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Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:06 PM

A nuclear proponent makes the case for nuclear power.

This article is fundamentally "it" for nuclear. It gives the entire case for nuclear power.

Can you spot what is wrong?

We cannot afford not to have nuclear in our low-carbon energy mix
Nuclear power must prove itself in cost terms – but we should not be thinking of giving up now


James Smith
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 19 February 2013 12.59 GMT

The euphoric phase on low-carbon energy is over. There is no solution that is clean and cheap and always on.

Yet we must make major investments in energy. Old coal and nuclear plants will have to close. And climate change has to be tackled or it will result in costly economic damage.

So let's consider the options for investment in low-carbon electricity. Over the coming 20 years there are only three options that are relevant – wind, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear. Each has significant imperfections yet each works. And there is no muddle through option.

Each technology has deeply entrenched opponents. But if all the opponents have their way, we are left with no solution. Or at a minimum there will be a long period of argument, muddle and delay, followed by a rushed, expensive and late period of investment. Isn't that how it is already feeling?

Let's consider the three energy technology options in turn....


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/19/cannot-afford-nuclear-power-energy-mix

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Reply A nuclear proponent makes the case for nuclear power. (Original post)
kristopher Feb 2013 OP
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #1
Scuba Feb 2013 #2
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #4
Scuba Feb 2013 #6
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #8
kristopher Feb 2013 #9
AtheistCrusader Feb 2013 #3
kristopher Feb 2013 #18
muriel_volestrangler Feb 2013 #19
AtheistCrusader Feb 2013 #20
muriel_volestrangler Feb 2013 #22
AtheistCrusader Feb 2013 #23
kristopher Feb 2013 #21
FBaggins Feb 2013 #5
kristopher Feb 2013 #7
FBaggins Feb 2013 #10
kristopher Feb 2013 #11
FBaggins Feb 2013 #12
kristopher Feb 2013 #13
FBaggins Feb 2013 #14
kristopher Feb 2013 #15
FBaggins Feb 2013 #16
kristopher Feb 2013 #17

Response to kristopher (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:20 PM

1. What's wrong is that it doesn't address the real problem.

Which is the combination of the energy-seeking imperative of all life and the problem-solving imperative of the human brain.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/112736783#post17

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Response to Scuba (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:29 PM

4. Unfortunately, that doesn't address the real problem either.

It just kicks the can down the road.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:44 PM

6. Yeah, 'cause the sun's gonna burn out in a couple years, right?

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Response to Scuba (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:48 PM

8. No, not that.

Because we've just about finished eating the planet.

Energy-seeking behavior is the most fundamental, universal characteristic of all living organisms. We inherited that requirement from the beginning of life on the planet. Because it is so crucial to survival, this behavior is encoded as the base characteristic of our genome, and so it ultimately manifests in every action, social structure and institution we create. Because it's buried so deep in our structure (as it is with all life), it's virtually impossible to recognize, let alone to recognize it as a threat and try to resist it.

When teamed with the problem-solving skills of our brain, this energy-seeking behavior has taken us from foraging to agriculture to industry, from wood-burning to coal to nuclear power without a murmur. Any cost was acceptable in order to get more energy. The only time we tried to fight against the energy-seeking instinct was when the symptoms became universally life-threatening.

Even now we only fight piecemeal, against easy targets like nuclear power. The biggest threats still pass unchallenged - we would much rather fight "global warming" than our own energy-seeking behavior. Unfortunately, the time lag inherent in the end-product of CO2 has made even that partial recognition come between 50 and 200 years too late.

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Response to Scuba (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:57 PM

9. Yes, and we've had that type of analysis since the 70s.

It was irrefutably established by an exhaustive 1100+ page UN report prepared for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

More recently we are seeing this type of complex modeling that shows the details of what the system will actually look like:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1127&pid=36047

"Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time"

6. Conclusions
Here we simulated fluctuating power input to a large regional electric system, seeking the least-cost combinations of renewable generation and storage to provide sufficient power for load. Unlike many prior studies, we do not employ storage in order to balance generation capacity more closely to load—we only care about reliably making load at the least cost.

We find that 90% of hours are covered most cost-effectively by a system that generates from renewables 180% the electrical energy needed by load, and 99.9% of hours are covered by generating almost 290% of need. Only 9–72 h of storage were required to cover 99.9% of hours of load over four years. So much excess generation of renewables is a new idea, but it is not problematic or inefficient, any more than it is problematic to build a thermal power plant requiring fuel input at 250% of the electrical output, as we do today.

At 2008 technology costs, 30% of hours is the lowest-cost mix we evaluated. At expected 2030 technology costs, the cost-minimum is 90% of hours met entirely by renewables. And 99.9% of hours, while not the cost-minimum, is lower in cost than today's total cost of electricity.

Over-generation is cost-effective at 2030 technology costs even when all excess is spilled. If excess generation displaces heating fuels, the cost is lowered further. Today's electricity is rarely used for heating because fuel cost dominates electric generation costs and energy is lost in generating electricity, so when heat is desired it is cheaper to burn fuel on site where the heat is needed. By contrast, renewable generation's primary costs are capital and the fuel is free—once built, we will want to run renewable generators whenever electricity has any value at all. Again, the cost-optimization model forces us to think about system design differently. Today we build dispatchable generation, and design for enough capacity to meet peak load plus a reserve margin. If we applied the findings of this article, in the future we would build variable generation, designing for enough capacity to make electric load for the worst hours, and as a side effect we will have enough extra electricity to meet thermal loads.

In the 99.9% case, using fossil generation to fill the gaps in the remaining 0.1% of hours (9 h year−1) requires maintaining less than half of today's legacy generation capacity, with that capacity producing only 0.017% of the energy needed for load. Thus, further pollution-reduction will provide scant motivation to retire old fossil generation. However, maintaining old fossil plant may be uneconomic if rarely used, in which case, other existing mechanisms—such as demand management, interruptible rates, or preloading storage from lower capacity fossil—could be used to retire old fossil plants.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:29 PM

3. Couple problems.

Ignores tidal power.
Ignores solar power.
De-emphasizes the true carbon cost of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Author is also the former chair of a conglomerate of petrochemical companies, which is somewhat suspicious.

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 04:57 PM

18. It isn't suspicious really.

He has an emotional stake in believing that what he has worked for all of his life is a positive for humanity.
It's a form of groupthink that is ubiquitous in all human endeavors. He believes, with every fiber of his being, that the broad-stroke energy landscape he helped to create is the best that can possibly be.

He is wrong, of course; but he is blind to even the possibility that his life's work has been taking down the wrong path.

You might enjoy this. Sorry I don't have a link handy.
Risk Analysis, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2009 DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01155.x
The Future of Nuclear Power: Value Orientations and Risk Perception
Stephen C. Whitfield,1 Eugene A. Rosa,2 Amy Dan,3 and Thomas Dietz3∗

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 07:39 PM

19. Ignoring solar power for the UK is justifiable

The article is talking about the UK - it's discussing DECC decisions. The article that kristopher links to in #9 worked out the cost-efficient balances of wind (inland and offshore) and solar to cover the actual power usage in an area in the NE USA for 1999-2002 (an area with a bit more solar availability than the UK, but we'll be generous - perhaps solar tech developments will make solar more cost effective to make up for the difference). For 30% generation by the renewables, the cheapest balance of capacity was: solar 0GW, offshore 0GW, inland 40GW. for 90% generation, it was: solar 0GW, offshore 14.4GW, inland 126GW. For 99.9% coverage it was: solar 16.2GW, offshore 89.7GW, inland 124GW.

So you can see that wind power is preferable to solar power for areas at higher latitudes (a study in the SW USA would be very different, I expect). If the capacity cannot be satisfied by wind, you turn to solar to top it up. Of course, solar costs will probably go down a lot. But their small production in winter is a big problem at higher latitudes. You basically have to assume they'll contribution nothing for 3 months.

Tidal (and wave) energy, unfortunately, are limited in the amount they can supply. A well-regarded estimate of the total potential power available from wave for the UK is 4kWh/day/person, and for tidal power 11kWh/day/person. UK primary energy usage is currently about 125 kWh/day/person. So they'll never be a major contributor to energy usage, unless we can slash demand drastically.

Notice that, in that exercise, to try and get UK energy needs all from renewables (including transport and heating), the author estimates the most he can see being devoted to each type. So, in the overall figures, the 50kWh/day/person from solar farms comes from farms covering 5% of the landmass.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #19)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 07:55 PM

20. London and Seattle have roughly the same kWh/m2/day.

I see plenty of PV applications around the Seattle area, in production, now. During the hottest months of the year (for about 5 months) they are getting 5kWh/m2/day.

That's 550kWh/m2/day hitting my neighbor's roof for 5 months out of the year. Solar irradiance in London looks to be maybe 5% lower than Seattle. Not much difference.

In December, it's pretty bad, that 550 drops to about 66kWh/m2/day. Pre-conversion efficiency.
That doesn't mean it should be ignored.

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #20)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 08:26 PM

22. Can we check units?

"Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air"'s units can sometimes be confusing - while they work well inside the book as a whole, there's a lot of potential for mistakes.

the average raw power of sunshine
per square metre of south-facing roof in Britain is roughly 110 W/m2,
and the average raw power of sunshine per square metre of flat ground is
roughly 100 W/m2.



http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c6/page_38.shtml


The graph shows the solar power, pre-conversion, for London dips to about 20W/m2 in December, or 20*24=480Wh/m2/day, or 0.48kWh/m2/day. The maximum for London is about 200W/m2 in summer, so 4.8kWh/m2/day. That matches with your figure of 5kWh/m2/day for Seattle summer. But the 550 (and 66) figures appear to be something else - perhaps 550kWh/day for a 110 m2 roof? If so, I'd point out a 110m2 roof is far larger than most people have access to.

The 5kWh/m2/day figure would produce 1kWh/m2/day, at 20% efficiency, in summer; and we're looking at 0.1kWh/m2/day in December.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #22)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 08:41 PM

23. South-facing portion of my neighbor's house is about 1200sq feet

So about 111 square meters, yes. I realize that is not culturally translatable to London, as a home with that sized roof would be 'not normal'.

Here, it's not that unusual. But the panels don't need to be mounted on your roof. Population density only suggests who might own the real estate to house the panels, and how. Meaning, are they personally owned, or perhaps owned by an agent like a power company or co-op. And where are they located, on private exclusive land, or co-located on structures, perhaps not owned by the parties consuming the power.

'Average' sq/ft home in this area is 2200 sq/ft. Roof is larger for overhang, and you can assume the roof is split, so add a couple hundred sq feet for the eaves, and then cut it in half for south/north facing. (Possible for the ENTIRE roof to face in one direction, but architecturally, that is rare here)

Panels are also often mounted on raised frames, so 'facing' of the roof can be quite irrelevant.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #19)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 08:18 PM

21. McKays analysis on that website is grossly in error.

Last edited Thu Feb 21, 2013, 09:05 PM - Edit history (1)

He provided the correct information in the hard copy but uses the invalid data on his website.

This blog link is worth reading fully:
http://energynumbers.info/british-energy-demand-and-professor-mackays-estimate-of-it-an-explanation-of-the-differences

...The numbers in the first third of Professor MacKay’s book all lead to the conclusion on page 103 that even if we used all of our renewable resource to its technical maximum, ignoring economic, social and environmental constraints, then it is not enough to meet our energy demand. And that (as he writes later in the book) this applies to Europe too — he writes: “Europe, like Britain, cannot live off its own renewables”.

And yet the figures on 103 are wrong — we all agree on that — you, me, David, the official statistics. So any conclusion based on them must be in doubt.



Indeed, there are plenty of reasons for doubt — because in addition to the inflated demand, the first third of the book also contains economic, social, and environmental constraints on supply, despite the statement to the contrary (I’ll write a bit more about the supply side in a new article, later). So those are not about the physics of the thing at all — they’re opinions. So, we have an inflated demand, and a set of political opinions on supply. That’s not (in Professor MacKay’s words) “what the laws of physics say about the limits of sustainable energy”.

As it turns out, Britain’s renewable resource is an order of magnitude higher than our energy demand.

And so Britain, (just like Europe and the whole world) can get 100% of its energy from renewable resources.

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:41 PM

5. Can't get by without the straw men, eh?

Find something that you think you can refute and then start with the claim that it constitutes the sum total of the opposing position.

Convenient... if you can get anyone to fall for it.

In reality... this piece came out yesterday morning and I didn't even consider posting it... because it does such a lousy job of making the case for nuclear power. He makes several errors and (as if that weren't enough) he's a former c-level exec for Shell. Not exactly the ideal source for low-carbon solutions.

The hilarious part of it though... is that he tries to limit the universe of acceptable solutions to just three technologies.

Do you see the irony?

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Response to FBaggins (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:47 PM

7. You can't justify nuclear without limiting the competition

This individual knows that a baseload system and a distributed generation system are not compatible. So he is making the argument about what options are available to preserve the baseload system.

The fallacy is that we can move away from the baseload system to a distributed generation system. In theDG system, however, nuclear has no place.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:09 PM

10. Of course you can.

So long as "the competition" isn't with coal/gas/existing hydro with the playing field entirely based on cost to provide the service... in which case, none of the clean technologies can survive.

This individual knows that a baseload system and a distributed generation system are not compatible.

This remains a false construct of your own making. There is no such thing as a "baseload generating system" vs. a distributed generating system. There is a base load that must be met (and/or adjusted with demand-side incentives)... regardless of generating technologies (and variable demand above that point).

The entertaining "tell" in that false model of yours is that you stick large hydro in with the "distributed generation system"... even though it is almost identical to nuclear power in almost all ways that matter (extreme up-front cost, long lead time, negligible fuel costs, high availability, significant danger in the rare event that they fail)... and not at all like solar/wind/tidal. You missed it because the two categories are not "systems" that are mutually exclusive. The two categories are really "things kristopher likes" and "things kristopher doesn't like".

The real world doesn't recognize those categories. The real world finds it funny that some desperately need to pretend that there is no minimum amount of generation below which serious problems begin to occur for society... not because it isn't the simple truth, but because their prefered solution can't reliably meet that minimum - so they have to pretend that it doesn't exist.

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Response to FBaggins (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:12 PM

11. Hydro isn't like nuclear

Hydro cycles up and down rapidly - making it compatible with variable resources in a way that coal, nuclear and large scale natgas isn't.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #11)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:15 PM

12. I clearly said "almost all ways that matter"

and then I highlighted those similarities.

Yes, as I've said in the past, hydro does assist variable generation more than nuclear does (while pointing our that it's relevant that they need that assistance - and far more than hydro can provide)

That most certainly doesn't make it a distributed generation source. It's about as large/centralized as they come.

On edit - I'll also point out that unless the particular dam lacks "fuel" and must conserve it... cycling down while something else cycles up doesn't add much net value. That generation was already going to happen and would already be as cheap as any other. And there's a good chance that the "fuel" needs to be spent anyway (as most large-scale dams also serve to regulate the river).

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Response to FBaggins (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:29 PM

13. The difference is crucial

You are virtually identical to an orangutang but the small number of differences are vital.

You can't make a legitimate case for nuclear power, which is why you spend all of your time arguing logical fallacies and trying to drown out the message of renewables.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:48 PM

14. Your analogy is close... but the small differences are vital.

What you're claiming is essentially that there are two incompatible forms of life. Earth and Planet X. Then you place orangutangs in with planet X life because - rather than sharing all but a few dna sequences - they have a handful of similarities.

Even closer to the argument... it's really that they have little to nothing in common with life from planet x... but they have some nutritional value that planet X life must have in order to survive on their own. So because the new life can't survive here without orangutangs losing their already-existing purpose and becoming a nutritional supplement - you pretend that it's really the same thing as being part of the system of planet X life.

You can't make a legitimate case for nuclear power,

Of course you can. In fact it's easy. It's the only energy source that can replace fossil generation almost entirely and still meet the growing power demands of an ever-hungrier world.

Finding yet another published paper in an almost-unheard-of journal from some 2nd/3rd-tier school claiming that renewables can carry the load 99.9% by next Wednesday won't make that any closer to the truth. No matter how many times you spam it.

which is why you spend all of your time arguing logical fallacies and trying to drown out the message of renewables.

Another claim that doesn't get any closer to the truth for incessant repetition. I'm a big fan of renewables. I'm just not a fan of claims that aren't true. I'm in favor of spending money subsidizing solar/wind with large sums... I'm not in favor of pretending that those sums aren't needed... or that such generation is now cheaper than gas/coal. I'm in favor of continued research into wave power... but not in favor of pretending that large-scale commercial plants will be ubiquitous in a couple years because it's really "off the shelf" technology anyway.

See the difference?

I didn't think so.

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Response to FBaggins (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 02:03 PM

15. Your rationalizations are really becoming pathetic

"Of course you can. In fact it's easy. It's the only energy source that can replace fossil generation almost entirely and still meet the growing power demands of an ever-hungrier world."

You can't provide any support for that claim in published literature. Every "analysis" that projects nuclear as a significant part of the solution to climate change does exactly what the OP does - it skips over the part where the need for nuclear is established and makes the unfounded presumption of such a need.

Resorting to ad hominem and baseless attacks on the journals and the authors just shows how very, very lame your position is.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #15)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 09:38 AM

16. Interesting that you accuse others of ad hominem attacks.

You're the one that can't reply to straightforward objections and instead resort to "pathetic".

"analysis" that projects nuclear as a significant part of the solution to climate change does exactly what the OP does - it skips over the part where the need for nuclear is established

Nonsense. It "skips over" it in exactly the same way that renewables proposals do. IOW... it doesn't. It isn't a "need for nuclear" or a "need for renewables". The two needs are always the same:

1 - Provide for the power needs of society
2 - Deal with climate change

All proposals for substantial new clean generation capacity start off with those two assumptions.

Resorting to ad hominem and baseless attacks on the journals and the authors

I have done neither. The cited article is, in fact, published in an almost-unheard-of publication with little relevance to the topic at hand (apart from the aspect that deals with battery storage)... and the two schools involved are not exactly at the forefront of energy research or analysis. They aren't MIT or even Stanford.

That's not ad-hominem. It correctly points out that their opinion hardly represents some groundbreaking proof that your position has been correct all along. I can see why you would like it to be something significant... but it simply isn't. Sorry.

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Response to FBaggins (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 10:58 AM

17. I'm still waiting for you to provide a "straightforward objection"

All you've done so far is throw out a series of false arguments that have nothing to do with any of the content.
BTW, Journal of Power sources is a well respected publication in that field and one of the co-authors of that paper is a world renowned leader in the transition away from carbon who has already had a major impact on the shape of electric policy in the country. The fact that you try to belittle their works says worlds about you and absolutely nothing about the work itself.

ETA: Your conclusion about what their work shows is as shallow and self serving as everything else you've written on the topic:
In the 99.9% case, using fossil generation to fill the gaps in the remaining 0.1% of hours (9 h year−1) requires maintaining less than half of today's legacy generation capacity, with that capacity producing only 0.017% of the energy needed for load. Thus, further pollution-reduction will provide scant motivation to retire old fossil generation. However, maintaining old fossil plant may be uneconomic if rarely used, in which case, other existing mechanisms—such as demand management, interruptible rates, or preloading storage from lower capacity fossil—could be used to retire old fossil plants.



http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759

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