Thursday, March 08, 2012

“You had better adopt nuclear energy”

BiblisRep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) wants you (or, really, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whom he was addressing at a hearing) to know:

“Fifty percent of our electricity is produced by coal, 20 percent by nuclear power. Yet, when I look at your budget, I look at huge increases in renewable energy funding, which makes up only a small portion of our energy portfolio and cuts in the other area that’s producing most the electricity and frankly I’m disappointed,” Simpson said. “Seems to me like there is an agenda of trying to push green technology, when I think nuclear energy is green technology … you’re really going to address global climate change, you had better adopt nuclear energy and it doesn’t seem like we’re doing that in this budget. This is the first time I’ve seen a retrenchment in this administration in advancing nuclear energy. The talk is all there, but the budget doesn’t reflect that.”

Like Rep. Simpson, the industry was disappointed with the 2013 budget request for nuclear energy. Even if one thinks that nuclear energy should take a financial hit as a result of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the response will largely be directed by the industry and regulators. The United States remains committed to nuclear energy and its technological advancement, so imposing a kind of slowdown doesn’t help the country achieve its long term energy goals – Simpson’s main point.

And Simpson’s right – achieving carbon reduction goals on renewables alone would go far more slowly than with nuclear energy in the mix. Though no one is threatening to shutter the American nuclear industry – just the opposite, in fact - slowing progress makes no real sense. What’s that? Did someone say Germany?

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Germany's abrupt change in nuclear policy has put a dent of €1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) in RWE's results for FY2011. It also boosted power prices and raised carbon dioxide emissions, the company said in its annual report to shareholders.

That’s from World Nuclear News. The story is largely about RWE’s earnings report, but there were a few telling tidbits. For example:

Among the figures moving upwards was the amount of carbon dioxide produced by RWE for each unit of electricity. This went up 8.2% from 0.732 to 0.787 tons per MWh "mainly because our Biblis nuclear power station stopped operating," it said.

Rep. Simpson, take note.

RWE linked the nuclear shutdown and a general rise in the cost of fuel to a hike in wholesale power prices. It said that the price of base-load power on the EEX Energy Exchange in 2011 had averaged €51 ($66) per MWh and peaked at around €61 ($80) per MWh. These figures represent increases of 16% and 10% on 2010 figures of €44 and €55 ($57 and $72) per MWh.

And the energy outlook is grim:

Looking ahead, RWE is focusing research and development efforts on carbon capture and storage techniques because, "by the end of 2022, all German nuclear power stations will be offline and the gap they leave cannot be closed by renewable energy and increased electricity imports alone."

Well, maybe CCS will be ready to roll by 2022 – cost and scalability questions still abound - but RWE is really betting the farm on it. And if it’s wrong? Then what does it do?

Germany is shaping up to be quite the case study.

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Scotland would like to shut its two nuclear facilities in favor of CCS, too, and renewables. How? Apparently, by sheer force of will:

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing acknowledged that the government's 100% renewables target has been met with "doubt and skepticism," but said Scotland would rise to these challenges. "I want to debate, engage and co-operate with every knowledgeable, interested and concerned party to ensure we achieve our goals," he said.

To doubt and skepticism, I’d add mirthless laughter.

Germany’s Biblis nuclear energy facility.

5 comments:

jimwg said...

Isn't it funny how all of sudden the media and commercials have totally omitted mentioning that "clean" natural gas is a FOSSIL FUEL and a greenhouse contributor? What an underhanded way to avoid reminding the public that nuclear ISN'T!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

NG is the worst of the worst when it comes to GHG damage to the atmosphere. NG is essentially methane, and one ton of methane released into the air does the same amount of damage as 70 tons of CO2. Just the loss of NG into the air during extraction processes dwarfs entire nuclear lifecycle carbon footprint.

Anonymous said...

It's amusing, but also sad, to sometimes see all this tea party ranting about "the media," as if it were a homogenous whole conspiring against the poor nuclear underdogs, on a message board that usually otherwise hosts cogent discussions, with contributions from nuclear power supporters and opponents.

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the supposed perjorative about "tea party", it is a valid criticism about the media. Today's media is less about objective information and more about pushing an agenda. It is basically free advertising for the anti-nuke kooks. It may not be completely homogeneous, but the media is very strongly concentrated on the kook side.

Anonymous said...

"the media is very strongly concentrated on the kook side"

Gee, with an attitude like that, I can't imagine why the industry sometimes has PR problems.