Civilian nuclear power and renewables and other power options

Archibald

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Perhaps the point is that Australian adoption of nuclear submarines will require various compromises including, at least to some degree, nuclear related infrastructure that may not be especially popular.

Hence in abstraction there would currently appear to be quite a broad support for “going nuclear” re: the submarine fleet it is possible (very probable?) that this apparent consensus may fray when the trade-offs and complications (and costs) become clearer.

If they are smart enough, Australian politicians could make a 180 degree turn over global warming, justify a civilian nuclear power industry for that reason... and tie that with nuclear submarines

This is how France did it, in the 70's (except global warming wasn't the reason, but oil shocks).
 

jeffb

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Perhaps the point is that Australian adoption of nuclear submarines will require various compromises including, at least to some degree, nuclear related infrastructure that may not be especially popular.

Hence in abstraction there would currently appear to be quite a broad support for “going nuclear” re: the submarine fleet it is possible (very probable?) that this apparent consensus may fray when the trade-offs and complications (and costs) become clearer.

If they are smart enough, Australian politicians could make a 180 degree turn over global warming, justify a civilian nuclear power industry for that reason... and tie that with nuclear submarines

This is how France did it, in the 70's (except global warming wasn't the reason, but oil shocks).

It's a difficult argument to make given how expensive nuclear power is compared to renewables. Back in the 70's renewables weren't a cost effective option, now they are. There might be a market (maybe/one day) for SMRs but they'll likely only be for small and/or very remote, particularly power hungry applications (like submarines).
 
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Josh_TN

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I don't see how that can be the case since every country with nuclear submarines uses a PWR to this day. When you refer to BWR I assume you mean civilian reactors? Are there even any left? I actually thought Fukushima was the last.
 

Archibald

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Yes, BWR and civilian reactors. As a legacy of Rickover's submarines via Shippingport and Ike Atoms for peace.
 

starviking

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I don't see how that can be the case since every country with nuclear submarines uses a PWR to this day. When you refer to BWR I assume you mean civilian reactors? Are there even any left? I actually thought Fukushima was the last.
Japan has 4 operational advanced boiling water reactors, and there are a whole host of BWRs in the US, Japan, and elsewhere.
 

starviking

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It's a difficult argument to make given how expensive nuclear power is compared to renewables. Back in the 70's renewables weren't a cost effective option, now they are. There might be a market (maybe/one day) for SMRs but they'll likely only be for small and/or very remote, particularly power hungry applications (like submarines).
The problem is, the simple analysis often applied to renewables vs. nuclear doesn’t capture the complexity of modern power grids, and the difficulties in operating them.

If you bring big renewables into your grid, you’re not just paying for the wind turbines or solar panels - you’re paying for the battery farm that smooths their output, the peaker power plant that steps in for outages of longer than a few minutes. You also pay for power lines to out of the way renewables plants, and this is doubly expensive as the power cables have to be rated for the maximum power output - even though this is rarely achieved.

And the grid itself has to be made more robust, as every renewable plant is variable, and input is varying across the grid at all times, save at night for solar and during wind lulls for the turbine. The robustness needed entails more power lines for cross-connections, and masses of ancillary equipment to keep the electrons flowing smoothly and stopping them from blowing up the grid.
 

Josh_TN

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Japan has 4 operational advanced boiling water reactors, and there are a whole host of BWRs in the US, Japan, and elsewhere.
Thanks, I didn't realize that technology was in such widespread use.

As for nuclear vs solar/wind, renewables are still generally going to be cheaper to establish and far cheaper to maintain, and getting less expensive all the time. An economic argument for nuclear is hard to make, given the time involved in establishing the plant and the licensing. In the US at least, the latter basically means no non-military plant will likely ever go online again.
 

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Interesting article. Australia facing a big hill to climb to get their 8 boats by 2040-2060.

Can't help but think that the stated reasons for doing so - countering the rise of China - will either have already come to a head or be completely irrelevant by then.

"You needed the submarines 10 years ago," he told 7.30.

I largely agree. I can't picture the situation not being resolved one way or the other by the end of the decade; two tops. My only counter argument is that given the amount of coastline and EEZ Australia has, going nuclear was always an attractive proposition anyway. Also a lot of this deal goes far beyond submarines; it's more of an inclusion of Australia into the 'special relationship' of the US/UK.

Threesome!
 

starviking

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Japan has 4 operational advanced boiling water reactors, and there are a whole host of BWRs in the US, Japan, and elsewhere.
Thanks, I didn't realize that technology was in such widespread use.

As for nuclear vs solar/wind, renewables are still generally going to be cheaper to establish and far cheaper to maintain, and getting less expensive all the time. An economic argument for nuclear is hard to make, given the time involved in establishing the plant and the licensing. In the US at least, the latter basically means no non-military plant will likely ever go online again.
The problem with solar/wind is all the issues they bring to the grid, and the fact that as the solar/wind percentage increases, the storage needs also dramatically increase.

One way to lower the storage needs is with what are now called “firm” power sources - power sources that are, barring outages, available when needed. In effect, they add an elevated base to the grid power. That means that instead of storage having to cover 100% of grid power during wind lulls at night, they only have to cover a lesser percentage.

Firm power sources can be high-CO2, like gas and coal, or low-CO2 like geothermal, hydro, or nuclear.

All the low-CO2 sources need a long time to build, and with nuclear, politicized licensing and regulation can draw that out. That can also create a double-whammy in that slow delivery deprives the industry of build experience - a serious problem in the States. So things get even slower. However, with rational overview time to delivery can be much lower than the decades quoted by the likes of Greenpeace - the Barakah nuclear plant in the UAE took 8 years to construct, and that was the first plant in the UAE. Plants in Japan have been built in under 40 months.

And let’s not forget that the flip side of renewables are extensive grid remodeling and extension. These things are neither cheap, easy, or quick to do. Power lines, for example, can take decades to build, and costs in the high millions to trillions depending on power and length. And there are always people who will demand the power lines be buried because of “cancer” or “protecting nature”, so approvals can also disrupt schedules. That was seen at the start of the month when nature-lovers and fossil fuel companies combined forces to halt the Hydro Quebec billlion-dollar power line through Maine.

Renewables are quick and cheap, but the things needed to stop them being expensive decorations are neither quick or cheap.
 

GTX

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The problem with solar/wind is all the issues they bring to the grid, and the fact that as the solar/wind percentage increases, the storage needs also dramatically increase.
Solution: Microgrids
 

Hobbes

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Microgrids make the problem worse. You want to be able to average out your peaks and throughs over a larger area.
 

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It is my humble opinion that the U.S. will have to use renewable and nuclear.
Not enough electricity can be generated by renewables and they can't be
completely relied on. Nuclear must be part of the solution.
 

Archibald

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France has already made its choice: nuclear and renewables. The 58 existing reactors (minus Fessenheim, so must 56 or 54 nowadays) will stay for a very long time; even if the EPR successor is in trouble, miniature reactors will came on line.
 

stealthflanker

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France has already made its choice: nuclear and renewables. The 58 existing reactors (minus Fessenheim, so must 56 or 54 nowadays) will stay for a very long time; even if the EPR successor is in trouble, miniature reactors will came on line.

I'll be honest. It's a very smart solution. Did France invest into Breeder reactor or reprocessing technology for the spent fuel ? That can reduce the amount of waste needs to be buried.
 

Archibald

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France has already made its choice: nuclear and renewables. The 58 existing reactors (minus Fessenheim, so must 56 or 54 nowadays) will stay for a very long time; even if the EPR successor is in trouble, miniature reactors will came on line.

I'll be honest. It's a very smart solution. Did France invest into Breeder reactor or reprocessing technology for the spent fuel ? That can reduce the amount of waste needs to be buried.

Superphénix... has been shut down 25 years ago. Then there is the MOX, but don't ask me about technical details !
 

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It was my understanding that the French reactors were more efficient
in their than those in the U.S . Is this true?
 

T. A. Gardner

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Perhaps the point is that Australian adoption of nuclear submarines will require various compromises including, at least to some degree, nuclear related infrastructure that may not be especially popular.

Hence in abstraction there would currently appear to be quite a broad support for “going nuclear” re: the submarine fleet it is possible (very probable?) that this apparent consensus may fray when the trade-offs and complications (and costs) become clearer.

If they are smart enough, Australian politicians could make a 180 degree turn over global warming, justify a civilian nuclear power industry for that reason... and tie that with nuclear submarines

This is how France did it, in the 70's (except global warming wasn't the reason, but oil shocks).

It's a difficult argument to make given how expensive nuclear power is compared to renewables. Back in the 70's renewables weren't a cost effective option, now they are. There might be a market (maybe/one day) for SMRs but they'll likely only be for small and/or very remote, particularly power hungry applications (like submarines).
Actually, nuclear blows solar and wind away on costs. I've done a comparison between solar arrays and Palo Verde Nuclear in Arizona, the US's last commercial plant to be built. On the basis of annual GW output it costs in constant dollars about 11 times more to build the equivalent in solar power arrays today. Nuclear produces so much more power on a tiny footprint of land that it just overwhelms inefficient solar that only works roughly half the time. If you start tossing in storage capacity onto that solar array the cost becomes literally unaffordable.

Nuclear is the smart option, solar and wind are, put bluntly, stupid.
 

jeffb

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Perhaps the point is that Australian adoption of nuclear submarines will require various compromises including, at least to some degree, nuclear related infrastructure that may not be especially popular.

Hence in abstraction there would currently appear to be quite a broad support for “going nuclear” re: the submarine fleet it is possible (very probable?) that this apparent consensus may fray when the trade-offs and complications (and costs) become clearer.

If they are smart enough, Australian politicians could make a 180 degree turn over global warming, justify a civilian nuclear power industry for that reason... and tie that with nuclear submarines

This is how France did it, in the 70's (except global warming wasn't the reason, but oil shocks).

It's a difficult argument to make given how expensive nuclear power is compared to renewables. Back in the 70's renewables weren't a cost effective option, now they are. There might be a market (maybe/one day) for SMRs but they'll likely only be for small and/or very remote, particularly power hungry applications (like submarines).
Actually, nuclear blows solar and wind away on costs. I've done a comparison between solar arrays and Palo Verde Nuclear in Arizona, the US's last commercial plant to be built. On the basis of annual GW output it costs in constant dollars about 11 times more to build the equivalent in solar power arrays today. Nuclear produces so much more power on a tiny footprint of land that it just overwhelms inefficient solar that only works roughly half the time. If you start tossing in storage capacity onto that solar array the cost becomes literally unaffordable.

Nuclear is the smart option, solar and wind are, put bluntly, stupid.

I'd suggest you've made a mistake in your calculations somewhere because if what you say is true, countries would be building nuclear reactors to supply power and frankly, they are not.
 

T. A. Gardner

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Perhaps the point is that Australian adoption of nuclear submarines will require various compromises including, at least to some degree, nuclear related infrastructure that may not be especially popular.

Hence in abstraction there would currently appear to be quite a broad support for “going nuclear” re: the submarine fleet it is possible (very probable?) that this apparent consensus may fray when the trade-offs and complications (and costs) become clearer.

If they are smart enough, Australian politicians could make a 180 degree turn over global warming, justify a civilian nuclear power industry for that reason... and tie that with nuclear submarines

This is how France did it, in the 70's (except global warming wasn't the reason, but oil shocks).

It's a difficult argument to make given how expensive nuclear power is compared to renewables. Back in the 70's renewables weren't a cost effective option, now they are. There might be a market (maybe/one day) for SMRs but they'll likely only be for small and/or very remote, particularly power hungry applications (like submarines).
Actually, nuclear blows solar and wind away on costs. I've done a comparison between solar arrays and Palo Verde Nuclear in Arizona, the US's last commercial plant to be built. On the basis of annual GW output it costs in constant dollars about 11 times more to build the equivalent in solar power arrays today. Nuclear produces so much more power on a tiny footprint of land that it just overwhelms inefficient solar that only works roughly half the time. If you start tossing in storage capacity onto that solar array the cost becomes literally unaffordable.

Nuclear is the smart option, solar and wind are, put bluntly, stupid.

I'd suggest you've made a mistake in your calculations somewhere because if what you say is true, countries would be building nuclear reactors to supply power and frankly, they are not.
No, they wouldn't because the political will isn't there. Public opinion of nuclear power has been turned against it by a continuous stream of anti-nuclear propaganda in most media for decades. Much of this is based on outright lies that aren't called out too. Going nuclear requires government backing, and most governments are unwilling to do that because the politicians see it as a negative to their reelection chances.
 

starviking

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I'd suggest you've made a mistake in your calculations somewhere because if what you say is true, countries would be building nuclear reactors to supply power and frankly, they are not.
No, they wouldn't because the political will isn't there. Public opinion of nuclear power has been turned against it by a continuous stream of anti-nuclear propaganda in most media for decades. Much of this is based on outright lies that aren't called out too. Going nuclear requires government backing, and most governments are unwilling to do that because the politicians see it as a negative to their reelection chances.
And there is the fact that most people don’t know their kilowatts from their kilowatt hours. If the politicians were open to it, people could be educated - but politicians are even shallower these days than ever, so public opinion is king, and ignorance fills the void.
 

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This really goes beyond political will though. Nuclear is definitely not popular, but if it really were the cheapest easiest solution then the power companies would be buying the add time to tell people that it was the only logical solution to global warming and that renewables are the wrong answer. You'd be hearing it every night, the politicians would be hearing it every night, engineers and scientists would be appearing on talk back every night explaining to the people that nuclear was the cheapest easiest most logical way to deal with climate change.

They're not.
 

T. A. Gardner

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This really goes beyond political will though. Nuclear is definitely not popular, but if it really were the cheapest easiest solution then the power companies would be buying the add time to tell people that it was the only logical solution to global warming and that renewables are the wrong answer. You'd be hearing it every night, the politicians would be hearing it every night, engineers and scientists would be appearing on talk back every night explaining to the people that nuclear was the cheapest easiest most logical way to deal with climate change.

They're not.
Energy companies don't care. They care about making a profit, not selling an inexpensive product. If they can profit from solar even if the customer pays three times as much, they don't care. That's not their problem. So, they really have no need to advertise in favor of any particular energy source over others if they can turn a reasonable profit off it. What they can't afford to do is gouge customers. That will get their attention in a negative way. If the company is making say 10% profit after expenses, it doesn't matter if those expenses double, they still get 10% profit. They can point to the increased costs as being in their expenses, not their profits and that leaves the public with nothing to complain about insofar as the energy company. The energy company can point to government mandates as the cause of the increases and that makes people mad at government.
 

perttime

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Microgrids make the problem worse. You want to be able to average out your peaks and throughs over a larger area.
Microgrids can work very well if done right.
How do you do it?
It might depend on where you are but, from my location/point of view, solar or wind isn't there every day. Today, it is a bit chilly, we have about 6 hours of daylight with the sun barely above the horizon, and there is almost no wind.
 

jeffb

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This really goes beyond political will though. Nuclear is definitely not popular, but if it really were the cheapest easiest solution then the power companies would be buying the add time to tell people that it was the only logical solution to global warming and that renewables are the wrong answer. You'd be hearing it every night, the politicians would be hearing it every night, engineers and scientists would be appearing on talk back every night explaining to the people that nuclear was the cheapest easiest most logical way to deal with climate change.

They're not.
Energy companies don't care. They care about making a profit, not selling an inexpensive product. If they can profit from solar even if the customer pays three times as much, they don't care. That's not their problem. So, they really have no need to advertise in favor of any particular energy source over others if they can turn a reasonable profit off it. What they can't afford to do is gouge customers. That will get their attention in a negative way. If the company is making say 10% profit after expenses, it doesn't matter if those expenses double, they still get 10% profit. They can point to the increased costs as being in their expenses, not their profits and that leaves the public with nothing to complain about insofar as the energy company. The energy company can point to government mandates as the cause of the increases and that makes people mad at government.

No, the points you make about energy companies are all valid but, if the cheapest and easiest way to tackle climate change was nuclear, scientists and engineers would be singing it from the roof tops. They're not.

All the studies I've seen show nuclear to be significantly more expensive than renewables. And I've certainly not seen or heard of any more recent studies incorporating poles and wires or storage that flip that finding.

By all means though, if you can point me to newer studies that do show that, I'd be interested in reading them.
 

starviking

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All the studies I've seen show nuclear to be significantly more expensive than renewables. And I've certainly not seen or heard of any more recent studies incorporating poles and wires or storage that flip that finding.

By all means though, if you can point me to newer studies that do show that, I'd be interested in reading them.
From the International Energy Agency’s latest report (emphasis mine):

Renewable energy costs have continued to decrease in recent years and their costs are now competitive, in LCOE terms, with dispatchable fossil fuel-based electricity generation in many countries. The cost of electricity from new nuclear power plants remains stable, yet electricity from the long-term operation of nuclear power plants constitutes the least cost option for low-carbon generation.”

Nuclear thus remains the dispatchable low-carbon technology with the lowest expected costs in 2025. Only large hydro reservoirs can provide a similar contribution at comparable costs but remain highly dependent on the natural endowments of individual countries.”

I attach figure ES.1 comparing the Levelized Cost of Electicity (LCOE). Note LCOE does not include transmission or distribution costs, so renewables will probably have much higher costs. And just as a point of interest - look at the highest cost - Residential Solar.

3E33E1C2-113E-40A0-A402-7DB86D59B3D5.jpeg
 

jeffb

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Yeah, but (all graphs shamelessly taken from wikipedia :) ):

1024px-3-Learning-curves-for-electricity-prices.png


LCOE may not be the best measure as so much depends on the assumptions built in. e.g. :-

lcoe-comparison-different-methods.png

Also, does LCOE include decommissioning costs for nuclear?
 

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