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Across the country wind power plans are facing stiff resistance from utility companies, and in some cases locals.  (Source: Treehugger)

The aging power grid is also hindering U.S. wind power efforts, and you'll find little sympathy among the utilities who operate on it.  (Source: University of Chicago)
Companies aren't happy with the success of the alternative energy offering

Wind power is booming in the U.S., which recently seized the world lead in wind power deployment.  Many are excited about the prospect of domestically produced, low-emission power.  Admittedly there are problems -- the potential for property devaluation, minor ecological damage, possible health effects for those living nearby (according to some studies), volatile generation capacity and relatively high costs -- but that's hardly stopped wind power from expanding, especially with government subsidies blowing cash into the pockets of alternative energy firms.

However, some are not as thrilled about wind power and are attacking the government's support of it.  Leading the charge are several power utility groups.  One such group is a coalition of East Coast utility companies calling itself the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy.  They fear that prime wind conditions in the Midwest, combined with government subsidies may make wind power cheaper than coal power.  They're trying to levy additional costs on the wind power producers and roll back the subsidies.

Likewise, natural gas producers and generators in Texas are lobbying the state's government to penalize wind power producers for lulls in generation with fines and by forcing them to pay part of the costs of backup natural gas generators. 

Yet another initiative that's threatening the industry is a measure put forth by U.S. Senators from New York, Ohio, Montana and Pennsylvania which demands that wind developers buying blades, turbines and other components from abroad have their grants cut.  States one of the Senators, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), "It is a no-brainer that stimulus funds should only go to projects that create jobs in the United States rather than overseas."

He argues that the Chinese are profiteering off the U.S.'s wind subsidies, pointing to a Chinese firm that's backing one of the proposed Texas farms.  He and the others reference a study that claims that U.S. renewable energy grants are being dominated by foreign interests.

The American Wind Energy Association, backed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, disputes the facts in that study.  They point to the 85,000 jobs the wind industry has created in the U.S.  In addition, they point to increased production efforts in the U.S., stating, "In three years, we went from two turbine manufacturers with facilities in the U.S. to nine, and four more have announced plans for factories here."

Secretary Chu reasons, "You do not want to stop these projects if two-thirds is American and one-third is foreign."

Overall the picture for wind energy's future in the U.S. is murky.  There's a wealth of alternative energy legislation and measures on the local, state, and federal levels, but much controversy over these measures.  At stake are billions of dollars of power revenue and billions of dollars in alternative energy installations.  Even if wind can prevail against its opponents, it may have trouble overcoming an even more dangerous foe -- the U.S.'s decrepit power grid.

Some, including President Obama, have suggested that nuclear energy may be an acceptable substitute for wind in terms of producing clean and domestically-fueled energy.  However, there's little doubt that if wind falls flat and nuclear charges ahead that the same big interests will attack the government's plans to back nuclear energy start ups.

The key questions facing America is whether expensive change, be it nuclear or wind, is needed on the energy front.  The major utilities argue that the answer is no, while others say the answer is obviously yes.  The second major question is if it is indeed time for change, what kinds of power should be embraced.  You'll find no consensus on that topic.


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Pratical solutions needed
By DrKlahn on 3/9/2010 3:39:56 PM , Rating: 5
Wind is clean power, but it isn't practical. News flash the wind does not blow all the time. Which means there needs to be redundant infrastructure to ensure the grid is up at all times. Nuclear is cheaper power and dependable power. There is no reason why we shouldn't be implementing it.




RE: Pratical solutions needed
By smackababy on 3/9/2010 3:57:14 PM , Rating: 4
The reason is we need to upgrade the power grid. With a more reliable power grid, nuclear power would be way more attractice. Currently, the major disadvantage to nuclear power is they would have to be closer to the consumers. People have the "not in my backyard" mentality due to a freak accident in Chernobyl from faulty design.

I'm all for nuclear power. In fact, I applaud Obama for including it in a speech he made. Too bad I can't applaud him for actually doing anything other than making speeches and spending money.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Ahnilated on 3/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 4:12:13 PM , Rating: 5
You seem to be missing the fact that, despite an aggregate total of more than 5,000 reactor-years of operation, no commercial nuclear power plant in the US has ever exposed a civilian (or even a worker) to a dangerous level of radiation.

These media-manufactured incidents are meaningless. A "leak" that is less radioactive than the granite used to build Grand Central Station is frightening only the scientifically ignorant.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Spuke on 3/9/2010 4:37:56 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
A "leak" that is less radioactive than the granite used to build Grand Central Station is frightening only to the ignorant.
Fixed that for you.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Solandri on 3/10/2010 9:22:58 AM , Rating: 5
I'll add that commercial wind power generation has had a half dozen operation/maintenance fatalities in the U.S. despite its minuscule contribution to the country's energy production. Nuclear has had zero while contributing ~20% of the nation's electricity.
http://www.wind-works.org/articles/BreathLife.html

Here's the latest one I found:
http://ohsonline.com/articles/2008/03/oregon-osha-...


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By quiksilvr on 3/9/2010 7:36:07 PM , Rating: 2
There are several steps that need to be taken in order to solve the glaring problems in our current power infrastructure:
1) The easiest and simplest way to pave the way for the future infrastructure is to cut down the current power we are using. Proper housing insulation is a major MAJOR step. You'd be surprised how much money is lost when windows, doors and water heaters in the house are not properly sealed. And of course energy efficient lighting and air conditioner filtering is a big plus as well.
2) Nuclear power is another major boost, but there are several issues with that.
a. Properly trained personnel. Wind power is expensive but you don't need individuals highly trained as nuclear power requires. Not saying it's impossible, it's just a step that needs to be addressed.
b. Proper storage of nuclear waste. Where will it be stored? How is it contained. If a leak happens, what will be done to contain that leak? This is a major MAJOR hurdle to climb and where everyone's eyes are looking at.
3) VAWTs (vertical axis wind turbines) are much MUCH more effective than today's HAWTs (horizontal axis wind turbines). They need less wind speed to get going, you don't have to point them in any particular direction, maintenance is easier since the motors and gears are near the ground, they are cheaper and safer than HAWTs, and they can be placed much closer together than HAWTs. They may be less efficient, but more research is remedying that and these can easily be placed on roofs.

IMO, a combination of wind and solar power would be ideal for households and nuclear power for the city (businesses, skyscrapers, etc.).

Coal is a great solution too, but I feel the jobs are too dangerous for the workers and an unnecessary waste of life when we already have nuclear and (according to this article) a cheaper wind solution. Their jobs can easily be transferred to develop VAWTs (cleaning up the fields for construction, transportation, cleaning and maintenance of turbines, etc.) or even nuclear energy (transportation, digging up containment areas for waste, etc.)


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By gamerk2 on 3/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 8:23:57 PM , Rating: 5
"Nuclear power requires Uranium. The prime exporter is Nigeria, which is less stable then most middle east countries."

No. Canada and Australia are the primary producers of uranium. The US also has substantial deposits; we've simply chosen to not use them.

In any case, using just the excess Pu the US already has from derated nuclear weapons, we could power our energy needs for the next several hundred years.

"Upgrade the power grid. That alone could cut costs 20%"

Nonsense. Line losses in the US average about 7.5%. Even if you could build a zero-cost superconducting grid, you couldn't save more than that.

"if you slap a solar panel on every new house constructed up front, you fix the above 3 issues instantly"

Incorrect again. The sun doesn't always shine...and even when it does, a $3500 solar panel is going to provide about 600 watts -- about 1/3 of what one single blowdryer requires.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Mathos on 3/9/2010 8:52:26 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, but that 600w from a single panel could power, say your PC, or laptop, Your entertainment system, since most LCD TV's don't use huge amounts of power. Or even most of the lights in your house, easily doable while using CFL or LED lighting. If your gonna do Solar properly on a house you do panels on both easterly and westerly sides of the roof, or depending on where you are Southerly sides.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By JediJeb on 3/10/2010 11:57:29 AM , Rating: 5
But without a bank of batteries what good would the solar panel be for lighting your home with efficient bulbs at night?

Also to use solar, you can't have trees shading your house, which would increase the need for electricity to cool the house in summer. The lack of shade in summer would probably nullify the advantage of the solar panel just by the greater heating effect on the house from lack of shade.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By sdoorex on 3/10/10, Rating: 0
RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 3:08:57 PM , Rating: 3
"they absorb a large amount of solar energy, even if they only convert a small portion of it. This leave very little to cause heat for your household."

Huh? Thermodynamics doesn't work like this. Whatever heat a black panel absorbs will heat your home just as thoroughly as the same amount of heat absorbed by a roof tile. In fact, I'd bet the lower albedo of the panel more than compensates for the 15-20% of impinging solar flux that is converted into electricity.

" With a storage system, power can be available en-mass at night for power, heating, and eventually electric vehicles"

The problem is that we don't have the ability to build a storage system capable of storing the vast amounts of energy needed to power entire cities all night long. The closest thing we can get to that is pumped hydro...but that requires a conveniently nearby hydroelectric dam, if you want to store more than a tiny amount of energy.

"It does have losses because of inefficiency"

Most of the losses of such a system aren't due to pumping or conversion inefficiencies, but simple evaporative losses from the water itself.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By sdoorex on 3/10/2010 5:25:47 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Huh? Thermodynamics doesn't work like this. Whatever heat a black panel absorbs will heat your home just as thoroughly as the same amount of heat absorbed by a roof tile. In fact, I'd bet the lower albedo of the panel more than compensates for the 15-20% of impinging solar flux that is converted into electricity.


Solar panels do not sit directly on the roof of a household, at least not here in Colorado. They are usually elevated a couple of inches on a bracket system. This leaves an air gap for the panels to radiate heat to the air, not the house. They have to be able to do this radiation of heat, or the panel would be damaged and would no longer operate property. Thermodynamics would apply, if the panels were directly on the roof because they would have a conductor. I am sure that if you are bringing thermodynamics into this, you also understand that air is a bad conductor of heat, without the proper radiator design. Also, when I was talking about hybrid panels in my earlier post, here is more info on them http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=h... These would transfer the heat captured by the black panels to water for heating or energy generating purposes.

quote:
The problem is that we don't have the ability to build a storage system capable of storing the vast amounts of energy needed to power entire cities all night long. The closest thing we can get to that is pumped hydro...but that requires a conveniently nearby hydroelectric dam, if you want to store more than a tiny amount of energy.


We actually do have the ability to store that amount of energy with man made lakes and ponds, if we use mountainous regions properly. One system currently in place outside of Georgetown, CO use 2 ponds totaling about 86,118,120 cubic feet and provides 324MW on demand. This rivals many coal power plant reactors and is actually a fairly small facility. [Warning PDF]http://www.cde.state.co.us/artemis/gov11/gov112h99... Granted, for a place like say Detroit or the central US, this wouldn't work very well since it's in a flat region. This would require more development in and building of HVDC long range transmission lines, which are already quite efficient.

quote:
Most of the losses of such a system aren't due to pumping or conversion inefficiencies, but simple evaporative losses from the water itself.


That is one of the inefficiencies of the system. I didn't mean simply pumping or generating losses. I also mean evaporation, seepage, and transmission.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 7:23:12 PM , Rating: 3
"This leaves an air gap for the panels to radiate heat to the air, not the house"

Fair enough. I didn't consider that factor.

"We actually do have the ability to store that amount of energy with man made lakes and ponds, if we use mountainous regions properly. One system currently in place outside of Georgetown, CO..."

Cabin Creek? I'm familiar with the installation. Nice technology. The only problems are that environmentalists tend to be even more rabidly against hydro than other sources, and b) if you're considering this in conjunction with solar power, the capital costs and pumping losses wind up making solar even more astronomically expensive than it already is.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By sdoorex on 3/11/2010 2:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Cabin Creek? I'm familiar with the installation. Nice technology. The only problems are that environmentalists tend to be even more rabidly against hydro than other sources, and b) if you're considering this in conjunction with solar power, the capital costs and pumping losses wind up making solar even more astronomically expensive than it already is.


Those tend to be the extreme environmentalists. Though I'd like to call them regressionists, since they want society to regress to a lower state of technology use. I consider my self to be an environmentalist, but not only to protect the environment for our society and future generations, but to also lead a sustainable culture that is self reliant. A large part of why I support electric vehicles, nuclear power, and mass transit is because it would allow our country to be reliant to itself and not require oil from countries of dubious intent.

Quite right, it would be very expensive, like any major roll out of any type would be. That's why solar wouldn't be one of the mainstay sources, but a supplemental source to be rolled out as the technology get's cheaper. Large scale solar/solar-thermal installs can rival the Kw H costs of a coal plant. Here is more info on it: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLJ3118552009042...

This technology will eventually be able to be scaled for use on personal and business properties so that large areas are needed for the installs. The main purpose of these installs would be to supplement the system for the use of an electrified transportation system. Or at least, that is how I would design the system.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/11/2010 2:13:59 PM , Rating: 3
" I consider my self to be an environmentalist"

You may consider yourself one, but the people leading the environmental groups, giving the speeches, writing the letters, leading the protests, have a different view. They're the ones setting the direction for the environmental movement...and that direction is very much at odds with yours.

" Large scale solar/solar-thermal installs can rival the Kw H costs of a coal plant."

I'm sorry, but this isn't even close to correct. Every large-scale solar plant in actual operation has cost between 3-5X as much per Kwh for power during the day, and as much as 20-40X more than coal for power delivered at night (due to capital costs and losses for energy storage)

Your link doesn't point to a large-scale installation. It points to a pilot plant that supplies only 30 houses. The per-KWh cost isn't actual operating cost, but an estimate from the company's own CEO. Further, its not actual electricity cost, but rather a "weighted" figure based on the assumption that the hot water it creates would have otherwise been heated with electricity.

Worse of all? It STILL comes out much more expensive than electricity. The 8.6c/KWh figure quoted may sound cheap, but US utilities typically generate for a bit more than half that at the wholesale level. The retail price you pay includes distribution costs, profit, and other items.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By muIIet on 3/10/2010 8:30:01 AM , Rating: 2
Suntech STP 270 watt x 5 = $3,294.00
Total watts = 1620


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:23:26 AM , Rating: 4
For $3,500, more like 3 panels -- plus inverter, cabling, and installation.

Using your quoted panels, that would give you 800 watts...at noon, on a cloudless day. Over a 12-hour day, you can expect to average about 400 watts for your $3500...and 0 watts for the entire night.

That assumes you're not in a high latitude location, of course, and not in an area that experiences many cloudy days.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Oregonian2 on 3/10/2010 2:51:25 PM , Rating: 3
In newspaper articles locally (remember newspapers?) they told stories about locals having solar panels installed for about $3500 which they expected to break even with in about 10 years or so. Thing is, the actual cost of those panels was about $20,000, the $3500 only was the "net" cost to the homeowner before various state and federal subsidies. Although to the homeowner that's the number to use, in terms of energy policy it seems that the $20K is the real number (and it doesn't look so good).


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Veerappan on 3/10/2010 4:42:09 PM , Rating: 2
Alright, so let's assume your 400W average during daylight hours is correct, which means 200W average over a 24 hour period.

200W * 24H = 4800WHr = 4.8Kw*h

So 4.8Kwh generation per day. The last power bill I looked at, I was paying $0.24 per Kwh (generation + delivery + taxes/etc).

4.8Kwh/day * (0.24 $/kwh) = $1.152/day (payback rate)

Now, given that $3500 for purchase/installation:
$3500 / ($1.152/day) = 3038 days to recoup costs
3038 days / (365days/year) = 8.32 years to break even.

I'm assuming that the $3500 price includes any expected tax credits in the cost, but if not, you might cut that 8.3 years down a bit more.

If it turns out that your power company bills based on total KwH consumed at the end of the month (some do, others sometimes will buy excess daytime generation and bill you for night-time consumption), the installation of these panels would pay themselves off in less than 9 years. If I lived in a location where I could average that 200W throughout a day, I'd seriously consider this investment. As it is, I live in a more northern climate, so this doesn't make as much sense for me (and I don't own the house yet...).


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 4:58:27 PM , Rating: 2
"The last power bill I looked at, I was paying $0.24 per Kwh "

You're paying over twice the national average then. No state in the union pays .24 per Kwh except Hawaii:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table...

Your payback period also ignores maintenance/repair and cleaning, and the reduced power output the panel will see over time.

Finally, as I said in the original post, that 400w average is for ideal locations, such as the Southwestern US. In other areas, your average output will be lower (much lower in subprime areas).


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By menace on 3/10/2010 5:50:31 PM , Rating: 2
He was probably dividing his kwh use by total bill. Your total bill is not just a fixed rate per kwh it is a base charge plus the rate charge. If you go a month on vacation with no power use you don't pay a $0 bill.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By menace on 3/10/2010 5:52:26 PM , Rating: 2
Which reminds me of another point, if you install solar panels but still require grid backup it effectively increases the rate of what you draw from the grid due to the base charge becoming a more dominant factor in your bottom line price per kwh.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By ekv on 3/10/2010 4:31:49 AM , Rating: 2
"Nuclear power requires Uranium"

Actually, no. Check out the "Thorium fuel cycle"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle
Also,
http://www.nacworldwide.com/Links/Thorium-Fuel.htm
and
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html
[btw, see the chart 'Estimated world thorium resources' where Australia has 19% and U.S. is second with 15%]
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_Salt_Reactor

"Startup costs requires government funding to actually build plants"

Again, no. While funding for research certainly helps, the nuclear power plants I'm aware of are funded by corporations (with publicly traded stock).


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By randomly on 3/10/2010 9:31:38 AM , Rating: 3
1: Upgrading the power grid is expensive and you have to amortize that cost over the power generated. You can get some efficiency improvement but the costs will probably outweigh the gains and the overall effect would be an increase in costs not a reduction. However an upgraded grid is a needed piece of infrastructure and we need to build it regardless.
2: Nigeria is a red herring, whatever they do or don't do will have little effect on the world uranium market.
3: What you've heard in the news is not government funding, but government loan guarantees. Private industry is willing to pay for nuclear plants but they are skittish about operational delays due to legal challenges or other reasons. Because the capital costs of Nuclear is so high an effective tactic by anti-nuclear interests is to just keep the reactor from going online by court challenges and bleed the companies to death. The loan guarantees are there to give private industry enough confidence in making such huge investments, not to pay for the reactors.

Slapping solar panels on houses to solve the energy crisis is an unrealistic myth. Not only is the cost of solar power 3-5x current costs but there is the unresolved energy storage issue. Most people don't understand the magnitude of our energy requirements. In the US the average total daily energy consumption per person is ~250 Kwh. That's 10,000 watts 24/7/365 required PER PERSON. A family of four would require 2 acres of solar collectors to offset their total energy requirements. That's even assuming you had an energy storage system that was 100% efficient and free. Energy storage is unfortunately neither very efficient nor inexpensive.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By randomly on 3/10/2010 12:34:40 AM , Rating: 5
There are good reasons why VAWT aren't used. They've been around for decades and are outperformed by HAWT. Wind turbines have been highly optimized over the decades and it's not accidental they all ended up with 3 bladed HAWT on solid masts.

VAWT have several draw backs including stress failures due to blade and mast wake turbulence, and very high stress on the rotational joint at the bottom because the wind loading is on a huge lever arm at right angles to the axis of rotation. In other words it's difficult to make them so they don't fail catastrophically in the field.

But probably the largest drawback is that the swept area starts near the ground where the wind speed is the slowest and most variable, and the energy density the lowest.

This is one of the primary reasons why wind turbines are tending to larger and larger blade diameters on taller and taller towers. The higher up you go the higher the average windspeed and the higher the capacity factor (% of time when the turbine can generate power).

Capacity factor is everything, because the more intermittent it is, the more backup power generation you have to build and operate, the slower you can amortize the cost of your wind turbines and power lines which raises the cost of your power, and the lower value your power has on the market. From an overall grid point of view installing 1 Billion watts of wind generators only increases your available generation capacity by about 80 megawatts, or 8%, due to intermittency.

The highly variable and unreliable nature of the wind is the real Achilles heal of wind power. Low Capacity factor is the bane of wind turbines. Intermittent power has low value to customers. Here in Texas, a big wind power state, at times wind farms have actually been PAYING customers up to 0.3 cents per Kwh to take their power so they can get the 1.9 cent/kwh government subsidy, tax right offs, and REC certificates.
For every megawatt of wind power you install, you essentially must also install a megawatt of backup power generation which you have to pay for, operate and maintain. There is no efficient and economical energy storage technology yet, other than pumped hydro. Pairing up wind turbines with Hydro power works well but with wind turbine capacity factors only around 25% that means you need 4 parts hydro to 1 part wind capacity. That's means only a 25% capacity increase over your hydro capacity. Hydro capacity is quite limited.

Residential sized wind turbines just never pay for themselves in their lifetimes. I don't expect that will change much in the next 10 years.

Solar has similar intermittency problems to Wind. It does have a big advantage that it's power generation (baring weather) aligns with daytime peak demand so it can contribute a larger portion of total capacity without energy storage or backup power. The drawback is that it is much more expensive, and the cost of solar power is much higher. At an average of 5 watts per square meter of land area it also takes up an enormous amount of space.

Wind and solar can certainly contribute something to our energy capacity, but I have not seen any proposals that make economic sense past about a 20% energy share even including projected cost reductions and efficiency improvements. There is no one good magic solution. A workable system will require a whole variety of energy technologies.

We need to be developing high temperature molten salt reactors. They have the potential to address the nuclear waste issue, limited water resources, and long term fuel supply. They certainly are deserving of some serious research and development money and effort.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Dorkyman on 3/11/2010 10:56:38 AM , Rating: 2
Nice summary.

I love it when logic prevails over knee-jerk "green" belief systems. Right now the current US administration is very much in bed with the wind people, and are saying one thing about nukes (build more) in public but behind the scenes are intentionally making it very difficult to actually do so (WSJ, 10 Mar).


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Jaybus on 3/10/2010 8:33:58 AM , Rating: 2
A quick look at capacity by energy source at the US EIA shows there are 1445 coal plants with a capacity of 337,300 MW, whereas there are 104 nuclear stations with a capacity of 106,147 MW. About 50% of electricity comes from coal and about 20% from nuclear. It would take 4 to 5 coal plants to replace a nuclear plant. How many windmills would it take?

In one second of bright sunlight, a one square meter surface receives 1 kJ. A one square meter silicon photovoltaic cell is about 20% efficient, so would produce 200 W in continuous bright sunshine. So an active area 1 km wide and 5 km long could produce the equivalent of a nuclear plant when the Sun is shining brightly. Not that unthinkable until you consider that the entire World's production of silicon wafers is just over 5 square km. It would take over 300 years of the entire World's current silicon wafer production to replace the coal plants in just the US.

As for the nuclear waste, there have been no storage sites approved in the US yet. All spent rods accumulated over the past 50 years are still stored on site. They are indeed radioactive, but there isn't that many of them. We could expect any new plants to have storage for 50 years as well. Also, we wouldn't want to just get rid of them. There are ways to recycle spent rods.

I'm all for cheap clean energy, but right now nuclear seems the only practical means. We should continue to research wind and solar while we build nuclear plants.

As for not relying only on domestic energy sources for electricity, well, the US doesn't use much imported fuel for electrical production. Only a small amount is produced from petroleum. The coal is domestic, as is the natural gas and nuclear. The only way to reduce dependence on petroleum is to replace gasoline and diesel cars. If they are replaced with electric motors, then there will have to be much more electricity production. Again, nuclear seems the only viable means at this time. President Obama's decision to build nuclear plants while supporting research into alternatives is really the only decision possible.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By randomly on 3/10/2010 10:54:32 AM , Rating: 2
The reality is not nearly as optimistic as your rough estimate.

Taking a real world example of the 14 Megawatt photovoltaic installation at Nellis AFB which was completed 2 years ago.

Peak power output is 155.6 Watts / sq meter of collector area.
Average daily power output is only 31 Watts / sq meter of collector area.
It takes 6.33 sq meters of land for every square meter of collector.
Average power output per land area is only 5 W/ sq meter.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:59:50 AM , Rating: 3
"Average power output per land area is only 5 W/ sq meter."

It's even worse than that, if you actually want power when the sun isn't shining. You then have to factor in conversion losses to store the energy in some form, and losses again to recover it.

High-efficiency batteries are far too expensive for such a task, and systems like molten-salt heat storage wind up wasting 50% or more the energy stored.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Hiawa23 on 3/10/2010 3:06:35 PM , Rating: 1
It's topics like this that make me wonder why the US had had decades to improve the energy grid become much self sufficient for energy & fuel yet we find ourselves where we are. The supposed greatest country ever. Why has this not been a priority? Looks to me there is no quick fix for this problem, & looks like gas prices are trickling back up which will contiunue to batter the middle class, poor & businesses in an already bad economy.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 4:40:56 PM , Rating: 5
I'd also like to add that, each and every day, US coal plants release more radioactivity into the air and water than the combined total of all 'leaks' US reactors have had since 1950.

And they'll do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that again. All from the uranium, radium, and thorium found naturally in coal ash.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By mcnabney on 3/9/2010 4:51:50 PM , Rating: 5
I would be a whole lot more worried about the massive quantities of mercury that comes from coal power generation.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 8:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
Most definitely, that is why I am highly curious about China in 10 and 20 years from now. If I was paid to do the data collection and research there, I would gladly opt to do so. I just hate the "idea" that things are not going to look pretty for China with some of the beautiful landscapes there.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 4:07:20 PM , Rating: 5
"Wind is clean power, but it isn't practical..."

Compared to nuclear, wind isn't even that clean. To build enough of these 30-story tall towers to power the nation would require diverting a majority of the entire world's steel production, as well as gargantuan amounts of concrete, copper, and other resources. Then do it all over again in 30 years, when the turbines wear out.

To construct, nuclear plants use about 1/5 the concrete and 1/10 the steel as wind, per MWh generated. Plus they last 2-3 times as long.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By bigbrent88 on 3/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: Pratical solutions needed
By clovell on 3/9/2010 5:32:10 PM , Rating: 3
Nah, Nuclear hasn't been built because licenses haven't been granted. Not too different from domestic Oil Refineries. All those other things you talked about are factors, too - but they can be overcome.

Efficiency and transmission are great things to work on, too - don't get me wrong, but - well, how in the hell do you enforce the use of CFLs?


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 8:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
Because obtaining the license IS a pain the the *ss some of the 40 or some companies are requesting extensions instead. This is not something I support as we don't know the conditions of these plants. Surely after years of operations there are bound to be issues if not only due to age/time. On the other hand, starting a new plant is costly, even at times more so than initially estimated.

I don't know the answers to this issue and can only hope that whomever is involved will decide carefully.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 8:16:32 PM , Rating: 4
" This is not something I support as we don't know the conditions of these plants"

Come now. Nuclear plants are inspected continually; they even do operations such as sophisticated x-ray imaging scans and remote-control robotic camera inspection on a regular basis.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 8:43:15 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, they do despite continued discussions with "out dated" structures/parts/etc. Here's an example for you, and this is real.

NASA and Being comes into a company to inspect a motor they are buying. A motor used as a backup for planes, including jet planes. "Inpsections" were performed and things are well in order, everything continues on. Everyone had a good time.

However, and this is a big however, I as the Mfg/QA Engineer at the company refused to sign paperwork to allow the motor/actuator to leave the company due to shty and often times non-functional conditions. The yield is 20%, fcking 20% mind you AND I'm right in the middle of the root cause analysis. So in order to sell these motors for revenue they skip me entirely. The plant manager, GM and top executives all approved even though the lead design engineer and I verbally opposed the decision.

That inspection by NASA and Boeing representatives above was done with a party held by the company with no contact whatsoever with the product in any shape or form. Not even paperwork was observed. I had the same dealings with FCC as well. Take the guy to golf, bar, etc and paperwork is all done...nice and clean.

And while I don't mean to say this happens all the time, they do happen. And if some of the plants are in good shape, why are they being replaced/shutdown and not re-use. If anything, recent discussions on this matter should prove otherwise that things are not in tip-top shape.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By ekv on 3/10/2010 4:52:35 AM , Rating: 4
Locally, there is a group that dogs the freaking hell out of the nuclear power plant operators. Call the group "MF'rs". They are non-profit. They are rabid. They are flaming Liberals in the worst sense of that word. They have gone so far as to groom spies that work at the plant. I know them. Personally.

If there is anything out of compliance with NRC rules, these MF'rs [and their team of lawyers] know about it practically before management does. And they will call the NRC to let them know about it and that it will be an agenda item at the next hearing. Then the local newspaper is running a front-page story ["reporters" have been groomed]. Etc.

The local nuclear power plant has done quite well despite the incessant (internecine?) interference. The plant continues to make a decent profit. The design is over 40 years old. Upgrades continue on a regular basis and the operating life has been slightly extended.

I think it is time to say, "enough is enough." Nuclear is safe. New designs are available. Safety is proven. Profits are proven. What else is there?


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 8:54:27 PM , Rating: 2
Two articles for reference, of which the first I know to be highly expensive. I spend close to 100k just for data acquisition systems (PCs, electronics, etc.) alone for testing wind turbines, one at a time.

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/login.jsp?url=ht...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/business/global/...


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By mino on 3/11/2010 7:11:59 PM , Rating: 3
It is not that simple.

Usually what has a limited lifespan and need replacing are the non-nuclear components. They were well known and as such quality-assured to last 40 years AND not much more than that.

However on all 1st gen and most 2nd gen designs the nuclear parts were HEAVILY overengineered.

For instance, in a plant near my town, after 30 yrs of operation if was found that the wear level of the reactor housing is 10% of the originally projected wear !!!

Basically the parameters of the steel were measured as within production tolerances of a new casing.
Nuclear parts of most current plants are good to go another 100 yrs.
What however needs to be replaced(if it was not already) are the non-nuclear parts like turbogens, transmission systems, controll systems etc. etc. Lie on any conventional plant, basically.

That is why everybody from the field is talking so much about 3+ gen plants being cheaper than the older plants.
We know have 50 yrs worth of knowledge from long-term operation and wear behavior. There is no longer a requirement to over-engineer.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By DrKlahn on 3/9/2010 5:33:24 PM , Rating: 3
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_gla...

Quite a few of those plants seem to be commissioned in the 60's or 70's with a valid license today.The closest one to where I live was commissioned in the early 70's with a valid license into the early 2030's.

I have no problems improving the grid either, but I Google'd 4 plants at random in that list and could find no signs of major failures or overhauls that would make me doubt longevity.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By TerranMagistrate on 3/9/2010 5:40:51 PM , Rating: 3
I think his point is that the nuclear alternative requires far less resources to produce far more energy than wind turbines could ever hope to generate. From that perspective, nuclear power plants might as well be considered to last five times as long based on material costs alone when compared to wind farms and the transmission infrastructure needed to connect them to the grid.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 7:24:45 PM , Rating: 3
I wasn't even accounting for excess transmission infrastructure needed. A power generation source needs roughly the inverse of its AF (available factor) in excess grid capacity. Nuclear, Hydro, Coal, all run AF's of about 90-95%, meaning they need little excess capacity.

Windpower, however, runs about a 30% AF, meaning it needs 3X the grid capacity per MWh generated. That's why proposals such as the "Pickens Plan" needed $10B in new transmission lines, not even counting the (much larger) cost of the wind turbines themselves.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 8:11:22 PM , Rating: 2
Yes indeed. I just like to add that the proposal for the wind farm here in San Diego country suggested building near the town/city and locals are having issues with it. The reason is proximity of the power lines/grid. Of course, cost was never mention by the company as the reason.

Darn it I mentioned Wind farm and san diego, going to get rated down for sure! :P


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By rcc on 3/10/2010 2:50:38 PM , Rating: 2
Wind generators in SD, is like wave generators in Lake Havasu; sure, occasionally you get some, but I'd hate to depend on it.

Some of the mountain passes have passable wind, but only just.

And 90% of the time in San Diego, when the sun goes down, so does the wind.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By randomly on 3/10/2010 12:54:51 AM , Rating: 3
Modern nuclear plants typically have a design life of 40 years. That only corresponds to the minimum expected lifespan of the reactor. They are re-evaluated every 10 years. Pretty much all the equipment except the reactor vessel can be replaced as needed. The lifespan of the reactor depends primarily on the reactor vessel and how it degrades due to the heavy neutron bombardment. Most US reactors are currently being recertified for 60 years, and projections indicate 80 years or more may be possible for some.

Life extension is not a simple process and diligence to safety standards and regulations is required (like all aspects of nuclear power) but it can certainly be done safely.

I think your data must be dated and referring to early designs.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By namechamps on 3/10/2010 8:44:03 AM , Rating: 1
You found reactors not lasting 60 years?

You didn't look hard (or likely at all).

Try here:
http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/

Some examples.

Surry 1 original license was issued in 1972. It was to expire in 2002. It has been extended to 2032.
http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/sur1.html

North Anna 1
Original License Issue: 1978
Original License Expire: 2008
Licenses Extended: 2038
http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/na1.html

Falling apart after 20 years? Come on man. Some reactors have been shutdown early but the vast majority had 30 to 40 year licenses. Given they were built in 1960-1970s had those licenses not been extended we would have NO nuclear power in this country today.

We haven't built a reactor in over 20 years so by definition every single reactor in the United States is 21+ years old.

Power companies are decommissioning nuclear plants? Hardly. Once built (past nimbism and the greenpeace idiots) they are massively profitable. Average capacity factor in US is 92% (meaning power plant is generating $$$$ 92% of the time year after year after year for decades straight. The ONLY time reactors are decommissioned is when they finally (after 40 to 60 years) reach end of life and license is not extended by NRC. Then they are finally shut down but only after utilities exhaust every legal option to keep plant online.

Also who says utilities are not looking to build new plants. 28 plants are currently in approval process. Utilities have spent billions of dollars to comply with requirements of approval process.

There wasn't a single thing factual about your statement.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By MonkeyPaw on 3/9/2010 4:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, there's only so much that wind power can do. The very fact that they work independently of demand is a huge issue. Power plants need to meet peak demands, and wind is about the only facility that might be producing 0 when you need it most. Solar is probably a close second, but at least then excessive demand typically comes on sunny days.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By marvdmartian on 3/9/2010 4:38:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not going to say there's places that never see no wind....but there are some that see an awesome ratio of windy to non-windy days!

Altamont Pass, in California, comes to mind. Probably why there's been a windmill farm there for decades now.

And if they could figure out a way to run the transmission lines from island to island, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska would be another killer place for a wind farm. Relatively decent weather year round (not too warm, not too cold, due to the confluence of the Arctic and the Gulf Stream), but windy days probably number over 300 per year!


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By AssBall on 3/9/2010 4:52:51 PM , Rating: 2
Do you have any incling what it would cost to maintain wind farms up there, let alone transmit the power to the lower 48? You might as well build 2 new coal/gas plants up there and run them for 30 years for half the price.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By marvdmartian on 3/10/2010 10:14:37 AM , Rating: 2
Like I said, IF they could figure out how....

And you don't have to transmit the power to the lower 48, just to mainland Alaska. I'm pretty sure they're hooked up to the grid, going through Canada, that would eventually get down to the lower 48. It's all one big grid, remember?

Plus, the idea behind wind power is so that they don't have to pollute the air with more coal burning plants, right?

My question back to you is if you have any inkling as to what the maintenance cost would be? Since you brought it up, do you have hard numbers?


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By DrKlahn on 3/9/2010 5:17:28 PM , Rating: 2
As long as there is a non windy day at all, it must be planned around. Redundancy must be in place. Which makes wind impractical.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By CityZen on 3/9/2010 7:00:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the Aleutian Islands of Alaska would be another killer place for a wind farm. Relatively decent weather year round (not too warm, not too cold, due to the confluence of the Arctic and the Gulf Stream)

First time I hear that the Gulf Stream reaches Alaska ...
Geography knowledge in the USA has gone to the dogs ...


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By marvdmartian on 3/10/2010 10:09:18 AM , Rating: 2
My apologies to your geographical sense.....in fact, I meant the north Pacific current. It's the warm current that comes up the eastern side of Asia, heading north, which meets the cold current coming south from the Arctic, which then mix and head eastward until the hit the western coast of North America and run southward down that coast.

In the Aleutian Islands, this causes a lot of fog, as that warm ocean current and the cold Arctic air come together. It also makes for some wicked, pretty much constant, wind.

Hopefully your dogs are appeased?? ;)


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Aloonatic on 3/10/2010 6:36:30 AM , Rating: 2
I thin that there are parts of the world that it's not such a bad idea to use wind power, but they can't just be thrown up anywhere for sure. For example, I've heard it said that the UK (where I live) is a good place for wind farms, statistically, in certain places. If only there was some way to harness energy from grey clouds. We'd never need to build a coal/gas fired power station again.

The thing is, with these sorts of alternative energy sources, they have to be used in conjunction with other means of gathering energy too, such as wave/tidal and solar as, as you point out, the wind doesn't blow all the time, just as the sun doesn't shine (well, it does, but you knwo what I mean) all the time. I'm not sure how environmentally friendly it is to make all these machines in order to "greenly" gather energy from nature, when they are only working for a certain percentage of time at best, compared to just one normal/traditional power-station.

I guess, year on year, these alternative machines are going to get better/more efficient and maybe they will start to be viable in more and more places too?


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Ammohunt on 3/10/2010 2:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
Don't know where you live but where i live near the Pawnee National Grasslands is blows constantly. Consequently Vestas has a huge wind farm not to far north from where i live.


RE: Pratical solutions needed
By Samus on 3/11/2010 11:42:54 AM , Rating: 2
In the majority of the northern states (especially the midwest) wind power makes sense. In the majority of the southern states, solar power is plausable.

But neither work effectively until we do something about the grid, and THAT is where money should go first.


Again, listen and learn
By The0ne on 3/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Again, listen and learn
By Dorkyman on 3/9/2010 4:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
Okay, listened to the NPR audio. Good discussion, but my takeaway is that nukes are extremely worthwhile, and that any issues are easily fixable.

Yucca Mountain is a political issue, and the closure was a political decision. Give the politics a few years, and it will be reopened.

The US public was irrationally freaked by the "China Syndrome" movie. In reality, nukes are extremely safe. Ask France, which uses nukes for about 90% of its electricity needs.

As for wind, they can indeed generate power, but at a cost point that is substantially higher than the present cost of the alternatives. It's a waste of taxpayer money to heavily subsidize wind; the technology is mature.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By HotFoot on 3/9/2010 4:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
I've been to fewer countries with a cleaner feel than Switzerland, which is all nuclear and hydro. Much of the transit works off electricity. In many ways, that's an enviable position to be in. Their economy, while small, isn't nearly so susceptible to fluctuations in the price of a barrel of oil.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By AssBall on 3/9/2010 5:01:16 PM , Rating: 5
Switzerland has 8 million people in an area smaller than Virginia. They have 4 nuclear plants total. Their logistics wont apply over here, unfortunately. We'd need 40 similar plants, nevermind the power transmission nightmare.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By rcc on 3/10/2010 2:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
That's pretty much a non issue. Or rather, it's an issue no matter what you use for power. It's much worse with wind, solar, tidal, etc.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By The0ne on 3/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 4:30:20 PM , Rating: 5
My 'favoritism' of nuclear power lies in the fact that its cheap, clean, reliable, and abundant enough to last to thousands of years. Our economy-- indeed our very modern lifestyle -- relies on effective sources of energy. Wind and solar just don't cut the mustard.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 4:58:55 PM , Rating: 1
At least listen to the link I've provided before we even discuss this topic. I don't want to discuss anything with you if you're just voicing what you think is happening, as you've done in ALL of of few conversations.

You seem intelligent and I would really like for us and others to have a more open minded and informative discussion rather than and shouting match of "this is better..", "this is the only solution" with little regards to the various issues that surrounds the option.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By mcnabney on 3/9/2010 5:03:13 PM , Rating: 3
Actually no, reactors don't run on fairy dust. Even with spent fuel reprocessing and breeder reactors we will run out of uranium too. Might be able to get some more from seawater eventually, but it really shouldn't be treated as an unlimited resource.

We really need everything - but agressive plant/generation construction and drastically improved power lines might actually get us to a non-oil dependant economy. I don't know about you, but if we could trade slightly more expensive power and in exchange develop enough electrical generation and infrastructure to replace car engines we could really send a big F U to the Middle East. It would likely cost a whole lot less in the long haul than the two wars that we are funneling money into now.

Offshore wind, solar, and nukes on the west coast
Solar in the desert SW
Wind in the midwest
Nukes in the rust belt and south
Offshore wind and nukes on the east coast.

Also, nuclear would be a hell of a lot cheaper if every damn reactor wasn't unique and designed/built from scratch. Why not just make 2-3 full models and build a few dozen from those same basic designs?


RE: Again, listen and learn
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 5:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
Some of your questions are answered in the link I've provided above btw, like why not just have 2-3 instead of variations. So the idea of these small and portable reactors is to power a small city for 8-10 years before being drained, yes they're not unlimited, before recycling for a new one. But the idea is still in the review stages so we'll have to wait and see.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 6:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
"So the idea of these small and portable reactors is to power a small city for 8-10 years before being drained,"

The Hyperion/NuScale model is really for areas that lack infrastructure, like Africa, SE Asia, or parts of Eastern Europe. Larger plants can operate at much lower cost levels. As for them powering "a small city", a large town is more like it...a 25MW reactor is good for about 15-20,000 people (in the US at least).


RE: Again, listen and learn
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 7:53:28 PM , Rating: 1
Don't disagree with you. From the Hyperion CEO comments, "...20 thousand US style homes or 100,000 thousand homes anywhere else..."

Obviously our point is just different in what we consider small city and a town. My reference is from the NPR show. Again, the link.

I could swear I was being practical in providing the link but obviously many hate it and rated me down for whatever reason(s) :) not that I care :P but interesting behavior nonetheless.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By Ammohunt on 3/10/2010 3:05:03 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree since as i understand it alot of power is lost during the transmission process. So the the less distance you have to transmit it the better.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By AssBall on 3/9/2010 5:25:09 PM , Rating: 4
It would likely cost a whole lot less in the long haul than the two wars that we are funneling money into now.


You have to be ignorant to still think the wars in the Middle east are about oil. About One SEVENTH of our imported oil comes from the middle east, and most of that is from Saudia Arabia, who last time I checked we aren't at war with.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_...

We have plenty of our own oil and Uranium to run on for the next century+. And even regulated to death, it is a hell of alot cheaper than offshore wind...


RE: Again, listen and learn
By Iaiken on 3/9/10, Rating: 0
RE: Again, listen and learn
By AssBall on 3/9/2010 8:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
Because Haliburton would have NO interest in building a pipeline in Iraq before they decided to ivade Kuwait and commit cultural genocide. Haliburton fully supports radical dictatorships. And remember there is no oil there or anything that Haliburton would be interested in. It's only a major international importer and refiner.

Think for yourself for a change, or please keep your conspiracies AND your cookies to your self.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By thurston on 3/9/2010 9:07:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We have plenty of our own oil and Uranium to run on for the next century+.


Why are people so eager to use our own oil? It would be much more advantageous for the US to use up everyone else's oil before we use our own.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By tim851 on 3/10/2010 7:47:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Why are people so eager to use our own oil? It would be much more advantageous for the US to use up everyone else's oil before we use our own.


It's not "our" own. The American oil industry isn't nationalized like that of Norway. For the American people, it really doesn't matter where Exxon gets the oil from.

But for Exxon it does matter, because they have access to U.S. oil while the OPEC countries are more and more reluctant to grant access to foreign companies. Understandably.

So Exxon likes to make money NOW with U.S. oil instead of "maybe in 50 years", when the rest of the world has run dry and American oil becomes more valuable.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By thurston on 3/10/2010 5:42:38 PM , Rating: 2
If it is not "owned" (maybe controlled is a better word) by the US government then why does the government have to approve the drilling.

quote:
instead of "maybe in 50 years"


Why would they maybe make money in 50 years, do you really think no one will want oil then?


RE: Again, listen and learn
By FITCamaro on 3/9/2010 7:12:19 PM , Rating: 2
With reprocessing we have enough fuel for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We will most likely perfect fusion in the next 50.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 7:21:41 PM , Rating: 1
Using nothing but breeder reactors and uranium extraction from seawater (both technologies we already possess), we have enough fuel to power all our energy needs for the next one billion years, even assuming double current usage:

http://www.sustainablenuclear.org/PADs/pad11983coh...

As calculated by Dr. Bernard Cohen, Prof Nuclear Physics, U. Pittsburgh.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By FITCamaro on 3/9/2010 9:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
What does that guy know though?


RE: Again, listen and learn
By TETRONG on 3/10/2010 2:00:47 AM , Rating: 2
He's able to predict our energy needs a billion years on?

Yeah, I didn't think so.
I don't think I need to point out the inherent stupidity of what you're saying.

Do you honestly believe humans will be relegated to this planet in one billion years!?!


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:18:23 AM , Rating: 2
Since you're too obtuse to understand without assistance, the point was that there is enough uranium on earth to consider nuclear power an essentially infinite, renewable source.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By thurston on 3/10/2010 5:52:45 PM , Rating: 2
That guy makes a few assumptions and the paper was written in 1983, a lot has changed since then. You should find a better source.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 7:19:36 PM , Rating: 2
"That guy makes a few assumptions..."

What assumptions do you disagree with?

"...and the paper was written in 1983"

So? Do you think the concentration of uranium in seawater has changed since then?

I think you simply don't want to face facts. Even excluding uranium extraction from seawater, using nothing but breeder reactors and reprocessing, we have sufficient uranium for several thousand years. Throw thorium into the mix, and the figure rises to 10,000+ years.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By randomly on 3/10/10, Rating: 0
RE: Again, listen and learn
By Ranari on 3/9/2010 6:01:32 PM , Rating: 3
I think the #1 problem with viewing wind as an energy source potential, although overlooked, is the idea that wind is unlimited. While it taps into an enormous energy potential, you put enough wind turbines in an area, and suddenly there isn't going to be much wind anymore. Simple physics; wind is a redistribution of planetary energy from the equator to the poles, and/or vice-versa. If we set up enormous wind farms all over the USA, we'd be looking at *very* noticeable climate changes on a *very* global scale.

The same principle applies to using ocean currents for the same manner.

The truth is, there is no absolute, #1 viable energy source to use. We have to pick the longest lasting energy source with the least environmental impact.

-Solar energy is clean, and the Sun emits enough energy in 10 minutes [on half the planet at a time] as the entire world population uses in one year. That's an enormous amount of energy, but the materials required to harness and store that energy are *NOT* clean whatsoever.

-Coal is a cheap energy source, and the plants to harness that power are cheap to maintain and build. However, it is probably the dirtiest energy source, and although abundant in resource, is used at such a high rate that the world coal supply will be exhausted within the next 100-150 years.

-Natural gas and oil can be a relatively clean(ish) energy source in high abundance, but since we've exhausted much of the top layer of the Earth's supply, the cost of harvesting these will rise significantly over time, despite the world's supply haven't yet from far being exhausted.

-Nuclear fission is clean, and with the latest advancements in technology, also highly reusable. Unfortunately, society has a stigma concerning nuclear, as nuclear accidents are, admittedly, superbly devastating. It is also very expensive all-in-all. Even still, there's enough uranium to sustain us for hundreds of years without deep mining.

-Nuclear fusion will be the next generation of nuclear energy in that it is extremely efficient and clean, but suffers from drawbacks exclusive to itself. Unlike nuclear fission, nuclear fusion irradiates the components that contain the reaction. The reaction is also very delicate and requires enormous amounts of power to kick start, although that very same delicacy is highly advantageous in the event of an accident (the reaction immediately stops, unlike fission). Another unfortunate disadvantage is that you can expect fusion technology to be ridiculously expensive.

So as a society, we have to make a choice. Wind isn't entirely practical. Oil and gas are becoming too costly to harvest. Coal supplies will possibly run out completely 3-4 generations down the line! Our only real long term option is nuclear. Love it or hate it, unless we can think of another way to create energy in the next 100 years, get used to nuclear power plants in the close proximities of our cities.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 6:39:02 PM , Rating: 2
"Unlike nuclear fission, nuclear fusion irradiates the components that contain the reaction."

You were fine till you got to this. Both fission and fusion generate a neutron flux, which (through neutron activation) causes both embrittlement and generation of low-level waste.

In this regard, the standard D-T fusion we're researching now is substantially better than our current crop of nuclear reactors. However, we have fission designs on the books that generate as little waste as a fusion reactor would, such as the Rubbiatron.

The sole exception to the above is aneutronic fusion...but we're a very long ways from mastering that technology. And even once we do, until we can mine He-3 from the moon's surface, it won't be feasible.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By randomly on 3/10/2010 4:42:19 PM , Rating: 2
The neutron flux is actually much worse with D-T fusion than current nuclear reactors. 80% of the total fusion energy of the D-T reaction ends up in the single 14 Mev neutron that comes off. In contrast only about 2.3% of the fission reaction energy is carried by the on average 2.5 neutrons (at ~2 Mev each) that come out of the fission reaction.

For equal amounts of thermal energy out D-T fusion has a neutron flux 4.6x larger than a fission reactor, and the neutron energies are much more intense. This leads directly to one of the still unsolved problems of commercial fusion, the First Wall problem. There is no known material to construct the plasma chamber wall with that can withstand that type of neutron flux for any reasonable length of time. Every neutron that comes out has to end up somewhere and make a new isotope out of some atom. Every 14 Mev neutron is going to knock about 3 million atoms out of place before it comes to rest too. That's a lot of damage to endure.

Rubbiatron is essentially a fast neutron breeder reactor. I don't think it does any better than any other breeder reactor that uses fuel reprocessing, although all the reprocessing approaches are 100x better than light water reactors with a once through fuel cycle when it comes to nuclear waste production.

p-B11 is the aneutronic favorite in the fusion world. He-3 is favored mostly by those looking for excuses for a space program. Nobody has proved that either one of those will actually work and the odds are against them.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 5:08:01 PM , Rating: 2
"The neutron flux is actually much worse with D-T fusion than current nuclear reactors."

If you're looking only at neutron activation, yes. The high-level waste in fission reactors is from the daughter nuclides, and this comprises the bulk (by radiative output, not volume) of their waste product.

"p-B11 is the aneutronic favorite in the fusion world"

The only problem is that boron-based fusion (technically, fission, imo) is much harder to accomplish than even He-3, with temperatures something like ten times higher than those needed for the D-T reaction. Controlling reactions that energetic gets us pretty much into the realm of science fantasy, and mass transmutation of elements as desired.

(not that I'm setting up He-3 as a much more viable alternative. Neither are something we can realistically consider for this century).


RE: Again, listen and learn
By zozzlhandler on 3/9/2010 7:24:08 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear is almost certainly the best option for the short term. France was mentioned above as a successful user of Nuclear power. Japan is another.

For the long term the best alternative is likely to be solar power satellites, not fusion. Fusion may work tomorrow, or not for 100 years. Its research. Solar power satellites could be made practical in 10-20 years with investment. No clouds in space (although there *is* space weather...).


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 7:28:54 PM , Rating: 2
"For the long term the best alternative is likely to be solar power satellites"

Not for terrestrial power needs. For powering space-based refining and manufacturing, its an excellent idea, but beaming that power down to earth is not only costly in itself, it involves atmospheric losses and conversion losses at both ends.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By DominionSeraph on 3/10/2010 7:14:20 AM , Rating: 2
So? The energy supply is a big ball of fusing hydrogen in the middle of our solar system. It's not like we're paying for it.
Losing a percentage of free energy to conversion losses still nets you... free energy.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:26:53 AM , Rating: 2
That's the same fallacy that makes people believe solar energy is free here on earth. You still need to trap, collect, and convert it. Collecting GHh of solar energy in space is not trivial...light pressure alone on your collection surfaces would expend massive amounts of hydrazine just for stationkeeping for our current crop of satellites. Such a network would require regular manned missions to refuel the power constellation...or new technology in robotic refueling missions.

So yes, when you lose half or more your collected power to beam it back down to earth, that does raise the cost dramatically.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By DominionSeraph on 3/10/2010 10:36:48 AM , Rating: 2
hydrazine? What is this, 1945?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_drive


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:44:24 AM , Rating: 2
Even assuming we develop the technology, ion drives still don't work without reaction mass. If you prefer to consider the satellites as being refueled with xenon gas instead of hydrazine, feel free.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:47:19 AM , Rating: 2
As for the 1945 crack, I don't recall us having any satellites in orbit then. Today, however, the majority of active satellites use hydrazine from station keeping (some newer ones are using xenon)


RE: Again, listen and learn
By DominionSeraph on 3/10/2010 11:22:51 AM , Rating: 1
Messerschmitt Me-163.

You really don't know very much.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 12:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
It reached orbit in 1945? You're right, I didn't know that.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By DominionSeraph on 3/10/2010 8:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton's_laws_of_moti...

Get back to me once you've graduated High School.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By DominionSeraph on 3/10/2010 8:40:48 PM , Rating: 2
So I can tell you to get back to me once you've graduated from college.


RE: Again, listen and learn
By DominionSeraph on 3/10/2010 8:41:28 PM , Rating: 2
So I can tell you to get back to me in another 20 years once you've actually learned something.


No, Dumbass
By clovell on 3/9/2010 4:00:43 PM , Rating: 3
> Secretary Chu reasons, "You do not want to stop these projects if two-thirds is American and one-third is foreign."

No Dumbass, Schumer isn't talking about cutting those 2/3 - just the 1/3 that are enriching China's economy rather than ours - WITH OUR OWN EFFING TAX DOLLARS.

> The American Wind Energy Association, backed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, disputes the facts in that study. They point to the 85,000 jobs the wind industry has created in the U.S. In addition, they point to increased production efforts in the U.S., stating, "In three years, we went from two turbine manufacturers with facilities in the U.S. to nine, and four more have announced plans for factories here."

Thanks for that, Steve - now please explain to us why some folks receiving grants need to purchase blades & trbines from China, when we have both the manufacturing capacity at home, as well as the ability to build new plants....

I won't hold my breath for that one. See, I seem to recall this whole 'Stimulus Bill' being called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - not the Let's Take All Your Tax Dollars And Hook Ourselves Out To China Act.

> Some, including President Obama, have suggested that nuclear energy may be an acceptable substitute for wind in terms of producing clean and domestically-fueled energy. However, there's little doubt that if wind falls flat and nuclear charges ahead that the same big interests will attack the government's plans to back nuclear energy start ups.

Jason, Don't make this about New Power vs. Old Power. This is a question of economics. The government has susbidized Wind Power Production, which competes with other methods that are not subsidized. Nuclear's problem isn't a lack of subsidies. Nuclear's problem is a lack of overall intelligence in the authorities granting licenses and permits for plant construction over the last three decades.




RE: No, Dumbass
By adiposity on 3/9/2010 4:18:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No Dumbass, Schumer isn't talking about cutting those 2/3 - just the 1/3 that are enriching China's economy rather than ours - WITH OUR OWN EFFING TAX DOLLARS


Maybe I am wrong, but I assumed he meant that only 1/3 of the money spent per company was going to foreign companies. In other words, if you cut from those companies that buy foreign products, it affects US workers because the other 2/3 of the money in that company was spent on local employment.

Obviously, if some companies were spending 100% of the subsidy on foreign parts/workers, and others were spending 100% on local parts/workers, it would be an easy call. But it's unlikely it's that black and white.

He's saying each company has a mix of the two, and killing those projects that buy cheaper foreign parts (i.e., making smarter use of their free money) shouldn't have their projects killed because they also provide American jobs.

Personally, I wish we would stop subsidizing any energy project and allow nuclear to go forward unabated. It doesn't need any subsidy to take over the whole market. Too bad these same coal companies will lobby against that, too.


RE: No, Dumbass
By clovell on 3/9/2010 4:26:58 PM , Rating: 2
That could be... Still, I say, give them a month to stop buying from China and find an American supplier, then cut them off if they don't comply.


RE: No, Dumbass
By adiposity on 3/10/2010 2:33:21 PM , Rating: 2
The american "supplier" will just resell Chinese stuff, in my experience :)


RE: No, Dumbass
By dubldwn on 3/9/2010 6:00:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Nuclear's problem isn't a lack of subsidies.

Nah, I’ve read that claim over and over again on these boards, mainly in the form of blaming environmentalists and government regulation. The reality is private investors and lenders don’t want to put up the cash because of risk, and there are plenty of real world examples to justify this. Why do you think these plants have to be subsidized? Because they’re super cheap and don’t end up costing triple the original estimate? Sure, it’s a nuanced topic but these energy companies would have asked for permits to build these plants if they were cheaper than natural gas and coal.

So, I'll take the unpopular view that we should build dozens of nuclear pants...and they need to be subsidized.


RE: No, Dumbass
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 6:55:13 PM , Rating: 2
"these energy companies would have asked for permits to build these plants if they were cheaper than natural gas and coal."

They have asked. 30 new reactors have been applied for just in the last four years alone:

http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/new-licen...

Unfortunately, usually, those permits are denied.

As for the "risk" of building a nuclear plant, the vast majority of that is due to political and legal factors, not the technology. Nearly every nuclear plant built in the late 1970s (the last time we were building them) was delayed 5, 10, or more years by legal challenges from environmental groups. Not only are the legal bills themselves costly, but the interest costs on hundreds of millions of dollars of capital tied up and not generating electricity can be devastating.


RE: No, Dumbass
By dubldwn on 3/9/2010 8:59:43 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
30 new reactors have been applied for just in the last four years alone

Oh, I'm aware of the (very) recent surge in applications. But I would blame general public distrust of nuclear power over the effects of litigation from some special interests for the previous lack thereof. But the "risks" I'm referring to are the understandably anticipated schedule delays and cost overruns during construction, because
quote:
interest costs on hundreds of millions of dollars of capital tied up and not generating electricity can be devastating.

You seem to claim that the lack of new plants over the last few decades is mainly because of litigation, and in the interest of edification I would like you to support that claim. Environmentalists are still around, but the power companies now see a good replacement for coal plants to meet clean power goals.


RE: No, Dumbass
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 11:42:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the "risks" I'm referring to are the understandably anticipated schedule delays and cost overruns during construction
And those schedule delays and resultant cost overruns derive from litigation. GE and Westinghouse build nuclear reactors in 4-5 years in Japan and S. Korea. The only reason they take 15, 20, or even 25 years here is because of legal challenges and lawsuits.

"...is mainly because of litigation, and in the interest of edification I would like you to support that claim. "

Glad to.

Bellefonte Nuclear Project . First begun: 1982. Construction stopped briefly in 1984, then halted entirely in 1988 due to challenge from environmental groups. $6B had already been invested. In 2006, the Federal Government cancelled the permits over objections of TVA. In 2008, TVA formally requested reinstatement to complete the reactors. In 2009, a new lawsuit from "citizens action group" caused the NRC to delay decision on the application for at least two more years:

http://www.bredl.org/nuclear/Bellefonte.htm

Wolf Creek Nuclear Plant. Planning began 1968. Ground broken 1970. Construction halted multiple times due to protects and legislation -- in one case, protesters physically blocked rail delivery of the reactor casing. Plant was not able to come online until 1985. Resultant cost overruns from debt servicing nearly tripled the original cost of the plant:

http://www.kshs.org/cool3/wolfcreek.htm

Watts Bar. Construction began: 1973. Construction halted five times over a period of 23 years . First reactor finally came online: 1996. Unit 2 still 80% complete; WBN requested permits in 2007 to complete construction:

http://www.babeled.com/2009/04/21/new-nuclear-cons...

Need any more examples? Every single nuclear project begun in the 1970s has similar history.


RE: No, Dumbass
By monkeyman1140 on 3/10/10, Rating: -1
RE: No, Dumbass
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 10:34:55 AM , Rating: 2
I seriously believe IQs are dropping over time. I'll explain again, this time using smaller words.

A utility company finances a new power plant with a capital loan. Just as you do when you buy a car or house, they pay interest on that loan the minute they receive funds.

When you begin building a nuclear reactor in 1973, and you are prevented from finishing it until 1996, you pay interest on billions of dollars for 22 years. That alone will double or triple the cost of the plant. Add in the fees and expenses you had to pay to fight legal challenges and inane regulatory oversight (in some areas, nuclear reactors are actually required to be -less- radioactive than the natural air and soil around them) and its obvious why nuclear plants here in the US are far more expensive to construct than they are in nations which run their energy affairs more intelligently.


RE: No, Dumbass
By namechamps on 3/10/2010 11:49:55 AM , Rating: 3
Let me give you the 5th grader version.

Other countries = 5 year build time.
US = 25 year build time due to construction halts.

See the difference? As far as costs. 85% of the LIFETIME cost of nuclear reactor is capital + finance costs.

Say you borrow $6B for a reactor via a bond at 8%. You capitalize interest during construction then repay it over 20 years.

5 year construction time-line
$6B reactor "overnight cost"
$2.8B in capitalized interest (during 5 years)
Total to be repaid: $8.8B
Total repayment: $17.9B (over 20 years).

So with a 5+20 loan the total capital + interest cost is $17.9B.

12 year construction time-line
Same $6B reactor "overnight cost"
$9.1B in capitalized interest (during 12 years).
Total to be repaid: $15.1B
Total repayment: $30.8B (over 20 years).

W ith a 12 year construction timeline THE EXACT SAME REACTOR with the EXACT SAME LIFETIME and EXACT SAME TOTAL OUTPUT (revenue) costs $13B more (almost 80%).

Starting to see how delays leads to costs. The only difference between Japan and US is the anti-nuke nazi and ass backwards regulator & legal framework.


RE: No, Dumbass
By dubldwn on 3/10/2010 12:25:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ok I can’t get your first link to work, your second one provides a touching story but doesn’t substantiate your claim, and, most importantly, while your third link sites “protests by environmentalists,” other reasons are sited as well. We both know nuclear environmental protests in the 70’s we ubiquitous at the time. But your link also sites cost overruns, political climate, and lower estimates in demand.

And what’s the problem now? A new reactor in Finland is already 50% over budget. Seemingly not from protests and litigation. And since the Administration is on board I don’t think the problem is a fear of more and more stringent government regulation. It’s a different world today, and I haven’t seen any evidence that the problem with finding private investors and the reason nuclear plants have to be subsidized is simply because of litigation. They are more expensive than coal and natural gas plants.

The recent rise in applications seems to be due to a commitment to clean power and also loan guarantees by the government.


RE: No, Dumbass
By porkpie on 3/10/2010 12:35:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We both know nuclear environmental protests in the 70’s we ubiquitous at the time. But your link also sites cost overruns, political climate, and lower estimates in demand.
As already amply demonstrated, the cost overruns and "political climate" was due to the anti-nuclear movement.

"what’s the problem now? A new reactor in Finland is already 50% over budget "

The Finnish Reactor is the only one of its type in the world, a prototype of a new modular Gen 3 reactor. Hardly surprising it would experience some delays....and hardly a blanket condemnation of nuclear power, either. China alone has 20 new nuclear reactors under construction now, all but one of which are on time and budget.

Furthermore, since China has by far the world's largest growth rate in carbon emissions, you'll have a hard time convincing anyone they're investing in nuclear simply because of a desire to 'go green'.


RE: No, Dumbass
By dubldwn on 3/10/2010 1:51:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Furthermore, since China has by far the world's largest growth rate in carbon emissions, you'll have a hard time convincing anyone they're investing in nuclear simply because of a desire to 'go green'.

While coal is the main energy source, most reserves are in the north or northwest and present an enormous logistic problem – nearly half the country's rail capacity is used in transporting coal. Because of the heavy reliance on old coal-fired plant, electricity generation accounts for much of the country's air pollution, which is a strong reason to increase nuclear share.
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf63.html
China’s nuclear power industry will aim for: Independence for nuclear power technology; control of the fuel cycle; fuel diversity; significant source for electricity; reduction in emission of air pollutants and; commercialization of an indigenous reactor design.
http://www.glgroup.com/News/Investing-in-Nuclear-P...
The foundation of the nation’s electricity generation plan is coal, but with loud calls coming from around the world for China to cut its output of greenhouse gases, a significant portion of new power will be nuclear.
http://seekingalpha.com/article/178073-china-s-nuc...
"It is necessary to increase the share of nuclear power" and renewable energy sources, Zhang told Xinhua at the nation's national parliament session, where he sits on a related advisory body.
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL08687602200803...
As the United States takes its first steps toward mandating that power companies generate more electricity from renewable sources, China already has a similar requirement and is investing billions to remake itself into a green energy superpower.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/03/business/energy-...

I really need to cut the cord here, but the fact is the threat of litigation is only one small factor in the lack of investors for nuclear power.

Of 26 new nuclear reactor license applications submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2007, 19 have been cancelled or delayed and every private sector project has suffered a downgrade by credit rating agencies. The reality is that capital markets will not finance new reactors because demand growth has slowed, reactors cost much more than available alternatives and they face too many technology, marketplace, and policy risks; so nuclear advocates have demanded a massive increase in direct federal subsidies to bail the industry out. What we are looking at is the prospect of 'nuclear socialism' that could only go farther if it involved outright state ownership of the industry."

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-loan-g...

Which is exactly what China has going for it. You’d have a hard time convincing anyone it’s surprising that a centralized, statist economy would have the same problems we do getting these plants on-line.

quote:
and hardly a blanket condemnation of nuclear power


Again: So, I'll take the unpopular view that we should build dozens of nuclear pants...and they need to be subsidized.

Sorry so long.


RE: No, Dumbass
By namechamps on 3/10/2010 2:20:04 PM , Rating: 2
Private sector won't finance reactors huh?

Can you explain this.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nuclear-bonds-tes...

$1.2 billion in nuclear muni-bonds auctioned at 6.6% yield. This is the non-guaranteed portion of the reactors in GA. Investors had no problem buying these bonds up (and forcing interest rate down to a low 6.6%).

Seems once the govt is a stakeholder and investors know the govt won't play the games that cost utilities billions of dollar in the late 70s they have no problem investing in nuclear power.

The govt and litigation allowed by activist judges is a huge liability and one the utilities can do nothing to mitigate. Having the govt liable for delays means we will at least get a good faith effort out of them.


RE: No, Dumbass
By lightfoot on 3/11/2010 6:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Again: So, I'll take the unpopular view that we should build dozens of nuclear plants...and they need to be subsidized.

You are absolutely right - Nuclear is not cost competitive with hydro, coal, natural gas or petroleum power production. Competing against conventional power sources is difficult for nuclear power and requires subsidies.

However, when you compare Nuclear power with solar, wind, wave or most other "renewable" sources it begins to look very attractive.

If you care about carbon dioxide emissions, nuclear is the best option.

If you care only about cost, it's almost impossible to beat coal.

If you care about actual pollutants like heavy metals, and soil and air contamination natural gas becomes the most cost effective source (at least in North America.)

If you care about living off the grid, feeling green and smug and have large quantities of money to burn, then (and only then) do wind and solar start looking competitive.

So first determine what problem you're trying to solve, and then we will tell you if nuclear power makes sense. From a pure economic standpoint, nuclear will never beat coal. But if you factor in pollution, health, and safety nuclear power is very hard to beat.


RE: No, Dumbass
By porkpie on 3/11/2010 8:37:57 PM , Rating: 2
" Nuclear is not cost competitive with hydro, coal, natural gas or petroleum power production"

Untrue. The nuclear industry average is 1.9 cents per KWh...an average calculated using plants built with 1960s-era technology. Modern plants are even cheaper, some much more so.

The wild card is plant construction time. Too many utilities have invested $6B in a new nuclear plant, only to have environmentalists shut down construction for 10 years or longer. Paying 15 years of interest on a $6B loan for zero return on investment hurts.

A second problem is our insane regulatory structure here in the US. Many utilities began constructing nuclear plants, only to have the NRC change requirements on them midstream, causing hugely expensive retrofitting or upgrades.

If we built nuclear plants in any sort of sane manner here in the US, none of this would be a problem. China and Japan manage to build reactors in 5 years time, do we really need to take 3 times as long?


RE: No, Dumbass
By lightfoot on 3/12/2010 1:02:33 PM , Rating: 2
1.9 cents per KWh only works if that is an operational/marginal KWh, and does not include any construction, licensing costs or maintenance costs. If you include all costs associated with Nuclear power the average cost is as high as 15 cents per KWh (twice that of coal.) Historical averages in the US are even higher (at 25-30 cents per KWh) due to the problems you've stated.

Costs associated with nuclear power MUST include all plant construction regardless of if it ever came on-line. A billion dollars sunk on a failed nuclear powerplant is still a billion dollars spent on nuclear power. These costs must then be distributed across all power generated by nuclear sources. Only then can you get a realistic lifetime cost. By ignoring all the failed nuclear power plant projects you artificially reduce the per KWh price of the energy produced due to flawed selection bias (you are basing your estimates only on the most successful nuclear projects.)

In a perfect world we might be able to approach the 1.9 cents per KWh, but unfortunately we don't live in that world. However, nuclear remains the most promising of the alternative energy sources. The question is how can we solve these problems and move forward in a cost effective manner? Kill all the lawyers? Or just the eco-freaks? Unfortunately public education programs have a poor track record in the US. Subsidies (such as loan guarantees) may be the only realistic answer.


RE: No, Dumbass
By porkpie on 3/12/2010 1:18:03 PM , Rating: 2
Incorrect. The 1.9c/KWh figure is operating costs, including fuel, O&M, and return on equity. It ignores only capital (construction/financing costs)

Even including capital costs, nuclear is usually cheaper than most other conventional sources, even with 1970s-era reactor technology:
quote:
At 5% discount rate [for financing costs] nuclear, coal and gas costs are as shown above and wind is around 8 cents. Nuclear costs were highest by far in Japan. Nuclear is comfortably cheaper than coal in seven of ten countries, and cheaper than gas in all but one. At 10% discount rate nuclear ranged 3-5 cents/kWh (except Japan: near 7 cents, and Netherlands), and capital becomes 70% of power cost, instead of the 50% with 5% discount rate. Here, nuclear is again cheaper than coal in eight of twelve countries, and cheaper than gas in all but two. Among the technologies analysed for the report, the new EPR if built in Germany would deliver power at about 2.38 c/kWh - the lowest cost of any plant in the study.
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html

And, of course, if one considers a Gen3/4 reactor, which is much cheaper to operate, the economics look even brighter.


Once again, Jason...sigh
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 3:41:31 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
They fear that prime wind conditions in the Midwest, combined with government subsidies may make wind power cheaper than coal power.
Subsidize anything heavily enough, and it'll be cheaper than the alternatives. That's not exactly a mark in windpower's favor, though is it?

quote:
They point to the 85,000 jobs the wind industry has created in the U.S.
Again, its easy to create jobs if you're willing to spend cash. Pay half a million people to throw confetti in the air, and another half-million to clean it up. Easy.

Creating worthwhile jobs that actually benefit the nation, though, is a different matter entirely. Except in certain limited circumstances, wind power is much more expensive than coal or nuclear. And even in the best of cases, wind power (or any other non-dispatchable power source) cannot supply more than a tiny fraction of our energy needs.

You can't repeal the laws of physics with wishful thinking, try as you might.




RE: Once again, Jason...sigh
By The0ne on 3/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: Once again, Jason...sigh
By clovell on 3/9/2010 4:02:35 PM , Rating: 4
> You can't repeal the laws of physics with wishful thinking, try as you might.

No, you need a filibuster-proof majority for that.


RE: Once again, Jason...sigh
By lightfoot on 3/9/2010 4:09:39 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
...penalize wind power producers for lulls in generation with fines and by forcing them to pay part of the costs of backup natural gas generators.

This is actually a fairly good idea. The problem is in order to have a reliable power grid you must have reliable power generation. If you need a gas generator to pick up the slack when the wind isn't blowing, the wind farm should be required to help pick up the added costs of the stand-by gas generation. The best way to do this however is by paying the wind farms a lower rate for power produced than the amount charged customers for power consumed. The fuel savings are real, but the redundant infrastructure needs to be accounted for.


Variable Value
By HotFoot on 3/9/2010 4:10:32 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's a fair concept the companies are coming out with, respective to making wind power suppliers pay for at least a portion of the required backup capacity.

This brings to mind that a kWh is not a kWh is not a kWh when it really comes down to it. Power supply has to be matched to power demand. Wind can be part of that picture only if there are other flexible, on-demand generation resources available.

In a way, hydro power is the highest value, since in some areas it can be a large portion of the generation mix, yet it can be fully throttled. Nuclear/coal works as a base underneath hydro, providing large amounts but in a less-responsive way.

Wind is pretty much the opposite of these. I think it can make sense in a distributed-generation end-user kind of way, where a user such as a Google server farm installs a wind turbine on-site and just buys less electricity from the grid when the winds are fair. But from a major power generation standpoint, wind works against you in many ways.

I would agree that a company wanting to set up a big wind farm and sell power to the grid at some wholesale price ought to be responsible for lulls. If I were a wholesale purchaser of power, I'd be wanting some clauses in the contract covering that.




RE: Variable Value
By porkpie on 3/9/2010 4:16:20 PM , Rating: 2
"Nuclear/coal works as a base underneath hydro, providing large amounts but in a less-responsive wa."

Many of the GenIV reactor designs can react to load variance in as little as a minute or two, as opposed to the ~30 minutes our 1960s-era reactors currently do.

The only real problem with hydro is land usage. New hydro capacity involves flooding tens of thousands of acres of land.


RE: Variable Value
By HotFoot on 3/9/2010 4:21:22 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent about the new reactor designs.

I don't actually advocate building new hydroelectric, while I agree nuclear has a large amount of room to grow.

On the other hand, if wind/solar supply is going to be in the mix, the flexible on-demand suppliers should be compensated for picking up the slack. I really think wind/solar/geotherm make the most sense in a end-user model, not as large centralised generation.


RE: Variable Value
By jimhsu on 3/9/2010 10:16:47 PM , Rating: 3
"The only real problem with hydro is land usage."

Which is a massive problem in and of itself. Just google Akosombo dam, Three Gorges dam, etc etc and look at the massive list of economic, cultural displacement, environmental, and even health problems.

In contrast even Chernobyl has affected fewer people than these massive dam projects.


RE: Variable Value
By tygrus on 3/10/2010 8:30:05 AM , Rating: 2
Wind power needs a way to use the excess and cover the dips. If buildings are well insulated then heating/cooling can be cycled on and off with available power (15min-2hr range). This can only be done so long depending on building design and temperature range (use large thermal mass or heat/cold bank). Or control other power using activities that can be stopped/started/partial. To be delayed or started early and not necessarily available when wanted.

Solar can be better predicted with monitoring of clouds, seasons and weather in general. Hydro can store some excess Wind power and release it during dips but there isn't enough Hydro to cover Wind (10% change per minute, 4hr/day). Spinning disk can store energy for fast response (<1sec response) but will might only last 30secs and waste 3% all the time. Batteries are expensive and limit capacity. A combination of these and gas turbine generators could smooth the supply&demand but it's all expensive to build, integrate and (especially) control(IT in house to wind etc. generators and everywhere in-between).


The answer is...
By bradmshannon on 3/9/2010 3:37:55 PM , Rating: 5
Nuclear.




Subsidies suck
By Suntan on 3/9/2010 4:05:54 PM , Rating: 3
Personally, I like the look of a field of wind turbines spread out across a Midwest cornfield. I have no problem with them and I don’t lose any sleep if they munch up a couple of birds here and there.

If they are able to compete without government subsidies, then I have no problem with them. I do have a big problem with goofballs that roll government handouts into the equation and then have the audacity (or is it ignorance) to say that they are competitive though.

Get rid of the subsidies and let them compete on their own merits.

-Suntan




RE: Subsidies suck
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 7:59:45 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. A friend/collegue of mine is already in the process to start his own wind farm business in Ireland/Scotland (sorry, can never tell the difference to be honest, sigh) but only because the government there will be subsidizing greatly towards the business.

However, the location they are set on requires them to buyout or kick out the locals out of their home :) I don't know how/what to say to that.

I can't comment on the wind farms here since my work has been mainly on modeling, testing and qualifying turbines. I figure there be some subsidies involved :)


Subsidies...
By jdietz on 3/9/2010 8:57:33 PM , Rating: 2
The government should not subsidy wind power. They subsidy oil now. They should not be doing that either. The market should decide what type of power is best.

The government should pass a law that requires utilities to run the meter backwards whenever the customer's power balance is negative and require utilities to pay the customer if their power balance is negative during a meter check or during billing cycles. The law should specify a maximum amount of power that can be sold per customer; the utility gets to keep any extra for free. There are already laws that make meter tampering illegal.

To the guy that said the wind does not blow all the time: Everyone already knows this. There is a workaround. Wind won't alleviate peak demand because the wind does not blow all the time. It will reduce the amount of coal/ nat. gas/ oil/ nuclear fuel burned.




RE: Subsidies...
By rcpratt on 3/9/2010 11:14:56 PM , Rating: 2
Realistically, it only reduces the amount of natural gas burned. In a few cases, maybe coal or oil. No utility would ever reduce the amount of nuclear fuel "burned", because the energy/$fuel is practically infinity.


Wheres the consumer in all this.
By Uncle on 3/11/2010 1:46:33 PM , Rating: 2
Wheres the consumer in all this. Great to see the power companies battling it out. Whats missing is theirs nary a mention of the consumers who will ultimately pay for all of this. Thats American capitalism at work, F*ck the consumer every time. Whats good for the company is all that matters. Heres a prime example of where monopolies suck big time.




By porkpie on 3/11/2010 2:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
To correct a few of your many misconceptions, there is very little capitalism at work here. Utility companies with government-mandated monopolies slugging it out with government-subsidized windpower firms is a model far nearer to socialism than laissez-faire capitalism.

If capitalism was allowed to operate normally here, power generation firms would be looking to cut costs as much as possible, to sell more product at the expense of their competitors -- an act that is simultaneously good for the consumer and the company...which explains why capitalism works so well.


Succeeding?
By ZachDontScare on 3/9/2010 4:56:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
especially with government subsidies


Pretty much by definition, if a technology needs to be propped up by the government to make it viable, its not 'succeeding'.

If Wind Power was really doing so well, the big Windmill plant near me that builds the things wouldnt have just laid off most of its work force.




My experience
By rcpratt on 3/9/2010 5:06:05 PM , Rating: 2
The utility I work for is planning/building several wind farms right now, but they're definitely not excited about it. They're doing it because of a state law that requires X% alternative energy, and in anticipation of future cap-and-trade laws.

They are very excited about the new nuclear ESBWR that they're currently licensing, however. It helps when things are practical and can make them money.




Regardless of the discussion...
By The0ne on 3/9/2010 8:16:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty excited that there are more interests and more R&D into energy resources than ever. That could only be good for us, I hope *gulp*. Even with nuclear I am excited at the prospects of companies, hopefully, being able to perform geological studies instead of being told "no" by the government.




By monkeyman1140 on 3/10/2010 2:38:04 AM , Rating: 2
They're essentially concerned about short term profits and don't want to change existing infrastructure.

Shows how wonderful private enterprise is!

If not for the government we may very well still be burning wood for fuel and depleting our national forests.




Great discussion
By Dorkyman on 3/11/2010 11:30:27 AM , Rating: 2
I greatly enjoy the discussions that take place on this website. Some trolls, sure, but nonetheless there is a lot of intelligent discussion here. Reminds me of my 1am discussions with my peers in the dorm in college, though those were usually accompanied with a cloud of mind-altering smoke.




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