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Sunday, November 27, 2016

CleanTechinca Writes Last Antinuclear Energy Article—Pigs Fly

Frankly, we primarily stopped writing about nuclear since everyone in the industry should know by now it is an industry entering its retirement stage. says Zachary Shahan in yet another antinuclear article. Interestingly enough, I wrote an article earlier this year critiquing yet another of their antinuclear energy articles.

However, because of the interest (and backlash) the Before the Flood article raised, I decided it was worth communicating this point one more time [emphasis mine].

If CleanTechnica really believed that nuclear energy is “entering its retirement stage” they wouldn’t still be writing antinuclear articles.

Using Bill McKibben’s climate change war analogy, Figure 1 below lists our four main weapons against climate change in descending order of deployment:

Figure 1: Low Carbon Sources of Energy in United States via 2016 BP Review

Pronuclear comment is not welcome at CleanTechnica. From their original comment policy page:

This site is not the place to discuss future nuclear designs that might make nuclear affordable, the unproven GenIV type stuff that might or might not work. If there’s a clear demonstration of affordable nuclear sometime in the future [China will begin replacing the furnaces in many of its coal plants with Gen IV, gas cooled, pebble bead reactors as soon as 2018 and Russia just put a breeder reactor into commercial operation last month], then we can open up the discussion about the role nuclear could play in replacing fossil fuels.

In the meantime, there are several sites where they love to discuss nuclear ideas. Feel free to take your speculations to one or more of those sites. We’re going to stick with stuff that is affordable and practical.


 Shahan began his article with praise of another antinuclear article.

The "Before the Flood" website recently published a great article

This great article he refers to was written by twenty-year veteran of Greenpeace (founded originally to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons but later mutated into an antinuclear energy organization), Kelly Rigg. Very little (in fact, almost nothing) stated in her article is correct. She has no engineering background whatsoever but apparently a lot of experience with campaign strategizing:

As a Varda director, Kelly is frequently asked to provide services in the following areas:

  • Campaign strategy development and training
  • Communications strategy development and training
  • Meeting facilitation
  • Campaign and programme evaluation
  • Campaign, project and event management

"...about why nuclear power is now a dead end."

Not so dead...

Ten reactors were brought on line last year and eleven more are expected this year.

Russia just put its new BN-800 nuclear breeder reactor into commercial operation (October 31, 2016), making nuclear energy just as renewable as most ostensibly renewable sources.

China will be begin replacing the furnaces in coal plants with gas cooled pebble bed reactors in the next two or three years.

Three major studies in support of the latest Paris brouhaha show nuclear as the largest single source of low carbon energy in the future (larger than hydro, larger than wind, larger than solar):

Figure 2 Three New Studies Have Nuclear Energy as the Single Largest Energy Source (larger than wind, or solar, or hydro)
It was based on solid research and a deep plus broad understanding of the fast-changing energy industry.

The short Before the Flood antinuclear article listed no sources of any kind, so, raise your hand if you know how Zach can claim this was based on "solid research." The picture that goes with the antinuclear article is of cooling towers ...apparently covered in coal soot (not a nuclear power station). Maybe she should have researched that.

As the article noted, nuclear power has been growing only in China.

Interesting, the two graphs below were plotted from the 2016 BP Statistical review by me not five minutes ago:
Figure 3: Nuclear Energy in the United States
Figure 4: Nuclear Energy in the World
Globally, reactors brought on line in 2015 will produce more power over their lives than the wind and solar that were also brought on line last year, and for less cost:
Figure 5 The nuclear reactors that came on line in 2015 will provide more power over their lifetimes than the wind or solar farms and for a lower cost.

Even in China, though, the growth targets announced a few years ago keep getting undermined by nuclear’s lack of competitiveness, and China is all but certain to dramatically cut its long-term plans.

Speaking of targets, Germany has failed to reduce emissions for the last six years as a result of closing nuclear instead of coal.
Figure 6: German Emissions Have Been Flat for the Last Six Years

From Zach's source:

The slowdown in electricity demand growth at home has left China with surplus power-generating capacity.

Installations of new wind and solar farms in China are expected to drop 11 percent in 2017  ... After five years of breakneck growth in the supply, China’s electricity demand is stagnating along with a pause in the nation’s economic expansion.

Zach continues:

Nuclear power is nonsensical for new electricity capacity for a handful of reasons.

He then presents a nonsensical graph titled "Multi-factorial Assessment" from yet another Cleantechnica article. From that article, and try to keep a straight face:

The following is my multi-factorial assessment as of 2016 for different forms of electrical generation. The assessment is a simple scale of 1to 5, and is based on my judgment of each of these technologies which is informed by my background, knowledge, research, and systemic perspective. It is not a quantitative evaluation. calculations, no sources ...pure conjecture.

It’s extremely expensive.

Compared to what? From the German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, second in command to Merkel, who was also the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from 2005 to 2009:

I don’t know any other economy that can bear this burden [$30billion a year]...We have to make sure that we connect the energy switch to economic success, or at least not endanger it. Germany must focus on the cheapest clean-energy sources as well as efficient fossil-fuel-fired plants to stop spiraling power prices."

While renewable aid costs are at the “limit” of what the economy can bear, Germany will keep pushing wind and solar power, the most cost-effective renewable sources, Gabriel said.

As I've said so many times before, Germany is demonstrating the real world cost of trying to reduce emissions with only renewables; $30 billion a year, according to Germany's economics ministry. $30 billion a year would pay for forty custom built $7.5 billion Generation III AP1000 reactors over ten years ($30B/year x 10years  = $300B, $300B/$7.5B = 40 AP1000 nuclear power stations). Replace coal plants with these, add them to existing reactors and they could supply about 97% of Germany's electricity by 2025.

Refer also to Figure 5 above and Figures 7 and 8 below.

Figure 7: From Energy Matters

Figure 8: ADME Study
 "’s inflexible"

Really? Wind and solar are not only inflexible, but intermittent, and nondispatchable. The chart below documents the significant flexibility of German nuclear as it strives to compensate for wind and solar variability:
Figure 9: Demonstrated Flexibility of German Nuclear Energy
What he really meant to say was that a grid with a lot of low carbon nuclear will have less room for wind and solar ...duh. Here's the problem, it's been proven that when nuclear is replaced with the wind/solar/gas hybrid system, emissions rise. The chart below tries to explain why.

Figure 10: Why Emissions Rise When Nuclear is Replaced by the Wind/solar/gas Hybrid System.
"’s extremely slow to build."

Nuclear has a proven track record of being able to grow much faster than wind and solar. France built fifty something reactors in about 15 years.
Figure 11: Comparison of Historical Growth Rates

Figure 12: Needed Growth Rates

"’s economically risky"

Economic risk is inherent in any market. Some recent headlines for solar:

  • The rate NV Energy pays solar customers for their surplus electricity will be cut by 75 percent--there went the business model for rooftop solar.
  • Enphase just entered into a $25 million loan agreement with a lender specializing in "rescue financing" that furnishes capital "to avoid a restructuring or insolvency."
  • Abengoa, which has gotten $2.7 billion in federal subsidies, filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection after already filing for bankruptcy in Spain.
  • Sun Edison, a global renewable energy company files for bankruptcy, $11 billion in debt.
  • Ivanpah’s Problems Could Signal the End of Concentrated Solar in the U.S. Most of these shuttered projects have been doomed by one factor: cost.
  • California solar project shot down after clearing federal environmental permits

For a listing of over 100 solar companies that have gone bankrupt, click here and here.

He may be referring to the cost of cleaning up the superfund site caused by the tsunami damaging the Fukushima reactors, which pales in comparison to the cost of the fossil fuel that has been burned since Japan closed its reactors thanks to decades of antinuclear scaremongering.

From 2011 through 2013, Japan’s trade balance worsened by a cumulative 18.1 trillion yen ($169 billion), estimates Taro Saito, director of economic research at the NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. Of that amount, 10 trillion yen, or 55 percent, came from energy imports.

55% of $169 billion = $93 billion.

2016-2011= 5 years.

5 years x $93 billion/year = $465 billion dollars

Almost a half-trillion dollars already lost to fossil fuel costs as a result of antinuclear fear mongering that has closed Japan's nuclear.

"...and environmentally risky."

Some recent headlines for wind:

  • Bat Killings by Wind Energy Turbines Continue
  • A $2 billion offshore wind farm is set to be scrapped after it lost a Government subsidy contract due to an ongoing legal challenge over its impact on birds
  • Hornsea One offshore wind is more expensive than Hinkley Point C nuclear
  • Denmark has been heading the vanguard in the battle for wind power, but now admits it's become too expensive Cancels plans for five offshore wind power farms
  • Collisions with wind turbines and white-nose syndrome are now the leading causes of reported multiple mortality events in bats

  • Ethiopia Aims to Lift Itself Out of Poverty by Damming the Blue Nile
  • Major dam project canceled: a win for the rainforest in Malaysia
  • European Funders Suspend Support for Agua Zarca Dam
  • After removal of the Elwha dam, "watershed is booming with new life"
  • Critics of Snake River dams say it’s time to tear them down
  • Serious problem: 65-foot crack found in Columbia River dam
  • Brazil Suspends Licensing of Controversial Amazon Dam
  • World Bank’s Kandadji Dam Leaves Niger Communities High and Dry
  • Does the World Bank's "Success Story" on Dams Still Hold Water?
  • Human Rights Commission Report Highlights Lack of Accountability in Don Sahong Dam Project
  • New Hope for China’s Last Free-Flowing River
  • Waning hydroelectric power output leads to four-day workweek in Venezuela
  • Dams flood 36,000 hectares of Brazilian rainforest

...and as I've said countless times before, don't get me started about the damage being done by biomass and biofuels.

All energy sources have a negative impact on the environment. It's all a matter of degree, a balancing act. Read about China's environmental impact from making solar panels in Nature, the NYT, and Greenpeace, and the Ivanpah solar thermal plant's continuing propensity to immolate flying creatures.

Nuclear, second only to hydro, has been the world's main low carbon source of energy for the last half century. Does Zach not consider climate change to be an environmental risk? Well of course he does. Is he really willing to risk my children's futures on the untested hypothesis that wind and solar without help from nuclear can not only displace the $55 trillion currently invested in fossil fuels, but also our main source of low carbon energy, nuclear, and all in the needed time frame? Give that some thought ...Zach.

Or, is he ignoring the low carbon aspect and focusing instead on the fact that antinuclear folk have caused the U.S. government to squander the $25 billion that was taken from ratepayers and put into a fund for a central waste repository?

Or, is he focusing on the only nuclear energy incident in over a half-century of low carbon energy production caused by a nearly extinct primitive, containment-dome-free Soviet era weapons production design, that removed land from human industry and returned it to nature, creating Europe's largest wildlife preserve?

Unfortunately, the nuclear lobby is still influential and keeps pushing its agenda despite nuclear power’s lack of competitiveness.

Hold it ...the wind and solar lobby are not influential? Didn't their subsidy, the PTC, which has been reinstated five times over fifteen years just get reinstated for the next decade?
Figure 13: Impact of Potential Loss of Wind Subsidy

"I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” Buffett told an audience in Omaha, Nebraska this weekend. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit."

Zach continues:

I received word that the Before the Flood team got some backlash from nuclear fans after publishing the article, despite the realistic and insightful nature of the summary.

Realistic and insightful nature of the summary he says  ...trying to keep a straight face. Because nothing said in her article was new, it certainly didn't fit the definition of insightful. And because nothing she said was correct, the article certainly does not fit the definition of realistic.

There seem to be remaining science-fiction technology enthusiasts who are simply enamored by the idea of an energy dense, centralized nuclear world, but that idea is disconnected from reality.

Based on the evidence I presented above, it would be more accurate to say that there seem to be remaining science-fiction technology enthusiasts who are simply enamored by the idea of an energy dense diffuse, centralized nuclear decentralized wind and solar world, but that idea is disconnected from reality.

The reality is that the world will continue to be powered with a mix of low carbon technologies including nuclear, wind, and solar.

At least, it is disconnected from any market-competitive reality.

See cost Figures above.

If you look at the facts, new nuclear is about 2–5 times as expensive as solar and wind,

His above statement, which links back to yet another CleanTechnica article, also contradicts the reality shown in the cost figures above. irreparably inflexible (a huge handicap in a 21st century grid)

He said that already, see Figure 9.

...and comes with a financial threat

He also said that already. He links to a 2012 article by the rabidly antinuclear Joe Romm, that is also refuted by all of the above.

...that the private insurance sector won’t touch without massive, massive subsidies and risk protection from the government or ratepayers.

...riiight, massive, massive subsidies. Above he's parroting the old antinuclear argument about nuclear insurance premiums.

Nuclear is well insured all the way up to about $14 billion dollars here in the States. Natural and other disasters can't always be covered by insurance alone. It's actually more cost effective to insure to a reasonable level and make contingency plans for anything over that. No disaster insurance has unlimited coverage. States can apply for government disaster relief, as is the case with dam failures, Katrina levy failures --$125 billion, the twin towers--$250 billion minimum, and other disasters. That's what governments are for.

Costs from hydropower mishaps, such as dam failure and resultant flooding, for example, are borne directly by the public. The 1977 failure of the Teton Dam in Idaho caused $500 million in property damage, but the only compensation provided to those affected was about $200 million in low-cost government loans.

The Price-Anderson Act requires the nuclear energy industry to maintain liability insurance to compensate the public in the event of a nuclear accident. This coverage is provided through a combination of private insurance purchased by the companies that operate nuclear power plants and a framework that holds every nuclear plant in the United States financially responsible for a share of claims exceeding the amount covered by private insurance. Currently, the industry has $13.6 billion in liability insurance coverage.

Price-Anderson establishes the framework for nuclear plant liability insurance and sets an upper limit on industry wide liability. The cost of this insurance is borne by the industry. However, if the entire insurance pool is exhausted, state and local governments can petition Congress for additional disaster relief.

Insurance pools set up under the act disbursed approximately $71 million in claims and litigation costs related to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island. The act has proven so successful that Congress has used it as a model for legislation to protect the public against potential losses or harm from other hazards.

More on the subject can be found here and here.

The bottom line: new nuclear makes no sense today.

Actually, in light of climate change, nuclear makes more sense today than ever before. Below that statement he provided Lazard's chart of levelized energy costs with a few of his own lines drawn on it pointing to a handful of the lowest cost instances he could find trying to insinuate that these few low cost examples are the real costs of solar and wind, regardless of the fact that you may live where there is far less sun or wind than in these places. So, below I provide the same graph highlighting the reality for anyone interested in reality.
Figure 14: Energy Sources in Green Area are More Expensive than New Nuclear

Monday, October 31, 2016

David Roberts concedes that the progress of wind and solar have been over hyped ...blames television.

Total Global GHG Emissions in Million Tonnes CO2 Abated by Wind and Solar

As in my previous articles, consider this one as a replacement for the missing comment field at Vox. Wind and solar (when not disrupting or displacing intact ecosystems) have a place in our grid, as does nuclear. It's only a matter of how big their respective roles will be.

Roberts found a poll that exposes how badly Americans have been misinformed when it comes to the progress of wind and solar.

The average American, at least according to this new survey from communications and PR firm Makovsky, has it at 20 percent — 11 percent from solar, 9 percent from wind.

That is … quite wrong. In reality, solar is at 1 percent and wind is at 2 percent.

Meanwhile, the average American thinks that in five years, solar will be at 20 percent and wind will be at 14 percent.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in five years, solar will still be at 1 percent and wind will have grown to a whopping 3.

I don't know where Dave got his numbers (he didn't provide a link), but the 2016 BP statistical review has wind at 4.5% and solar at 0.9% of U.S. electrical energy production for 2015, not that it matters. Could be he's talking about global values instead of U.S. values.

Coincidentally, James Conca just wrote a piece at Forbes about a poll showing how Americans ranked nuclear power as the number 1 threat to safety way back in 1987.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

IEA Renewable Energy Medium-Term Report 2016

I received an invitation from the IEA (International Energy Association) to participate in a WebEx presentation of their Renewable Energy Medium-Term Report 2016 (a five year market analysis and forecast), which was at 9:00 PM Paris time ...arrrgh, 6:00 AM my time. I also received an embargoed PDF of their report, not to be released until October 25th. The PowerPoint presentation was given by Paolo Frankl, head of the IEA Renewable Energy Division. I took several screenshots of the presentation as well.

In a nutshell:
Figure 1: Screenshot From the Presentation--Renewable Energy Capacity Additions

 Some things to note about Figure 1:
  • Most growth in renewable energy has been in wind and solar, wind in particular.
  •  Shows capacity, not actual energy production.
I tend to read between the lines of studies to ferret out what the researchers chose not to highlight. If you want to see what they chose to highlight and how they chose to do it, here's the link to it.

In the end it's energy production that counts, capacity, not so much. Installing solar panels in a cave will increase installed capacity but produce no power. Actual production for solar might be something like 10-15% of capacity and for wind, about 20-30%. A solar panel in Seattle will produce a fraction of the energy of a solar panel in a sunny place, ditto for wind. If Figure 1 were to plot actual energy produced instead of capacity, it would look very different in both magnitude and shape.

I created Figure 2 below using data from the 2016 BP statistical review and an IPCC Assessment report to put the impact of wind and solar into perspective. I wanted to put it into perspective to demonstrate that wind and solar alone are very unlikely to get us to an 80% reduction in emissions.

Keep in  mind that emissions displaced depend on energy source displaced. If hydro or nuclear were displaced, emissions actually increase. If natural gas is displaced, emissions will drop but natural gas emits a lot less carbon than coal. Wind and solar rarely displace coal because coal is primarily used for baseload. Claims that wind and solar have replaced coal are actually the result of switching from coal to gas so that it can dampen erratic wind and solar output. Typically, wind and solar serve as fuel reduction devices for natural gas power stations which limits their ability to reduce emissions, particularly from coal.

Figure 2: Total Global GHG Emissions in Million Tonnes CO2 Abated by Wind and Solar
Typically you see bar charts that paint solar and wind in a more favorable light.
  • They may show installed capacity instead of power output.
  • They may chart growth rates as opposed to percentages of emissions abated.
  • They may show power output instead of emissions abated.
  • They may only compare their abatement to emissions from electricity production as opposed all sources of emissions (deforestation, heat, transport etc).
  • The chart may not start at zero, making their contribution appear much larger, and on and on it goes.

Friday, September 16, 2016

David Roberts of Vox, on Exploiting "Clean Energy (whatever that is)" Rifts

Consider this article to be a comment under David's article which has no comment field.

Here's an idea, how about using the term non-fossil fuel energy instead of clean energy?

I can see where this might cause readers to realize you're including nuclear, and yes, I can see why antinuclear bloggers in sheep's clothing might want to avoid doing that. At no point in this article does Roberts say that nuclear is included in his definition of clean energy.

...that he identified as champions of clean energy ... have broken with their party on a few climate or clean energy votes ... the House guarantees inaction on climate and clean energy ... incline the party against climate and clean energy ... it seems to me that clean energy solutions stand or fall together ... no form of clean energy will ever get the support it needs ... part of a growing number of purple and red states with clean energy hubs ... Here is a rift within the party on the subject of clean energy ... Helpfully, the anti–clean energy side is represented by Trump ... while the clean energy side is represented by a longtime, rock-ribbed Republican ... and tying clean energy opposition tightly to Donald Trump ... Conservative opinions on clean energy are still mutable ... this is an opportunity to visibly signal that clean energy support is perfectly consonant ... backs powerful incumbents against clean energy challengers ... institutional stance on climate and clean energy... make mildly supportive noises about clean energy.

It's not easy having an intelligent discussion when words being used have no clear definition. Because readers all have different definitions in their heads, they all walk away with a different interpretation of what has been said, like with David's sixteen instances of the use of the term "clean energy." Now, admittedly, everybody uses that term, so there's safety in numbers. However, it's obvious when a strong nuclear advocate uses it that they are including nuclear. When David uses it, renewable enthusiasts assume he's excluding nuclear, nuclear enthusiasts suspect he may be including it ...but maybe not.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Brad Plumer of Vox on Wilderness and Costa Rica's Renewables

I think both of Brad's articles are excellent. I'm just adding comment and although some of it may come off sounding anti-renewables, let me just state for the record that I'm "not anti-renewables." No, seriously, I'm fine with rooftop solar, properly sited wind farms, and I think we should keep most existing hydroelectric. Nuclear certainly can't do it all.

Money quote:

A new study in Current Biology reports that Earth has lost 10 percent of its wilderness since the early 1990s —an area twice the size of Alaska. "The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering and very saddening," said lead author James Watson of the University of Queensland.

A wilderness area is, by definition, free of human industry (roads, agriculture, mining, etc) which includes the the sight of power stations on distant ridge lines and hilltops as well as the forest cleared to provide corridors for the power lines that lead from them.

The loss of wilderness is only part of the story. As was mentioned in Plumer's article, you can't recreate intact ecosystems once you destroy them, including those that are not part of a wilderness area. A case in point is the Ivanpah solar thermal power station that usurped intact desert tortoise habitat , and never mind that it may also be incinerating up to 6,000 birds a year.

Kudos to Plumer for including a link to a report from the Breakthrough Institute about using technology and innovation to shrink our environmental footprint (GMO-free organic gardening, grass-fed beef, wood stoves, and the 100 mile diet are not in the game plan).