Wishing Away Nuclear Energy Won't Work

Germany's ill-considered plan

Ferdinand E. Banks | Sep 07, 2011

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Lets start with the bottom line, or what I usually call 'The Message:'

 

While Germany might temporarily abandon nuclear facilities located in Germany, they will never abandon electricity generated in nuclear reactors -- at least as long as German voters prefer a higher to a lower standard of living. Put another way, for every kilowatt of nuclear-based power lost because of temporary nuclear closures that might take place in the largest economy in Europe, another will probably be obtained from somewhere else in Europe, sooner or later.

 

Notice the two words temporarily and probably in the above paragraph. "Temporarily" means that in the long-run the massive disinformation campaign that Chancellor Merkel and others have launched -- or will launch -- to influence voters in her country, will eventually cease to generate politically acceptable results. 

 

As for "probably", this has to do with some logic taught in Economics 101, because an increase in electricity/energy imports by Germany will likely bring about a welfare loss in all of Europe, with the catalyst for this misfortune being a general rise in energy prices.

 

I look forward to the day when Chancellor Merkel provides modest teachers of economics like myself with a description of how her energy ambitions were thwarted by impatient voters, who will eventually reject her absurd intentions to find a replacement for nuclear-based electricity. In such a book I hope that I will also encounter a reference to rogue economists, know-it-all nuclear shills, and busybodies who fail to share her grotesque vision of the optimal strategy for increasing Germany's "competitive advantage," and who in addition, reject the nuclear (and energy) gospel preached by true believers such as engineering Professor Neven Duic of Zagreb University (Croatia).

 

Social Benefits and Costs

 

Not long ago I was informed by Professor Duic that nuclear was a lost cause, and the energy future was going to be wind, solar thermal (PV), and natural gas. I mention these items because they are evidently high on the wish list of Dr. Merkel and her foot soldiers. Of course, wind and PV have been on energy menus for decades, but even so -- globally -- they hardly come to three or four percent of the aggregate energy supply.

Without large subsidies, though, they may never exceed the above percentage, although I am ready to accept that subsidies are justified to bring wind and PV up to their equilibrium level, whatever that happens to be. 

 

However, while I am unable or unwilling to argue for nuclear subsidies in every country, I am quite willing (and very able) to insist that although the comparatively large nuclear energy output in Sweden was initially subsidized, when the final 'social' accounting was made by those who understand this issue, the Swedish reactors did not cost Swedish taxpayers -- as a group -- a penny. 

 

As for the natural gas that has caught Professor Duic's fancy, this sounds to me like a 'bet' on shale gas. If the promise of shale gas is not fulfilled -- which is definitely possible where Europe is concerned -- then German or other European politicians with a genuine recognition of energy needs should closely examine the history of natural gas prices and expectations before sounding off about how natural gas (together with wind and PV) will be able to keep the energy wolf away from their doors.

 

I'll conclude by confessing that there are no questions that I would like to ask Professor Duic, even though he sent me a diagram showing the development of wind, PV natural gas and nuclear that is completely and totally and unambiguously without any scientific value. 

 

I might though consider asking Angela Merkel two questions that I intend to ask my students the next time I teach energy economics. First, Denmark is the promised land of wind energy, and yet wind apparently supplies less than twenty five percent of that country's electricity. Please explain why it does not supply fifty percent, and tell us where the rest of Denmark's electricity comes from. 

 

Second, the wires between Sweden and Germany carry electricity from Sweden to Germany. If the situation in Germany becomes as wonderful as Frau Merkel and her experts say that it will become when Germany's reactors have been liquidated, will my electric 'bill' (and yours and theirs) be reduced?

 

The inevitable conclusion is that Germany should not be shortsighted and do away with its own nuclear fleet in favor of some out-of-reach energy wish list. 

 

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Comments

This 2011 Article is OUT DATED, written 6 months after Fukushima

EnergyBiz should not publish historic articles unless they provide an appropriate banner that lists them as such!

What is next, articles about Edison inventing his new light blub and his uphill fight against the gas Companies?

☢ Seminar About Fukushima's effect on Jap., USA and the World

Recent Seninar in San Diego, CA (in English & Japanese) about Fukushima, Lessons Learned for California and the rest of US...

 

Lessons for California from Gregory Jaczko, Former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

+ Former Japanese PM Kan and two others...

http://www.copswiki.org/Common/M1359

Well worth your time to watch!

Thank you to those who organized this excellent event!

for your reading pleasure...RE: nuclear via Bill Gates

Acts of God

Swedish Nobel physicist Hannes Alfvén said about nuclear energy, "No acts of God can be permitted." Pretty simple warning and normal acciedent theory seems to imply  nuclear disasters can certainly take place again.

.

Nuclear risks are unlike any other Risk mankind faces

Yes, I agree 100%

Fukushima proved to all of us, that Nature can destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7/365 for any one or more "reasons" such as these:

~ Tornado strike?

~ Earthquake?

~ Human error?

~ Tsunami?

~ Power outage?

~ Pipe break?

~ Test gone wrong?

~ Old fuel issues?

~ Terrorist attack?

~ Hurricane?

~ Plane crash?

~ Heavy rains/River floods?

~ Metal Fatigue?

~ Nuclear Ransom?

~ Solar Flair?

~ EMP?

~ Lightning?

~ Dam Failure?

~ Fire?

~ Operator suicide?

~ Jihadist?

~ CME?

~ Carrington Effect?

~ Cyber-warfare?

~ Meteror?

~ Aliens?

~ Volcano/Eruption?

~ Stuxnet ?

~ Bad Luck?

~ Murphy's Law?

... Are just a few of the ways Nuclear Power Plants (NPP's) could FAIL.

Now adding "insult to injury" the burning of radioactive debris in Japan, is spreading Globally and adding radioactive pollution to the air we all breathe, so it is no longer "JUST" a Japanese problem!

Unless the Japanese people demand their Leaders follow Germany's example of going N☢N Nuclear N☢W, they are allowing their Leaders to put their entire Country, the Children of Japan and their Japanese Way of Life at RISK, in order generate profit for their "Utility Gangs".

German Nuclear Policy

With regard to the article that dismisses renewables for "economical" nuclear power, I must commend Ferd as a master of disinformation.  The Germans are actually serious about this stuff because they are pretty good at math.  They also understand entropy.  Both math and entropy kill first generation nuclear power, and there will be no 2nd gen breeders.  Not in the UK.  Not in the US.  Not in Japan.  Not in any country that operattes nucs, (except maybe Iran at some point).  

About the math: please plot the last 45 years of PV production cost.  You will find it to be in decreasing exponential form, with a cost-curve similar to "Moore's Law" for PN junction information processing.  RE is now a 275 billion dollar per year business that is growing at 30% annually because of PN junction economics.  What does the growth market of ever more expensive nucs, with their attendant waste disposal problem (entropy in action) and the tiny little problem of non-certified parts really look like to you?

When you do the math for the PN junction cost curves, then please do the same for production capacity for PV.  Its exponential has less history but it is more extreme.  Then please write something that does not contain non-slanted "well situated" facts.  You are a good writer; I'll give you that - but that makes your both your arrogance and ignorance dangerous.

Salute for a great factual comment!

Thanks for clearing the air!

We now know Solar (of all flavors):

... Is faster to install,

... Costs less to install

... Is ready for 24/7 power

... Requires no huge decommissioning costs

... Produces no nuclear waste that requires "forever" storage

... And has no Nuclear RISK...

New energy way

 

I wonder why new ways of obtaining energy are not known on the second day of their publication. At the beginning of the twentieth century such news about technical novelties spread like wildfire and thanks to this we have the technological advances of today ... Today, despite the most perfect tool that is the internet, this type of news is not known to many people for many years. Why? There must be a reason .. And a very negative reason .. Because as humans, we lost the opportunity for further development, probably in favor of the Golden Calf praise ...

 

Here shows a lot of changes and can make up for lost time .. , These features already in a small field has been subjected to a social judgment

 

http://forums.autosport.com/index.php?s=8f41c4f64a1bc04e53dc5ee19148efc1&showtopic=74960

24 pages  discus

 

Regards Andrew Feliks

Europeans Aren't Fools. They See Trade & Competitiveness Issues.

Europe has pressed for natural gas (and now renewables) for economic reasons as well. Economics may be the motivating factor. Coal generation is a fraction of the cost of natural gas, and at least an order of magnitude lower than renewables. The US has huge, low-cost coal reserves. Europe has none. This makes US manufacturing lower cost than European, and give the US a strong cost advantage in international competition. It is important to the Europeans to get the US off the low cost coal base to reduce the inherrent advantage US firms have.

Ah yes, wonderful nuclear.....

There are only about three critical issues with NEW nucleal plants:

1. Nobody has the first clue what they will cost. The Finnish plant under construction (a "showcase") is now 5+ years behind schedule and billions over budget, a repeat of the US experience in the 70's. The US Gov't had to issue an $8 billion loan guarantee to enable the building of the US Vogtle plant. New nuclear is not cost effective....only old nuclear which whose assets were financially written off to bondholders and ratepayers is.

2. While the probability of a failure-event with nuclear power is exceedingly low, the public consequences when an event does occur are catastrophic. See Chernobyl anf Fukishima.

3. Nuclear waste remains a dangerous unresolved problem. Again, see Fukishima.

So other than being incredibly expensive (pricipally due to long-lead times and uncertainty for new plants) and our most dangerous (to the public) energy source, nuclear is great. Why pay more for a dangerous electricity generation source?

Great comment

Salute for a realistic comment.

Hope to read more from you

Wake UP!

All of you professors and energy "economist" should collectively pull your heads out of whatever alternative universe you reside in!

REGARDLESS of your hate for coal / nuclear and REGARDLESS of your infatuation with renewables, you are completely ignoring the PHYSICS behind our power generation in this country.

YOU CAN NOT REPLACE THE RECIPROCATING MASS OF COAL AND NUCLEAR UNITS WITH RENEWABLES!!!

The rotating mass of thousands upon thousands of tons of steel found in the coal and nuclear generators of North America are thing single most important reason for the stability of our bulk electric system.

Consider two large fans of the same size rotating at the same speed. One made of balsa wood, one made of steel. you can put your hand in the balsa wood fan and stop it much much easier than you could the steel fan. WHY? The inertia of the heavier fan resist changes in its speed from an outside opposing force. Newton's 1st Law of Motion.

Secondly. AC power isn't a battery! Reactive power (VARs) is necessary to move power through transmission lines, for setting up the magnetic fields in transformers and for creating the magnetic fields in motors. Solar CAN NOT provide reactive resources at all! The latest generation of wind generators are able to provide SOME reactive support, but no where near the quantity that is required by our system and, in any event, substantially less in relation to total generation capacity versus coal/nuclear generation.

The only renewable that comes close to providing the inertia and reactive resources of coal/nuclear is hydro. Guess what folks? We are in a drought!

Renewable power is great, and it certainly has its place in a balanced electrical system. but it CAN NOT replace coal /nuclear power... unless you want an unstable system, constant outages, and of course, no power at night or when the wind dies down.

RE Energy IS replacing Coall/Nuclear

Wake up.  Our planet evolved for 4 billion years to deal with solar entropy.  It cannot cope with the massive enetropy generation from fossil combustion and our concentration and susequent splitting of heavy atoms.  Go learn the Second Law.  Entropy propigates, dude.

Make sense

Yes, they should face the difficulities and to make Nuclear energy better, safer, instead of putting heads in the sands.

 

Fire still burns, car crashes, nobody say we should abanbon those stuff.

Nucclear power's true cost and risk is too much

Germany's economy has preformed better than the rest of Europe by being heavily invested in renewable power. The growth of solar power has been huge in recent years, even though there has been a world-wide recession.

Nuclear power is the most expensive source of electrically generated power. We don't really know the true costs because of the on-going waste disposal costs and the associated future political risks that will continue on for many generations to come. Just look at the Japanese economy, as an example, that has been set back decades due to their dependance on nuclear power.

I've been an energy professional for more than 30 years, yet that just older generation, with their pro-atomic energy persuasion coming from engineers trained on the GI bill after WW11 who continue to push a truly failed course of action. No government on Earth has lasted as long as the half-life of the fission waste products. Their hope hope for the last 40 years has been the yet-to-materialize, safe breeder reactors; which are great sourses for dirty bomb fuels and make great targets for anarchists. The food chain in the Asian Sea is currently damaged. Why promote such an arrogant technology, when there are so many other safer, more cost effective electric generation options.

It's time to embrace a new paradigm and nuclear power has no place in the future electric generation mix on this planet. 93 million miles away there's a very fine fussion reaction going on and all we have to do is harnish a tiney portion of its radiant energy.

Natural Gas Obviates Need For Nuclear Power

We do not need to endure the fears of worldwide Fukushima type disasters, and trying to safely store dangerous radioactive material for hundreds of years. Natural gas can be mined with new technology. Europe can easily develop a fair amount, and import the remainder, from many sources. It can be piped, or shipped as LNG. Natural gas is available worldwide. China claims to have twice as much available as we do. Russia is overwhelmed with it. What we need to do is shift a large percentage of our trucks, cars, ships, and aircraft to LNG and CNG. Those who act will benefit. Those who do not will not.

LNG and hopefully H2 should power US until we can go all Solar

Yes, we should begin shifting toward ZERO nuclear ASAP for all the right rerasons which have to do with powering our planet safely without all the nuclear baggage that has the capacity to end life as we know it!

LNG and soon Hydrogen could together fill in the gaps until we have installed enough Solar (of all flavors) to power mankinds desire for Energy!

Sure it will not happen tomorrow but we need to start installing it NOW so that our energy future arrives ASAP, instead of never, plus installing Solar (of all flavors) will help end the energy resource wars that are now plaging mankind.

Give US solar energy freedom N☢T Nuclear energy slavery.

Germany is aiming for 100% renewable by 2050, why don't we?

The real shortsightedness...

...belongs to the myopic few who cannot seem to grasp that the task of safeguarding nuclear power's waste products is truly beyond the scope of human societies.  A cursory study of our history provides ample evidence that we can seldom keep criminals away from their objects of desire for even hundreds of years, forget about thousands or more.  The question is not "if" but "when" the time bomb we've already started ticking will blow up in the faces of our progeny, and the more we plant the more disastrous the almost certain outcome will be.

--Terry M. Peterson

Nuclear accidents do happen and that is unacceptable!

I agree with what you said in your comment!

The risk of a nuclear accident is unlike any other risk that mankind faces; that reason alone should be enough to eliminate nuclear energy ASAP -CaptD

Apart from the issues

Apart from the issues discussed above, there is a frequently ignored question, "How much uranium does the United States possess? The quantity of U.S. uranium reserves depends on the forward cost of uranium. By the end of 2008, U.S. uranium reserves totaled 1,227 million pounds of U3O8 at a maximum forward cost of up to $100 per pound U3O8. Based on uranium consumption in nuclear power plants from 1999 to 2008, there is approximately 23 years worth of demand at a maximum forward cost of $100 per pound.

The United State imports approximately 90 percent of its uranium needs. For example, Russia provides 23 percent, while Kazakhstan supplies 15 percent of U.S. uranium. These sources do not inspire confidence regarding U.S. energy security and independence.

 For further information, please see my blog at

http://www.jheversonconsulting.com/blog/2011/03/24/limited-u-s-uranium-reserves/

Dr. Jeffrey Everson

 www.jheversonconsulting.com

 

 

Ferdinand's comments seem to

Ferdinand's comments seem to clearly have been recorded in a state of high emotion and agitation, but I will comment on a couple of his claims regardless.  First, the statement: "Of course, wind and PV have been on energy menus for decades, but even so -- globally -- they hardly come to three or four percent of the aggregate energy supply," is more true for nuclear than it is for renewables.  In fact, globally, renewables account for a larger proportion of electricity generation than renewables.  This despite greater subsidies for a longer duration.  It is widely recognized that wind and solar are as affordable if not more affordable than current nuclear technologies.  Second, the statement "nuclear energy output in Sweden was initially subsidized, when the final 'social' accounting was made by those who understand this issue, the Swedish reactors did not cost Swedish taxpayers -- as a group -- a penny," is only true to the extent that waste and decommissioning costs have not been fully accounted for and no serious nuclear accidents have occurred there.  One only has to look at Fukishima to see that if a nuclear accident occurs, the Swedes will be out quite a few pennies.

Free Lunch

Excellent article but.......

Maybe there is a free "power" lunch!  Maybe it will be served in Germany.  Unfortunately for 35 million Californians, their shortsightedness about nuclear power and nearly every other power source has led to some of the highest electricity rates in the USA.  Germany will probably follow their lead.

However, costly power is better than no power at all.  Thus, some other country will eventually fill the power gap and the citizens of Germany will pay as has happened in California.

CA has plenty of Energy without any nuclear reactors!

California has excess power without nuclear, according to data from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the electricity grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (ISO).  Here is their chart showing that CA has a 20% (and growing) surplus of Energy without either El Diablo or San Onofre (which has be shuttered because of faulty NEW steam generators for about a year and a half) nuclear generators!

http://sanonofresafety.org/energy-options/

There is a simple reason that California has the highest rates in the USA!

The California Public Utility Commission (who sets the rates) is allowing the Utilities to rip off rate payers so they can reward their shareholders.