can generate power at $84-$91 per megawatt-hour with zero carbon emissions. Natural gas plants produce power at today's gas prices for $56-$71 per megawatt-hour, but still emit greenhouse gases at about half the rate of coal plants. Assuming a carbon price of $30 per ton, natural gas power generation costs rise to about $74-$89 per megawatt-hour."

Given those Nat. Gas generation prices were calculated with the fuel price at the bottom of the market, and historically prices have gone much higher, and with significant market players trying every way possible to return the price back to somewhere near the world price, and with present low prices heavily dependent only on the fact that some smaller of the tight oil fields are producing gas cheaply as a by-product but that is not going to be the case for a very big proportion of the tight gas formations, I think it is foolish in the extreme to place electricity production totally in gas for the next 40 to 50 years.

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 22, 2013
I dont get your argument at all, Michael. Nuclear gave Sweden electricity that was among the cheapest in the World, and maybe THE cheapest. Ignorant Swedish academics and semi-rich busybodies allowed/promoted a deregulation of electricity, which changed the electricity Picture. Also, for one reason or Another, reactors in the US were generally licensed for 40 years (I Think), but that was easily extended to 60.

Mentioning Fukushima makes no sense at all. The problem there was the tsunami, as Malcolm Rawlingson will probably tell you. If things go wrong in the US nuclear sector, try blaming the voters for electing two dumb and ignorant presidents - presidents who cant understand the importance of energy.

I dont concern myself with the carbon price, but given the prices cited by Len, gas may not be optimal in Europé and Asia. I'm not going to comment in the situation in the US until the autumn, when I find myself having to listen to the kind of ignorant Swedish Economists who were invited to my University last Spring.

Germany is the big recipient of gas from Russia, and they want as much as they can get. As for what that has meant, the German economy is the strongest in Europé, and maybe the strongest in the World excluding China. As for Fukushima, Mr Abe is the best friend of nuclear outside of China, and made it clear that Japan must have nuclear, and the election results a few Days ago show how the Japanese voters feel about Mr Abe and their standard of living. They feel differently from the stupid former boss of the Swedish energy directorate, who Went to Japan and told the people there that less electricity was better than more. Something else you might remember´, if the Russians keep electing people like Putin and Medvedev, that country might be the richest country in the World by midcentury...or maybe shortly after.

This whole thing with gas doesnt impress me at all. Natural gas - to include shale gas - is a valuable resource for the US, and as an American Citizen I prefer having that gas to not having it, but on the basis of present evidence, NOT as valuable as certain people feel. .

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 22, 2013
When you compare plant options, you need to make sure the comparison is based on an "apples-and-apples" basis, including the same loan terms. That is generally where the "thumb-on-the-scale" shows up in a number of analyses. With a debts paid off, we forecast an "all-in" power price of about $60/KWh for a large conventional nuclear unit, with the combined-cycle around $45/KWh. The lower cost assumes natural gas at $5/MMBTU and nuclear at $1/MMBTU. If you take a long term historical view of natural gas prices, the the volatility of the period around 2008 looks like an aberration in the US.

As far as the life of a nuclear plant, seems to me you cannot cherry pick statistics. Can the machines technically reach 60 years of age? Probably, but things break, accidents happen, violent weather occurs, earthquakes happen and economics change.

If you correlate value to price, natural gas in the US is apparently not that valuable. I do not subscribe to that notion.

I also do not subscribe to the notion of a man-caused-global warming-catastrophe, as it looks more like a religion than actual science. I do subscribe to an energy policy of using and creating energy efficiently because the economic outcome is very good. Lower pollution and reduced CO2 are happy byproducts.

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 23, 2013
I dont buy those numbers of your Michael, although I Think that I will drop this subject. You see, I am not really discussing nuclear and natural gas. I am discussing lies and misunderstandings. The engineers and managers in France are as competent as those in the US, but they are not impressed by what they have Heard about shale gas, to include the large amount in France. Moreover, the CEO of Exxon has made some comments about that resource which tell Investors in gas using Equipment to go slow.

When it comes to nuclear equipment, the US Navy has reactors on dozens of ships/boats, and the "breaking" that you Believe is unavoidable has not taken Place. As I once tried to explain to Fred Linn, newspapers cannot replace textbooks, and that applies to the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. It also hasn't taken Place in France where they get 75% of their electricity from nuclear.

But, I'm not surprised at all this hoop-la about gas. Having been an American Soldier in Japan and Germany, I understand the wisdom in an observation by Pal Joey (Goebbels): the bigger the lie, the harder people will try to believe it.

George Kamburoff's picture
George Kamburoff on July 23, 2013
What is the final cost per kWh of the electricity from Fukushima?

Do you really think it is over, and can be "cleaned up"?

What if we got rid of ALL subsidies for power? Can fission power exist without it on all parts of the fuel cycle?

Who is going to pay for Fukushima? What will the total cost be in the 40 years it will take to "clean it up"?

Do you folk ever think of this stuff before you build these monsters?

George Kamburoff's picture
George Kamburoff on July 23, 2013
Michael Keller says: I also do not subscribe to the notion of a man-caused-global warming-catastrophe, as it looks more like a religion than actual science. I do subscribe to an energy policy of using and creating energy efficiently because the economic outcome is very good. Lower pollution and reduced CO2 are happy byproducts. ---------------------------------------------------------------

Being in only one field, I can understand your confusion. I have a Master of Science in Environmental Management, and am a former Senior Engineer in Technical Services for Pacific Gas & Electric, and can tell you Nuclear Power will die off rapidly now.

That is unfortunate that the dream turned into a nightmare, but it is undeniable in light of the coming troubles with the ancient Mark I, II, and II GE BWR's.

If anyone thinks Fukushima is "over", they are not conversant with the troubles there. They have no control of the Corium in reactors 1 through 3, and Unit 4 is subsiding in sinking ground. It holds over 10,000 fuel rods, and if it fails, it could be a bigger catastrophe than Chernobyl.

Where are they going to put the disgusting WASTE from this Faustian Bargain? Why do economists never include the real costs to society of this coddled industry?

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 23, 2013
The numbers (actually in $/megawatt-hour) are about right for the US and consistent with forecasts made by a number of different organizations.

France does not have any real fuel sources, so it makes economic sense to use nuclear. As to the prowess of the French, the new reactor being built in Finland suggests they have the same problems as a lot of other folks, namely conventional nuclear plants are expensive to build because they are complex.

US Navy ship reactors are expensive to build, but there is no other viable option for a submarine or aircraft carrier. By the way, I used to help build them.

Fred Linn: cost is a relative thing; your comparison needs to be contrasted against other options in Finland to be meaningful.

George Kamburoff: I strongly suspect there is indeed a solidified blob of intensely radioactive material located underneath some of the Fukashima reactors. That being said, no one was killed by the reactor accident and in the broader scheme of things, Japan has no real energy resources. How many folks die from poverty caused by the inability of a country to provide energy?

I have a BS in Nuclear Energy (University of Virginia), MS in Mechanical Engineering (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), MBA (St Martins' University), Professional Engineers License and have been in the energy business for over 40 years. I believe I am more heavily gunned than you so kindly stop with the insinuations.

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 23, 2013
"Giant Japanese wind farm to replace Fukushima Power Plant."

Been Reading the newspapers again, have you Fred. Well, Mr Abe said that nuclear is in and stupidity is out, and the Japanese voters gave him all the votes he needed to choose between nuclear and stupidity..

Speaking of stupidity, one of the ignoramuses at the Vermont School of Energy and Environment has said that nuclear is passé. That's Vermont University, and it is one of the institutions that should be closed by the Vermont National Guard, and sued by the students for denying them the education they deserve and need.

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 23, 2013
The problem the nuclear power industry has with the anti-nuclear people is that the anti's get to count as "deaths from nuclear power", all those people who they themselves have scared to death with their pseudo-information.
Gary Vesperman's picture
Gary Vesperman on July 23, 2013
My own thorough investigation into the merits of nuclear power found that the supply of uranium is relatively trivial which means that nuclear power is NOT an abundant source of energy. Nuclear power plants are not immune to human error and negligence. For instance when the Genoa nuclear power plant near LaCrosse, Wisconsin was built, a drinking water fountain was mistakenly connected to a pipe of radioactive water. When the San Onofre nuclear reactors were being built, the control room was on the wrong side of one of the reactors. It was cheaper to tear down the control room and rebuild it on the other side than to turn the reactor around. More than one instance has been recorded where both backup diesel generators at a reactor failed a test because of sloppy maintenance such as not bothering to add lubricating oil. The Department of Energy even stubbornly refuses to fund any of the more than two dozen possible methods of neutralizing radioactive waste such as those in my website

The Department of Energy has a multi-billion-dollar budget that is totally oriented to subsidizing energy fads such as nuclear power, oil, hot fusion, solar, wind, geothermal, natural gas, and coal. According to, the Department of Treasury has awarded $18.2 billion in 1603-type grants to 77,511 energy projects - ALL of which pertain to conventional energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and fuel cells. Yet not even a miniscule portion of the U.S. Government energy budget is devoted to proactively searching for and developing new clean energy inventions such as those in my compilation of “130 Electrical Energy Innovations”. Is the energy industry really this deficient in brain power?

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 23, 2013
Fred Linn, the response about nuclear submarines is directed to Mr. Banks earlier comment and not germane to Finland.

You need to provide the analysis as you trotted out the nuclear cost numbers in your comment. However we went ahead and did a little work. Natural gas price appears to be around $13/MMBTU in Finland. That means nuclear is the better deal relative to building a combined-cycle plant.

Giant wind farm replacing Fukushima (a base-load plant). When pigs fly. Simply delusional, as the wind is not available 24/7. Ditto for solar.

Methane hydrate is years away from being commercialized. You do realize the bottom of the ocean needs to be ripped up to get at the stuff?

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 23, 2013
Gary Vesperman, I don't recall the control-room being torn down at San Onofre; another urban myth. The vessel 0 degree orientation was not what the builder had assumed. Basically meant making sure the documentation reflected that the "North" direction for units 2 & 3. As I worked for Combustion Engineering (the reactor supplier) at the time, I know exactly what happened.

It does not follow that spending more money will magically make renewable energy competitive; an intrinsic edge must be present in the technology. Thus far, the competitive economics of renewable energy are just not there.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 23, 2013
I simple "googled" the price of natural gas and got about $13/MMBTU in 2013. The price of natural gas appears to have been above $12/MMBTU for years. Armed with that, it was easy to come up with the price of power using our economic model, which is based on the financial constraints for an Independent Power Producer in the US.

If you have a better analysis, kindly provide it. Otherwise, cease with your unsupported nonsense.

There are no bargains on wind and solar in Finland, particularly if you in need of base-load power.

Malcolm Rawlingson's picture
Malcolm Rawlingson on July 23, 2013
Gary, sorry to burst your uninformed bubble but Uranium is plentiful in the earths crust and can be extracted by a variety of different technologies. It is as abundant as tin and is also found in seawater at about 300ppm.There are vast resources available in both Canada, Kazakstan and Australia as well as Namibia. Enough to last hundreds of years even on a once through cycle.

Furthermore used fuel - laughingly called "waste" by the equally uninformed contains about 92% of the U235 content and is readily recycled as is done in France.

So all that energy comes from just 8% utilization of the fissile isotope. That is like burning a ton of coal and still having 0.92 tons left.

If you really want to understand just how much Uranium there is please go to the World Nuclear Association website which contains reliable and verifiable sources of information from people who are knowledgeable on the subject.

I doubt your investigation of the availability of Uranium was as thorough as you say. I am inclined to think it is your investigative capability that ranks as trivial - not the abundance of U235. You clearly missed some very important data.


Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 23, 2013
Gary, George, you two dont have a clue, do you? Why not have conversations with yourself in your cell phones, and leave the smart boys alone. We have a lot to do.

What is the Point in falling in love with nonsense. All of us do that at some Point in our lives, but why prolong the stupidity.

Start from the beginning. This is a real chance to learn something important and easy - to become a star. Of course you wont start from the beginning because it would take a year to get up to speed, and Reading books instead of watching lousy TV shows or Reading the off-the-wall newspapers that Fred Linn is crazy about seems like a good bet.

And George, the next time you visit the University where you got those nutty ideas about energy, tell your teachers that I said that they should learn how to Think. Incidentally, My Cooper at Vermont says that nuclear is on its way out. Ten years of Life is all that he give itl and you wonder how those two know-nothings George W, and Obama got elected.

Start over. That's what I did when I was expelled from engineering school, was expelled from leadership school in the army, was dumped by Hughes Aviation. But listen, dont laugh at them. They cant help it.

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 24, 2013
Congratulations Fred Linn. I Think that I'll tell the Marine guard to let you into my lecture, and if you get on the ball about nuclear, you might end up in the first row as the guest of honor,

And Malcolm, George and Gary mean well, but they play the numbers game. They cant Believe that fools will be fools, and so the majority Always rules. I mean, if you are going to go to school, why not study something that makes sense. You dont sit in a classroom where something having to do with 'environment' is being taught. You can read about the Environment in the top scientific journals, and you can ask teachers about it, but you dont tale a course in it. That might be possible some day, but definitely not now.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on July 24, 2013
Fred Linn - you really are well short of a full deck or engaged in deliberate deception. It's the price of natural gas in FINLAND that has to be used, NOT THE PRICE OF NATURAL GAS IN THE US. We are talking about the power plant options in FINLAND, not the US.
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 24, 2013
Just off topic a bit. I came across this list of all subsidies handed out to all industries by the Federal Department of Industry in Canada since 1961. Canada handed out $22.1B in business subsidies since 1961 . What I found interesting is that Atomic Energy of Canada, nor any other related business, are not even on the list.
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on July 24, 2013
I should modify the above a bit. Further investigation reading their financial reports shows that AECL gets a "parliamentary allocation" of about $100 million per year to cover losses for their power reactor branch, pending some sales of their new ACR 1000 design. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited - 2 010 A N N U A L F I N A N C I A L R E P O R T
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 25, 2013
Gary refers to nuclear as a fad, and Bill Payne Thinks that there is a shortage of nuclear fuel. No wonder the Chinese and Russians are going to take it all.
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 25, 2013
Fred Linn, my wife skis in the Swedish Mountains every year. I haven't Heard any complaints from her, because unlike some of the places where I used to ski, the Swedes tell the 'louts' to find some other resorts if they insist on annoying the wage earners. Where the sand is concerned, I dont go to those countries any more, although shortly after I arrived in Sweden, a Danish professor told me that it was necessary to be nice to people in those places so that when they started running things, they would be nice to us. He must have meant you and your hunting parties. As for going to the oceans, you might be correct, because on the ocean liners that I once traveled on, the ladies were willing to buy a large percent of my drinks.
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on July 31, 2013
Well, it's too bad that this party is over, but I learned one thing. Most people are absolutely incapable of comprehending the importance of energy, which means comprehending the future of nuclear. It is going to be used whether we want it or not, and the reason is because of something I pointed out in one of my first books, a few hundred years ago: Population is one of the deciding factors where our standard of living is concerned, and in one sense or another population growth is out of control. I also pointed out in that book that nuclear use should be minimized, because there was no reason to think that our political masters had the intelligence needed to manage it the way that it should be managed..

No Point in telling dumb George W. and ignorant Obama about that however, and suggesting that persons with their responsibilities should smarten up. You might as well try to explain nuclear physics to them, or physics 101 to me just prior to my being put in the wind by the Dean of Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology.

And by the way, if you ever visit Sweden and talk to a member of the Anti-nuclear Booster Club, try to remember that he or she hates huclear because of the intelligence of the scientists, engineers and managers who command the nuclear sector. *School stars' is what a gentleman of my acquaintence called them, and that was the worst description that he could compose .for any human being. .

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