Monday, March 31, 2008

A Shout Out Over the Fence

Our neighbor here are Blogspot, Rod Adams of Atomic Insights - tops on our blog roll - is currently debating nuclear energy as a viable solution for climate change with Matt, a sustainability consultant who writes regularly for TalkClimateChange. The conversation is happening over at Green Options and promises to be exceptionally broad ranging.

Here's a taster of Rod's opening:

We can build nuclear plants safely and rapidly enough to make a real different in resource availability. During the ten year period between 1975 and 1985, the amount of new energy production from nuclear plants was roughly equivalent to adding about 6 million barrels of oil per day to the world's available energy supply. Note - that is not nameplate "capacity" like you find with wind turbines that are often idle, it is actual production.

And Matt's:

The Royal Academy of Engineering in 2003 ("The Cost of GeneratingElectricity") put gas-fired combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) at 2.2 units of cost, and nuclear at 2.3 units of cost. This does not take into account the savings from district heating. We have at our disposal the knowledge, tools and labour to connect CCGT to district heating today, we just need the political will to do so.

In addition, nuclear requires serious subsidy - the free market would not go near it with a barge pole.

That last sentence is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

We'd say, "May the best man win," but that would sound a little tinny coming from this corner. We know who will win.

PS: If you get the right ad at the top on the Green Option page, you'll learn that Clorox has a new cleaner called Green Works. Not sure it isn't bleach in a bottle with leaves on it, but it certainly suggests the commercial possibilities that have emerged around "greeniness" over the last year or so.

2 comments:

rad_sci_health said...

While increased production is a reasonable measure of the rate and ability of the nuclear industry to develop in the future, it doesn't directly address the applicable history of nuclear power development as to the industry's ability to build adequate capacity in the future. U.S. and world nuclear power construction of operating capacity in the '70s-'80s (with various numbers) are typically used to make this case.

However, we should have a better comparison to include the plants that were manufactured in the relevant period. (15-20 years? also starting with a whole new technology! taking less time to build a plant than it now takes NRC to count the pages in an application based on known/proven technology.)

But plant development must include plants that were ordered (with major long-lead components manufactured/stored) but with construction not completed (e.g., Pilgrim 2 not started) because of reduced power growth rates affecting the need for baseload power, and extreme interest rates/carrying costs due to poorly managed construction. (It wasn't plant concrete and steel constraints that caused the ordered/partially constructed plants to be terminated.) It also needs to include all plants that have been closed.

Last year I couldn't find relevant data on the web (e.g., the gray books), but I would guesstimate that the U.S. manufactured and partially completed roughly twice our operating capacity. The rest of the world also cancelled many such plants (more after Chernobyl than TMI, e.g. Italy, vs. the US).

NEI or WNA should get some industry support to summarize that data (and make it readily available as a "nuclear debate" resource).

Industry and government communications people should have such specific data (and enter comments, and propose changes, as new data and info is identified).

Such specific data/info summaries (without the background data) should be directly accessible to the media for issues in major media communications and policy issues.

Jim Muckerheide

Rod Adams said...

Jim:

As I understand your comment, you are pointing out that the actual production increases underestimate the rate that nuclear power could grow if we put our collective minds and marketing skills to the task.

I fully agree. I point to the completed plant record as an easy to understand metric and know that we can do far better. BTW - we never had an overcapacity issue - we just never got around to realizing that we should be shuttering coal fired power plants as quickly as we built new nuclear plant capacity.

I do not really care what the established energy industry thinks - those plants are hazardous to human health and to the beauty of some wonderful areas of the planet.