The top ten common myths of the nuclear cheerleaders

As I mentioned in a previous posting the worst enemy of the nuclear industry is not Greenpeace or the environmentalists, but many of their own nutty cheerleaders. The more reasoned voices within the industry, which say that yes it can supply some small amount of the world’s energy, at least while we still have uranium around and we’re prepared to foot the bill for building and decommissioning reactors (which they admit is probably higher than the alternatives but you have to look at the issue of energy security). Unfortunately these people tend to get drowned out by their colleagues who are more motivated by job security than any genuine concern for the world’s energy security.

The second category of the nuclear cheerleaders includes the numerous PR gurus who lobby and schmooze on the industries behalf. Few of this last category have any relevant qualifications (not that this stops them claiming to be “experts”) and often work for large PR agencies, who count the Tobacco industry and the fossil fuel lobby among they’re other clients. This last point is relevant for as I shall demonstrate these PR types often use the same tactics the tobacco and global warming denial lobby utilise to promote nuclear energy while distorting the facts.

Finally you have by far and away the majority of the nuclear cheerleaders – the sheep. These are people who generally don’t really know very much about nuclear energy, other than what they’ve lapped up from industry produced propaganda. They tend to be either unaware of many of the negative aspects of nuclear energy or assume that all such stories are the product of a bias media….yet they happily lap up stories from the very same media whenever they say something positive about nuclear energy (usually the result of lobbying by the PR types mentioned above). This last category of nuclear cheerleader are probably the most dangerous, as they are quite happy to pass himself off as “experts” to anyone who’ll listen and fill other people’s heads with pure industry generated drivel and half truths.

These “sheep” are essentially worshippers of a “scientific cargo cult” , something that has the illusion of science but is actually more a creation of science fiction. There are several other examples of such “scientific cargo cults” such as those trying to develop SSTO space vehicles that violate the basic principles of the rocket equation, or nano-technology “assemblers” (that ignore the very basics of thermodynamics and atomic theory) or Intelligent design (that ignores science altogether!). All of these examples as well as some aspects of the nuclear dream all share one think in common – they are founded on myth’s that are at odds with reality.

Don’t get me wrong, we can do a great deal more than we are currently doing in space (for a lot less money too!), and nano-technology has many potentially exciting applications (notably in the field of renewable energy), and there is some potential scope to use nuclear power in the future (but only so long as we’re prepared to pay the price both in financial and environmental terms), but the idealistic visions promoted by some in these fields are just non-starters, usually for fairly simple technical reasons. Wasting time and money pursuing such impossible goals will only make achieved more reasoned and plausible objectives less likely.

To prevent anyone reading this from getting sucked into this nuclear energy cargo cult, as recently happened to the (former) environmentalists George Monbiot, I will explain a couple of the common myths that these cheerleaders spout out and demonstrate how they are wrong, illogical and totally divorced from reality.

Myth I – The Fukushima accident is a “Triumph” of nuclear technology, it proves it works safely Reality: It raises some important questions about aspects of nuclear safety

Myth II – Only 56 people were killed by the Chernobyl accident Reality: The death toll from Chernobyl was many times higher, in the thousands or possibly tens of thousands

Myth III – Radiation isn’t that dangerous at all, it’s over exaggerated by the media, why the impact of Chernobyl was no worse than a few dozen chest x-rays each, and TMI was no worse than you’d get eating a banana Reality:  The effects of radiation from artifical sources is potentially quite serious

Myth IV – Nuclear power is cheaper than any of the alternatives Reality: Its actually more expensive than most of the alternatives!

Myth V – But we can’t rely on renewables, because of their intermittent nature Reality: Nuclear power has its own issues with intermittency

Myth VI – there’s plenty of fissile material in the world Reality: While no immediate supply problems are anticipated,  ultimately the world’s stockpiles of fissile material are limited in scale

Myth VII – We can’t build Renewables fast enough only nuclear power plants can be built quickly enough to prevent climate change Reality: The current build rate of nuclear power stations is a small fraction of the annual build rate of renewables, even the maximum ever build rate of NPP’s in the 70’s is still exceeded by the currrent build rate of renewable systems

Myth VIII – Yes, you’ve highlighted several problems but you see once we get these new fast reactors working all these problems will be solved Reality: Fast-reactors are a failed series of white elephants that are unlikely to ever work

Myth IX – All these problems will be solved when we develop Fusion, which will happen in the near future Reality: While we’re making progress, its far to early to say when Nuclear Fusion will become commercially viable….if ever!

Myth X – Disposal of nuclear waste is easily solved, indeed we’ve already sorted it out Reality: While there are options available, the nuclear industry is not pursing them, this is leading to a gradually worsening problem which needs to be tackled soon

Stop press, Bonus feature! Myth XI  – We need to use MOX and reprocessing to stop Terrorists getting their hands on Plutonium in the future Reality: This statement merely shows how out of touch the nuclear industry is….with reality!

So where doI stand? I recognise that nuclear energy can play a part in meeting our future energy needs, but it seems to me like a lot of trouble for not a lot in return. Furthermore we can only use nuclear energy so long as we accept the risks involved, deal with these in as safe a manner as possible and are prepared to pay the financial costs of ensuring reactors and nuclear waste disposal systems are properly managed. We also need to accept the limitations on nuclear power (due to the intermittent nature of electricity demand, limited supplies of nuclear fuels, etc.) and quit wasting time and money on Boondoggles like fast reactors, MOX and mega-sized LWR’s, instead focusing resources on deep geological storage facilities and smaller modular reactors (which while likely more expensive, would probably be a good deal safer, and more practical as the big LWR’s on offer aren’t much use to the many smaller countries around the world).

What worries me thought is the sort of deluded talk coming out of the nuclear lobby, as the examples above demonstrate. They, and more importantly their political cohorts,  don’t seem to appreciate the risks, show no intention of dealing with nuclear waste in a responsible way, and reckon someone else (that would be the rest of us) should pick up the tap as far as the costs go. They also show an unhealthy obsession towards failed white elephant projects like fast reactors, spent fuel reprocessing and MOX. They are also prone to overly optimistic delusions about the potential of Thorium or Fusion energy.

To make matters worse those Nuclear Energy supporters in the UK find that the obvious way to finance the safe building and operation of reactors, through state owned companies (as the French do it), conflicts with they’re (largely right wing) politics. Consequently we’re likely to end up with a twisted mess of a situation where we have a privately owned (on paper anyway) nuclear industry which is wholly dependent on various stealth subsidies, but without the sort of controls necessary to ensure proper waste management and safety, nor that the electricity produced (which wee will effectively be subsidising) is sold to the public at a reasonable price (the “privately” run nuke industry will be able to charge whatever they like and pocket the money as profit….going to their principle shareholder…the French government!). All in all if it’s a case of no more nuclear reactors, or some reactors but ones run by this group of deluded zealots, I’d rather see no more nuclear reactors and a phase out of nuclear energy as soon as possible.

And thus my advice to anyone reading this is not to take anything you hear from the nuclear cheerleaders seriously, until that is we start to hear the right sort of policies coming out of the nuclear industry. Nevermind you’re Nuclear renaissance, what we need is a bathroom ceiling painted mat white!

———–

A quick note on references, I’ve included a couple of links to online sources, notably Wikipedia, but I do that primarily because I recognise that anyone reading this is unlikely to have a library handy. iwould note that my primary sources of information are often good old fashioned books and reports, these include:

Energy by G. J. Aubrecht (an excellent one stop shop for all energy related facts & figures!)

Into the Atomic Age by J. M. Pincher (old and dated, but a gem of a book relating the earlier pioneering days of nuclear energy)

Going Critical: An Unofficial History of British Nuclear Power by W. Patterson (again dated, but a nice blow by blow account of the development of nuclear power in the UK)

Sustainable Energy without the hot air by G. Mckay (another excellent resource, now online too!)

Cool Energy by Micheal Brower

Civil nuclear energy : fuel of the future or relic of the past? by M. C. Grimston

I also relied on a number of reports from the IEA and REN for my various facts and figures. Archive material from the NRC and the DoE was also utlised.

http://www.iea.org/stats/index.asp

http://www.ren21.net/

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About daryan12

Engineer, expertise: Energy, Sustainablity, Computer Aided Engineering, Renewables technology
This entry was posted in clean energy, climate change, economics, energy, nuclear, peak oil, politics, power, renewables, sustainability, sustainable, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to The top ten common myths of the nuclear cheerleaders

  1. BlueRock says:

    Hi,

    Re. MacKay from my notes:

    ~~~

    David MacKay is author of a widely cited book on energy strategy for Britain – http://www.withouthotair.com/. Here’s a critical look at a few snippets:

    * MacKay claims that the UK’s demand figure is 195 kWh/d whereas this analysis – http://www.energynumbers.info/british-energy-demand-and-professor-mackays-estimate-of-it-an-explanation-of-the-differences – asserts the true demand figure is 82 kWh/d which can easily be reduced with efficiency measures and EVs. This means that MacKay’s claim that the UK cannot be powered by renewables alone is false.

    * He continually refers to wind turbines as “windmills” – technically incorrect and the label used by those who wish to mock wind power.

    * At very start of chapter on wind he quotes everyone’s favourite sensationalist, James Lovelock: “Wind farms will devastate the countryside pointlessly.” Before he even begins to discuss wind, he has set a negative tone.

    * In comparison, the chapter on nuclear opens with Patrick Moore who whitewashes the dangers of nuclear. MacKay presents Moore as “former Director of Greenpeace International”. He left Greenpeace 25 years ago and they have disowned him as a pro-pollution corporate sell-out. Moore is now a *paid shill for the Nuclear Energy Institute*. Has MacKay not heard the phrase ‘conflict of interest’?!

    * “This Greenpeace leaflet arrived with my junk mail…” – subtle!

    * “Is someone who advocates windmills over nuclear power stations “an enemy of the people”?” Josef Goebbels – or Glenn Beck – would be proud!

    * Talking of Goebbels – he includes this bizarre quote: “I’m more worried about what these plans [for the proposed London Array wind farm] will do to this landscape and our way of life than I ever was about a Nazi invasion on the beach.”

    * Emotively refers to “army of windmills”.

    * He claims “windmills generate 9% of the electricity” in Denmark. This is factually wrong – massively so. Wind power provided 24.1% of generation capacity in Denmark in 2008. This has been corrected in the [errata](http://www.withouthotair.com/Errata.html) – but this will clearly not be seen by many people who will now be badly misinformed about the success of wind energy in Denmark.

    * He assumes 3MW turbines for his offshore wind calculations when 7 MW are available today with 10, 15 and 20 MW being developed.

    * He proposes “that we assume the available fraction is one third” of total offshore sea area. No clear explanation why, although he mentions boats and fishing. Given the spacing of wind turbines, boats can easily navigate between. Fishing is likely to improve as turbines create artificial reefs for fish and other sea life. Floating turbines will be on the market soon and make his assumptions even further removed from reality.

    * He makes multiple claims about the unreliability of offshore wind but offers no evidence for these insinuations.

    * His estimate of what offshore wind could provide is massively different to others, e.g. Two Terawatts average power output: the UK offshore wind resource. “The theoretical resource from offshore wind turbines in UK waters is approximately 2.2 TW of average (ie continuous output) of electricity.” http://www.claverton-energy.com/two-terawatts-average-power-output-the-uk-offshore-wind-resource.html

    * “Uranium can be used 60 times more efficiently in fast breeder reactors…” – but fast breeder reactors are, to date, a failed experiment. France shut their program down. The Japanese shut theirs down. And so did the US. Only the Russians have one functioning fast breeder reactor and it has “never closed the fuel cycle and has yet to fuel BN-600 with plutonium.”

    * Refers to nuclear waste as “a “beautifully small” problem” – as though volume of waste was the only consideration when it is the millennial-span toxicity of the waste that is the issue.

    * He claims “the nuclear waste from Britain’s ten nuclear power stations has a volume of just 0.84 litres per person per year”. “Just”?! That’s 50 million litres a year – with just the current fleet. That’s not “beautifully small” when it needs to be stored for hundreds of thousands of years.

    Read his book with a critical eye and some familiarity of the FUD and propaganda targeted against renewables, and you might see that MacKay is not the dispassionate energy scholar that he has successfully marketed himself as.

  2. D A Ryan says:

    Bluerock,

    Certainly its hard to escape the conclusion that Mc Kay is strongly slanted towards nuclear energy, that keeps across alright. Yes, he probably should have nailed his colours a little firmer to the mast.

    Even so his books a good reference if you’re looking for a “ball park” figure of say, the energy costs of different modes of transport. Inevitably some of his numbers are off by quite a bit, but only someone who is foolish enough to trust one sole source for all his information would be effected by this, in the case of transport energy, for example the Aubrecht text I mentioned gives figures within a similar range.

    My major gripe though is the fact that he tends to ignore certain practical “real world” factors. While he explicity says he’s doing this from the begining he does lay it on a bit thick and that just gets him into all sorts of trouble, espcially when he starts to neglect cycle efficency’s, etc. For example he goes to great lengths to try and prove pumped heat is a better idea than CHP. Unfortunately he ignores a few crucial facts, pumped heat systems (one in the real world, not in laboratories) perform not nearly as well as he suggests. They also consume electrical, high grade energy (generated at a typical thermal efficiency of 30-40%) and turn it into lots of low grade heat energy (heat at 20-35’C). Unless you’re heat pump delivers a COP greater than 3 it works out as a net energy sink rather than a source, and indeed you’d really want to be running at around a COP of 6 or more to justify its installation, espicially once you factor in how much of our electricity still comes from fossil fuels (otherwise you’re heat pump creates more emissions than it prevents). Pumped heat can work out okay, in certain situations, yes. But trying to get such a huge chunk of the UK’s heat energy from them, as he suggests, just won’t be practical, nor environmentially sound.

    Again we have to be pragmatic, the major source of energy consumption in most countries is devoted towards generating heat, not as is often assumed, electricity (although that does come 2nd!). The bulk of this heat (and electricity) now comes from fossil fuels, most of it from natural gas. Inevitably no matter how quickly we roll out renewables (or for that matter nuclear) this will continue to be the case for sometime to come. Its alot easier to swap out a boiler for a CHP engine (and CHP is scalable from mini units for flats right the way up to 100 MW+ units) as you’re only changing over the equipment in the boiler room, v’s his favoured pumped heat which would be much harder to retrofit in most existing applications.

    While CHP does produce CO2 emissions, its not nearly as bad as would happen if electricity and heat were both generated seperately, and one can offset this by eventually switching to biofuels (and CHP engines tend to come these days with co-firing capability) and potentially in the longer term hydrogen from renewable sources. Via Tri-generation cooling loads can also be met and with the aid of a heat exchanger CHP can work in concert with solar thermal, and indeed ground source heat pumps too! Once you factor in such practical “real world” issues CHP inevitably wins out over pumped heat, at least until something better (fuel cells?) comes along.

    Another flaw is he focuses all his attention on “steady state” energy issues, i.e how much energy do we use and theortically how much can we get from the different sources? To me this is entirely the wrong question, its the “transient” issue that are crucial, i.e. how do we get from our current dirty, inefficent and wasteful energy state to a more clean and sustainable one? How long will this take? Can we do it quickly enough, to prevent dangerous climate change or before peak oil ineivtiably starts to bite? If no, do we face an energy crisis in the future and how bad will this be? These are the real questions to asked.

    • BlueRock says:

      Hi,

      > Even so his books a good reference if you’re looking for a “ball park” figure…

      Thing is, I don’t trust him any more. All his ‘mistakes’ seem to go in one direction – against renewables, for nuclear. There are many credible sources available – why use one that has repeatedly demonstrated *suspicious* fallibility?

      Of course, it’s quite obvious that I have clear biases – very strongly anti-nuke and pro-renewable. But I do my utmost to build my case on a wide range of credible sources and ‘irrefutable’ facts.

      > …he tends to ignore certain practical “real world” factors. While he explicity says he’s doing this from the begining he does lay it on a bit thick and that just gets him into all sorts of trouble…

      Yes. I don’t have the exact quote, but he said something like “I’m all about the maths. I just follow the numbers where they lead.” This claim is very appealing and convincing to a lot of people. It almost gives MacKay a shield of invincibility because we all know mathematics don’t lie. Ergo David MacKay does not lie. So, when he says “we assume the available fraction is one third” of total offshore sea area without any reasonable justification, some people do not question it.

      I think he’s offered a master class in marketing and propaganda.

      > Again we have to be pragmatic…

      Indeed. But there is also room for idealism. No one can accurately predict what energy costs and technology will provide in 10 or 20 years (despite George Monbiot’s attempts to build his ‘argument’ on this). I find it takes little imagination to see a massive network of micro-generators, connected by HVDC. That’s already happening across Europe. It’s the start of an energy internet. Unfortunately, this democratisation of energy is anathema to the incumbent fossil and nuke corporations – and they will fight to the death to stop it.

      Re. CHP – you might find these before / after maps of Denmark interesting:

      * Evolution of renewable energy in Denmark – from highly centralised to highly decentralised. http://www.ens.dk/en-US/Info/FactsAndFigures/EnergyInfoMaps/DownloadPremadeMaps/Sider/Forside.aspx

      Thanks for the rest of your comment – lots to chew on and add to my grasp of the energy debate.

      Cheers,

      David.

  3. BlueRock says:

    Typo alert: “many of they’re own nutty cheerleaders.” they’re -> their

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  6. @BlueRock – You are right about MacKay. Real planners do not make arbitrary assumptions about future energy use. Example: He comes up with a 20kw-hr/day/person figure for electric generation from wind covering 10% of UK land mass. Energy/day/person is a non standard reference point for many energy studies, and requires a lot of conversions to make comparisons. Then he compares it with 40kw-hr/day/person equivalent of a gas powered car driving 30 miles. Never mind that the vast majority of daily commutes are less than that. He does not explain what you are going to do with electricity in a gas powered car. More sensibly, an electric powered vehicle uses about 0.25kw-hr/mile at steady 60mph. (see Tesla website) At that rate, 20 miles is 5kw-hr/day/person.
    The 10% land area figure is misleading, since it is the area covered by the entire wind farm, not the area under towers, or unavailable for farming or other uses. The area unavailable for other uses is 100 times lower. He does get it right about birds, though. If you want to save the birds, forget wind turbines. Tear down all buildings, get rid of cars and cell phone towers, and especially, put muzzles on all cats.

    After all that effort, to come up with no useful solutions and only conclude (somewhat erroneously) that renewables cannot supply the demand, is pointless. So what’s his alternative? Use up all the renewables first? Then what? The silliness of it is that even if you used every available source renewable or otherwise, it could never keep up with a demand that has compound percentage growth. That’s the kind of scenario governments count on to keep economies going by the old rules of the game. It misses the whole point, Non renewables have no future because we have already entered the era of limits to growth. A diatribe about how renewables cannot meet energy demand is an exercise in futility. Oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear… they are a pipe dream.

    • daryan12 says:

      Mc Kay did get his numbers a bit muddled by failing to look at the bigger picture and going for high tech quick fixes rather than relying an more low-tech solutions (why I favour things like CHP units and solar thermal for heating, both are off the shelf technologies that can be easily intergrated into our existing energy systems)…oh! and there’s energy efficiency, ever heard of passive houses?

      I’m always meaning to give it a go and come up with my own version of Mc Kay’s work, but never seem to have the time. One thing I do agree, the numbers just don’t add up. Ever increasing energy demand is something we’re simply going to struggle to maintain. Again, we need to get smarter with our energy use, rather than relying on high techno fixes that may or may not work.

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  10. fireofenergy says:

    Hello,
    “…some aspects of the nuclear dream all share one common thread – they are founded on myth’s…”
    That’s like saying airplanes are also founded on myth.
    Do we really want to live in a world of less when we could have a world of more? It just has to be done right, just like any other engineering project. The object to clean energy is to develop the least expensive, most abundant source. This means we need to deploy wind and solar up to :max grid”. Then we need to decide what is cheaper… all that extra wind and solar necessary for storage, the storage AND the inefficiency of that storage… or the inherent safest nuclear reactor build up?
    I highly doubt it would be credible to dismiss this global opportunity for abundant energy on the grounds of proliferation concerns. Why? Because a weapons program will be developed independent of whatever civilian energy programs. They don’t care because they want to kill us (and we need energy for defensive actions against that, too).
    I’m from the U.S and try to conserve… but it ain’t doing you any good because I still must drive to work and use electricity. This is what a few BILLION extra people want to do, too! Therefore, unless we can figure out the machine automation to make that million sq km of solar panel (and utility scale batteries), and wind turbines for dirt cheap, they’re just going to continue the accelerating depletion of fossil fuels.
    Not good!
    Time to rethink nuclear and figure out which is the safest so that humanity doesn’t cause de-forestation and all out resource wars when the fossil fuels run out.
    Less energy will NOT do humanity any good (unless you think that going back to the dark ages is good).

    • daryan12 says:

      You’re comment ignore’s the main thrust of my argument. As someone once put it too me the dilemma with nuclear is safe, soon, cheap….pick one!

      As I discuss in above (myth IV), nuclear is far from cheap, at best it is cost competitive with wind power at present. But with the costs for renewables falling and nuclear’s costs spiralling, its inevitable that even this will not last long. And of course there are plenty who will tell you that nuclear is already more expensive than windpower, particularly once you account for the costs of decomissioning and spend fuel storage.
      http://climatecrocks.com/2013/11/08/nuclear-prices-itself-out-of-the-market/

      You fall into the trap of “wind doesn’t work when wind doesn’t blow, hence we need nuclear..”. However this ignore’s the fact that nuclear also needs to be backed up as it too can unexpectedly go down. In a recent storm in the UK for example 2 of the UK’s reactors were knocked offline for a good week, while most of the wind farms kept going, maybe shutting down for an hour or so at peak wind speed.

      And recall that using nuclear to preform peaking power or intermediate loads is not really desirable (see myth V) for a host of technical and economic reasons, notably that the lifetime capacity factors of peaking/intermediate load powerplants tends to be much lower (as the demand for electricity fluctuates daily and there are times when the demand is very low), typically 40% although as low as 20% in some cases. Naturally using a nuclear plant, barely able to compete with wind power when running 90% of the time, in such a mode and you end up with electricity 2.5-5 times more expensive over the lifetime of the plant.

      Also there is the build rate of nucelar reactors (myth VII) something I tackle in a more recent post (see below). In short while renewables are being installed at a rate of 159 GW’s per yr, the build rate for nuclear is closer to 4-7 GW/yr, much of which is swallowed up by the need to replace ageing plants, as the average of nuclear reactors worldwide is 27.8 years.
      https://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/a-global-report-card-for-renewables/

      As I discuss, the best case scenario for nuclear is to stand still (3.3% of global energy TFC), possibly with some modest growth, although a more likely outcome is that the global nuclear capacity will gradually decline over the next few decades as the rate of plant shutdown’s exceeds the rate at which new reactors are installed.

      This brings me to the “why use less” point you make. Well because we may not have a choice in the matter. If global nuclear capacity declines and if fossil fuels start to decline also (either due to peak of production or mitigation of climate change) and if renewables can’t fill the resulting gap. There is then only one alternative, energy conservation, try and get by with less.

  11. fireofenergy says:

    Ya, I try to use less by driving only when I have to, using less heat, etc. I wish we all would do that.
    I think I got a little carried away with the nuclear, as if it’s “nuclear or nothing”. I don’t want to be like that.
    However…
    I’m trying to imagine how hard it would be to manage and properly isolate 500,000 tons of fission products (not spent fuel) from the environment. This is the huge amount required to have “an all out nuclear powered world” for 50 years, assuming growth up to 10 billion at close to Western standards and that the closed cycle in a molten salt reactor design is used. I realize that wind is cheaper and that we don’t need to store it, and same for solar, soon. However, it seems that natural gas is always used to back up the renewables which isn’t efficient when starting from “cold”.
    When we store renewables, we will have to build more in order to make up for the inefficiency of the storage (I hope very cheap utility batteries can prove me wrong about my concern over “high prices”). Also, just the sheer size of all the renewables “should” be more expensive than the nuclear baseload option because more material are required. If we put some NG in the nuclear powered turbine (for peaking), it would be more efficient because it would already be hot. Therefore, it seems that the (molten salt) nuclear option would result in the least amount of CO2 emission. And that’s what I’m looking for.
    However (again)
    I admit I could be wrong and I would rather have all renewables.

    • fireofenergy says:

      I want to edit: Why does nuclear have to be expensive? Because the kind we use is inherently unsafe. Mixing water with solid fuel in a fission reactor is not good (unless you add the million safety fixes). But the molten salt reactor does not need water cooling and does not use solid fuels which can cause meltdowns. I am convinced that an all out effort should be made to MAKE these things less expensive, so as to compete with wind and solar…
      Regardless of the cheapest baseload power supply, we will need to make electric car batteries as cheap as possible, if we are to put a dent in the excess CO2 problem.

      • daryan12 says:

        I wrote a series of articles awhile ago where I looked at the different alternative reactor designs to the LWR, including the MSRE (chapter 8).
        https://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/ca/

        Ultimately the gist of it is that while these other designs can offer some improvements in areas such as safety and less nuclear waste (not quite as dramatic as the supporters suggest once you account for the full LCA of radioactive products), greater flexibility, etc. However in the two key areas of cost and ease of construction the LWR wins hands down.

        The cheapest and simplest way to do nuclear power is with a reactor build out of easily forged steel alloys, with lighly enriched uranium, run on a once-thro cycle, cooled by water (readily available and a coolant we’ve been using for centuries in conventional steam plant). Proposing that a reactor that is made from exotic nickel alloys and involves passing nuclear lava thro a complex (and untested) chemical plant as a cheaper alternative, is the equivalent of trying to argue a Ferrari can be build cheaper and easier than a Ford Mondeo.

        Indeed in section 6 of the above series I look at the HTGR (gas cooled) reactor design. This is sort of a half way house for the MSR, as it lacks the CPP but has a graphite core, higher operating temp than a LWR, walk away safety and it can use Thorium (proven by experiments in Germany in the 80’s in the AVR & THR-300 designs) as a fuel. The related British AGR’s and Magnox’s have proven gas-cooled designs can be scaled up.

        However, save a few staffers & academics within the UK & SA, you’ll struggle to identify anyone within the nuclear industry advocating Gas-cooled reactors over LWRS. Why? Because they are more expensive to build, operate and those graphite cores have proven to be a bit of a nightmare to decom.

        And if you don’t want to take my word for it, the NNL have a position paper out on Thorium and on alternative reactor designs to the LWR. They conclude that the benefits of Thorium would be “modest at best” and that alternative designs, while advantageous, will only ever forfill “niche rolls” and that the bulk of any future nuclear energy will continue to come from LWR’s for the foreseeable future.

      • fireofenergy says:

        In response to your other comment, I have to argue that if we are to even consider fission (at the global scale up needed to offset FF’s) we need to consider only the most efficient, most proliferation proof. That would be some variant of the MSR. Nasty chemical processes are taking place all the time. Why not add molten fuels chemical processing in order to almost TOTALLY replace FF’s? Costs are already wrecking the environment with FF’s. Whoever said that it estimated to take much longer than 15 years to establish the MSR is simply NOT serious(NNL)! If we really wanted to displace FF’s, an international “war like” effort would see these reactors up and running in less than a decade. However, so what! What if it really does take a “new and as of yet uninvented” tech to do (what we already basically did BEFORE the Moonshot). Still, to be able to displace FF’s in say, 20 years is better than relying on (almost) all renewables.
        What we need to do is incorporate ALL the clean energy sources!

      • daryan12 says:

        Again, as I point out below, the MSR is not technically mature (probably around about 3 on NASA’s TRL scale) and the idea that we should drop everything, put all our eggs in this one basket, without any idea how long it will take to complete said research (fusion has been 20 years away for 50 years!), nor how much it would cost (there is good reason, backed up by numerous academic sources that such a fuel cycle will be not be economically viable) is utter bonkers. Its within the realm of pseudo-science and science fantasy and thus unsellable politically nor commercially.

        We should incorporate all clean energy options yes. But life is about priorities and clearly we can get more bangs for our bucks and produce large Carbon reductions by focusing on energy efficiency and renewables. Hence they should remain the priorities for the interim. If and when MSR’s appear, then their worth can be evaluated.

    • daryan12 says:

      Firstly, as I’ve pointed out in my prior comment you need to look at the full LCA of said nuclear matieral, e.g. there’s vast piles of mildly radioactive mine tailings and many millions of tons of depleted uranium that nuclear advocates often seem to forget about. Conversely what worries me more about the MSR is not the volume of waste, but the fact that it seems to me pretty hazardous compared to LWR waste. Even if the volume ends up smaller (and that assumes various theories regarding how these would work are proven, and the fact is they might not work, we’ve been here before with Fast reactors), it still might represent something harder to dispose of.

      Similarly renewables being “more expensive because they cover a larger area”, isn’t quite the way things work in engineering. One of the advantages of renewables is that they are very conducive towards mass production. This is the same process that gave us a world with a five-hundred million cars and 3 billion mobile phones. By contrast things that are harder to mass produce, such as nuclear reactors, have not been able to keep up, as we’ve never been able to drive down the price and up the construction rates at the same sort of aggressive rates.

      • fireofenergy says:

        Let the machines (with lead clad electronics) do it, if need be. I’m sure there is a way. Perhaps we need to make smaller reactors, so a crane can plop it in a giant cask when time to decom. I’m sure there is a way.

        The fact that LFTR “might not work “is not an argument, just a political mishap because big fossil $ay$ so, and because big “everything else SayS so (is it not true that elected official receive contributions from already established power providers).
        That “expensive nickel alloy” thing is not really an excuse to deny, either. But this is no longer the 20th century, either. Again, that can be figured out if it has to be, because it already has been on an experimental level. Perhaps, it’s best to simply shut the reactor down and replace the heat exchanger to insure that it lasts as long as the LWR (or have multiple ones?). That should still be less wastes overall, since the MSR is like 100x as efficient).
        DU is not that radioactive but it is toxic if ground up. However, the main issue is we really don’t need to be mining uranium at all (except if we don’t use spent waste for start up).

        Things being more expensive because they cover VASTLY more area, does (kinda) work that way. Sure, a square mile of solar will be cheaper than a sq mi of nuclear, by far but 10 little 100MW reactors would fit in an area MUCH smaller than a sq mile and could be made much faster (in the factory setting) IF we really wanted it to be. Also, the land itself must be considered.

        I must say that the “If it has to be done, we can find a way” is not a very good argument for nuclear, because it is also a fairly decent argument for wind and solar.
        I’m just going for the least expensive sources.
        The big three are “unlimited”, and they are rather safe. Wind kills birds and bats, solar (supposedly) causes a lot of chemical wastes and of course nuclear absolutely definitely must be always isolated (or else!). In comparison too much FF’s will kill everything due to depletions (when humans get pissed off) and of course, if excess CO2 really brings nasty effects.
        Solar thermal would most probably zap birds as well. It is the best solar, so fate would have it that it is the hardest to maintain, will all those heliostat tracking motors last 50 years, and will the mirrors themselves not be sandblasted in time? Can the heat exchanger handle the problems of instant 1,000 degree temp changes? I’m sure there is a way!

        Hey, I got an idea… why don’t we use all three!

        PV and wind whenever, up to max grid (until storage becomes FAR cheaper) and use nuclear baseload with some NG to fill whatever little void is left. The turbine would already be hot from nuclear, so the ramp up and down times would be like almost instant and the efficiency of the world’s already most efficient FF would be much better.
        France also “actually allows themselves” to use nuclear that is partially load leveling, as quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_following_power_plant#Nuclear_power_plants
        “In France, however, nuclear power plants use load following. French PWRs use “grey” control rods, in order to replace chemical shim, without introducing a large perturbation of the power distribution. These plants have the capability to make power changes between 30% and 100% of rated power, with a slope of 5% of rated power per minute. Their licensing permits them to respond very quickly to the grid requirements.”
        I believe, in order to shun the uranium cycle, LFTR’s are load following, also. If the mix gets too hot, it will expand (and cause less fission) and if it gets too cool, will fission more.
        The “best” way might be in using LFTR (because they are so efficient), dump the extra heat into making synthetic fuels and use that synthetic fuel as a NG back up for peak.

        http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2009/03/q-on-lftr-load-following-peak-load.html

        I don’t like being thought of as a nuclear cheerleader but that’s better than being a denier of proven concepts (but I don’t flap my hands up and down)!

      • daryan12 says:

        MSR’s
        Unfortunately there are two groups promoting MSR’s. A small group of actual scientists (in particular a group in China) and a slightly un-hinged lunatic fringe who see the MSR as some sort of ideological means to an end. While the actual scientists are more cautious and guarded (given that they know they’ll have to back up what they say with actual scientific results at some point) the non-scientists have a tendency to make outlandish claims as regards such reactors and their supposed performance.

        For example, you say that LFTR’s are 100x more efficient than LWR’s. Got a reference for that by any chance? There is a hypothesis, yes (i.e. has not been subject to experimental verification), that LFTR’s could be used to produce a closed nuclear cycle, however whether this hypothesis is correct or not is far from proven, nevermind whether or not it could be economically practical. The history of science recall is littered with examples of ideas that looked great on paper but ultimately proved to be impractical.

        Consider for example that the basic theory behind fusion power has been well established for the last 50 years yet we always seem to be 20-25 years away from commerical fusion power. What’s the bet that we’ll always be 15-20 years away from a commercial MSR?

        Indeed another report by the NNL looks into the issue of Actinide recycling as does various reports by Harvard, MIT and the UoCS. In all cases the conclusion is generally that you will be trading a modest reduction in HLW, for a significant increase in ILW and LLW. And it is also probable that such activity will be substantially more expensive than existing once-thro operation, even when we factor in the cost of decommissioning and spent fuel storage.

        political mishap
        And lurching towards conspiracy theories (as pro-LFTR cheerleaders often do) to explain why so many pro-nuclear supporters (i.e. not just NNL, but Harvard, MIT, etc.) don’t seem keen on MSR’s puts you into the same category as climate change deniers and energy suppression nuts.

        Are you seriously suggesting that an organisation made up of pro-nuclear scientists who knew of a way to magically turn around the fortunes of the industry would go out of their way to collude with the fossil fuel industry to suppress it !?!

        “If it has to be done, we can find a way”
        While yes science has moved on, the laws of physics haven’t magically changed nor are they ever going too. Again, this is often the reason why many bright idea’s of the passed have failed of take off.

        For example, careful reading of the documents from the original MSRE experiments undertaken by the ONRL reveals it suffered a number of mishaps, notably intergranular cracking and corrosion, thermal creep and thermal fatigue. All of these are particular worrying, not least because we now know (but they didn’t at the time) that prolonged exposure to radiation levels can worsen creep issues.

        There are potential solutions, e.g. turbine blades are typically cast in such a way that the formation of crystal boundaries is avoided, which helps limit creep related issues. However whether its even physically possible to do that with something as large as the pressure vessel of a reactor (i.e. alot bigger than a turbine blade!) is another question….as is the issue that the facilities to do that don’t exist (so who is going to build the reactor?)….and the matter of how much all that would cost and whether it would be economically viable (consider that a turbine blade made this way costs thousands of pounds each!).

        Again, I’m not “denying” LFTR’s could work, I’m simply pointing out that there are a host of unanswered questions that would need to be addressed before proceeding with any kind of reactor construction. Indeed I suspect the act of answering these questions explains why the Chinese keep pushing back the date for their MSR experimental reactor.

        Certainly pinning all our hopes on such an unproven concept would be foolish at best and foolhardy at worst.

        “renewables take up lots of room thus must be expensive”
        You’re argument regarding does not stand up to rational scrutiny. If that were true then nuclear would have won over fossil fuels (which take up a fairly large amount of space) or hydroelectricity ages ago.

        The history of engineering has often shown that products that can be easily mass produced will always win over supposed technically superior options. Concorde was a technical success but a commercial failure v’s the vast fleets of inferior 737’s and Airbus aircraft that now fill the sky. Back during WW 2, the technically superior Tiger’s and Panther’s were overwhelmed by the more easily mass produced Sherman’s and T-34’s. Even within PV cheaper more easily mass produced panels are winning market share over more efficient ones that take up less room.

        SMR’s
        I discuss this in section 10, as does the NNL in the article I previously mentioned and I discuss their response here.

        In short a smaller reactor means sacrificing economies of scale and ultimately means higher costs. They offer improved flexibility yes. But the general view is that they cannot compete with large LWR’s or the other various non-nuclear options that are cheaper still.

        Nuclear for baseload/synthetic fuels
        And again from where are we magically going to conjure these reactors? As I point out in the article here, the current build rate of nuclear is about 4-7 GW/yr, about 3% of what’s needed to offset dangerous climate change or about 11% of the current capacity being added via renewables. The fact is we’ll struggle to replace the world’s existing fleet of reactors with new plant, nevermind take over the baseload.

        And using the reactors in the manner you describe won’t be economic (using them to make synthetic fuels would impose a further capital cost and require the reactors be designed for that role), as they’d be sacrificing valuable electricity sales (France is a special case given that its nuclear industry is nationalised and they don’t have to worry about pesky shareholders, etc.).

        Zap birds
        Again, got a reference for that? No probably not. Numerous studies have looked at this issue and while supporters of nuclear like to claim otherwise, the reality it that the environmental impact of renewables, even in the worst case scenario always works out an order of magnitude smaller than the consequences of continued fossil fuels use (there is some debate as to whether renewables or nuclear has the least impact, but I tend to view this as splitting hairs and ignoring the main issue).

        And since we’re talking about it, the major stumbling block (and key environmental impact) of solar thermal plants is the supply of cooling water in often remote desert environments. Although, as always there are alternatives (but as always whether those alternatives are viable is the big question).

      • fireofenergy says:

        It’s pretty easy to find. but first, My main beef with people like you is that you try to LIMIT humanity’s energy choices (at least that’s the impression I get). With depletion, excesss cO2 AND the possibility that we might have to clean up the excess, we NEED, doubly need MORE energy. period! What a shame, God gave us EVERYTHING we need but we just couldn’t figure it out… and go back into another dark age. Yes, this is serious (even more than nuclear).

        When I said “bird zap” I did NOT say “give up”! Ok…

        I searched “LFTR” and went through the pros and cons from there. Pro’s are that they dealt with chemical processing of “the mix” and shut it down every weekend” (unless ORNL or Kirk Sorensen was lying). Actually, I like hearing the older guys talk about it on youtube, I forgot their names but it’s there. Kirk was a NASA engineer tasked with alternative propulsion systems, so I don’t think he is a lunatic (and neither am I).
        Kirk, Robert Hargraves, and others (who are ACTUAL scientists or physicists) know that the closed cycle is FAR more efficient, more like 200x in theory (but in actual, even “just” 50x is way better). Are you a nuclear engineer? Neither am I, but I try not to doubt the words from those who are (I search).

        We can only be 30 years away from fusion for so long. In actuality, there IS a set (and only God knows) amount of time that it will take. Fusion is about, hmmm let’s see, from a tempurature pov, it would be like 100,000,000 / 800… 120,000x more difficult! But I know it’s not that much harder to achieve (we’ll figure it out if ONLY people don’t try to LIMIT our energy choices). Oh, sorry…

        What does the NNL know that these other physicists don’t. Yadda yadda yadda, those kind of people said we couldn’t land on the Moon either.

        I’m not a cheerleader, just one who realizes that we are going to need a lot of energy to clean up our messes. But you choose to LIMIT the options. Guess what, it’s NONE of your business unless you can prove that LFTR (or similar) will blow up the world.

        In the end, conspiracy is about the same as normal greed. Why spend the time and money to bring it to commercial if there is already gigatons of other, more easily extractable things to make money from. I did NOT say there is a person on top of the “pyramid”. Besides, why would they invest in something that counters the real threat from the cold war (they needed plutonium for MAD) U233 has been used only once (and still mixed with PU) in a test bomb. They couldn’t afford to be that worried about excess CO2 at the time (even though they knew about it). All of a sudden a bunch of greeny alien descended upon Washington and basically shut down all the cool research (don’t take that literal).

        The only thing I seriously suggest is that we promote the molten salt reactor (no conspiracies).

        The laws of physics state that we can deal with 800 degree C but the laws of physics also state that we can NOT deal with depletion (and possibly an excess of infrared absorbers).

        I got to go, it’s Christmas, and its taking me too long to counter “everything”.

        Merry Christmas and remember, with God, all things are possible!

      • daryan12 says:

        Apologies for the delay in this being posted, I’ve been away in the wilds of Scotland and Ireland for most of the Christmas period.

        LIMIT humanity’s energy
        I don’t WANT to reduce our energy consumption, I’m merely being realistic, as it seems to me that the numbers just don’t add up. Even if we ignore climate change (which we can’t) fossil fuels cannot sustain current “growth” for much longer (whether its another few years or a few more decades is debatable, but certainly not much longer than that). As I pointed out in a prior article, while renewables are growing strongly (9 times faster than the expected growth rate the IAEA is forecasting for nuclear) but not strongly enough. Nuclear can help yes, but when you do you’re sums its impact is likely to be tiny (about 3% of what’s needed).

        Assuming that god will magically supply a solution is not I would argue a credible alternative, not least because I don’t recall anything in the bible obliging god to solve a mess we ultimately got ourselves into thro our own stupidity, arrogance & greed.

        Thus, energy conservation might be the only alternative. But since we’re talking about it, what’s wrong with that? What’s so bad with using less energy? If an engineer can design car that gives similar performance but requires half the fuel, are you seriously going to argue that this is a bad thing? Or if I can design a house that requires a ¼ the energy to heat and cool are you going to say we shouldn’t do that? Consider that the average European uses about 2.5 times less energy than the average American or Canadian yet the HDI and quality of live indices for both regions is more or less the same.

        “worked for NASA”
        Lots of people have worked for NASA and gone on to do other things, I have a colleague in London who is on the tenure track at Imperial…but then I read about this other ex-NASA staffer who got convicted for fraud (something about an online scam) or this one who was involved in some sort bribery case, or that Astronaut who drove across 6 states to murder a love rival. Appeals to authority don’t help your case, its one’s record, not the org you worked for that counts.

        Fact is that none of the people you mention has either a PhD nor are they publishing authors (I keep an eye out for MSR related research papers and I ain’t seen either of their names attached to any peer reviewed research any time recently), nor, far as I’m aware, do they have any recent experience at laboratory research in this field.

        This is important because in order to get funding, be it from a research council (i.e. a government) or a corporation 3 crucial questions will be asked:
        1) How much research has recently be conducted into this field? If the answer is very little then that means millions, possibly tens or hundreds of millions and several years worth of time will have to be sunk into hiring staff and building facilities before any serious research gets done and we even figure out what the real technical problems are actually going to be.
        2) What experience do the proposers have in this field? Obviously having a PhD in a relevant field and a couple of years/decades experience working with such technology helps, as well as prior experience with running large scale scientific experiments. Peer reviewed research publications help the case as it suggests that idea has been checked out by independent experts in the field, and the authors are considered to be up to date as far as current developments in the field. Lacking any of these means is asking a funding body to take a fairly audacious risk….
        …which brings us to the 3) Credibility. Corporations and governments are prepared to take calculated risks by applying funding on wacky new ideas (take Graphene for example), which they know may or may not work out. But only when they can calculate said risks, as the history of science is littered with things that looked great on paper but proved to not be practical nor economic in the real world.
        Corporations/governments need to be able to have some way of assessing the probability of success of any research project (corps are accountable to shareholders and gov’s to us taxpayers, both of whom expect results in a timely manner) before approving it, as well as weighting it up against other ideas which are more technically mature. By vastly overstating the likely performance of MSR’s (as I would argue some of its supporters do) makes it harder to do this. And since we’re talking about it, vastly overstating ones expertise in the field …or indeed lurching towards the use of crackpot conspiracy theories to paper over the obvious cracks doesn’t help either! Inevitably when said research council’s/corporations own technical experts (i.e the guys with actual PhD’s in nuclear energy and dozens of peer reviewed papers on Thorium or Molten salt technology under their belts) are asked for their opinion and they point out the holes in said proposals, the instinct of those in charge is to reject the proposal out of hand.

        Hence why I’m not surprised so little research is being done here, save a few research units here and there, notably in China. The worse enemy of MSR tech is not the NNL or the IAEA, or Greenpeace, nor me, but its some of its own crazy cheerleaders who don’t understand how big science works. Thus a little bit of realism here is badly needed I would argue.

  12. fireofenergy says:

    In my rush, I didn’t get to say that we need to do the GLOBAL SOLAR AND WIND thing too. Again, we don’t have time for deleting options!

  13. Goldfish says:

    Good job this website! I would like to hear your comments about the nuclear hybrid (proposed) reactor, see:
    http://phys.org/news/2012-09-awarded-patent-tokamak-device-nuclear.html

    • daryan12 says:

      The idea of using the high neutron flux of fusion reactors to process nuclear waste isn’t anything new, its been talked about since the 1970’s, indeed I recall Steve Chu citing the idea when he discussed the decision to scrap the Yucca mountain facility. However, suffice to say this is an idea at the early concept stage, i.e. likely the sort of thing that might feature in 2nd or 3rd generation of fusion reactors and we ain’t figured out how to make the 1st generation of them work yet!

      • Goldfish says:

        As far as I understand it, in a hybrid (fusion-fission) reactor Q does not need to be >1 so the current state of fusion technology is sufficient. The super-X upgrade in MAST can be used to experiment on this. See: http://www.utexas.edu/news/2009/01/27/nuclear_hybrid/.
        If this concept works then most of the the nuclear waste gets burned and we get power from it too. Sounds to good to be true… Or did I miss something important? In my opinion we can make this work far quicker then real nuclear fusion.

      • daryan12 says:

        My understanding of physics is that there are two reasons to support Fusion power, firstly it produces less long lived nuclear wastes (important to realise that when we say a fast neutron reaction “burns” nuclear waste such a reactor doesn’t actually consume it, but merely converts it into a form with a much shorter half life, i.e. you still have nuclear waste coming out, just not as dangerous as when it went in).

        And secondly the energy density of fusion reactors is vastly higher than a fission reaction (that’s the whole point behind a thermo-nuclear bomb!). This would imply that a fission/fusion hybrid will have a lower energy density, which doesn’t exactly sound like a great idea, as it means you end up with a reactor that has all the disadvantages of a fusion reactor and a fission reactor combined!

        And a Q value less than 1 means that it will consume more energy to keep it going than it releases, which again doesn’t sound like a major selling point.

        Furthermore, as I stated before this is an idea in the early concept stage. Such extraordinary claims of performance aren’t unheard off with such new concepts, but unfortunately extraordinary claims needs extraordinary proof, which those behind such concepts have not yet put forward.

        And recall that a patent being granted doesn’t prove anything. It is not the job of the patent office to determine whether a particular technology will work or is feasible or not, merely to determine if it infringes on the copyright of existing patent’s.

      • Goldfish says:

        Please cancel the previous post, there were 2 typos. Below is the right text.
        True, it is only a concept at this moment, but I am sure if you studied the hybrid reactor better then your verdict would be a lot more positive. When I said Q<1 I meant the gain in the fusion part is >1. The total Q will be >1 otherwise it would not produce any power….
        We will hear the results of the MAST super-X experiments within a few years so we will see what the future will bring us: true fusion, hybrids, renewables. Bet in the next 20 years still oil because there is to much money involved.

      • Goldfish says:

        On the internet I found a document that lists several new (gen4) reactors, It is written by an associate professor in reactor physics, Janne Wallenius. I think you should read it.
        Google on GenIVprogrammes.pdf.

  14. Goldfish says:

    The blog does not like brackets nor quotes. The last post was totally distorted due to the quotes I used. It displays the text well untill I press the button -post message-.
    Please correct the second post with:
    gain in the fusion parts -smaller then- 1
    Delete the other posts.
    Thanks

  15. fireofenergy says:

    1, Coal kills, nuclear doesn’t (because reactors are not designed as they were in Chernobyl).
    2, Nuclear, especially the meltdown proof closed cycle are intrinsically less expensive because they require less material. Consider that about 3,000 1MW wind turbines AND (as of yet non existing) storage is needed to match the power output of just one 1GW NPP.
    3, As a compliment to #2, the closed cycle’s EROI is higher.
    4, It is not my business to tell you to say no to wind and solar (in fact, I can’t wait for material and machine advancements to make it and storage for much less expensive), but it is also not your business to tell me to say no to nuclear (because I can’t wait to see closed cycle nuclear) needed to ERADICATE COAL USAGE as should have been done decades ago!.

    • daryan12 says:

      less material” The facts have not borne such a simplistic analysis out (see myth IV). By this same logic a Ferrari sportscar should be cheaper than a Transit van, as it uses less material, or a diamond ring cheaper than a can of soda. At best we can now say nuclear is about as costly as wind power (even when we account for the cost of intermittency) at worst, its much more expensive. And this is in the context of falling costs for renewable, yet nuclear’s costs are rising. Again there is a world of a difference between something that can be easily mass produced (such as solar panel or wind turbine), to a nuclear reactor that generally cannot be so easily mass produced (see myth VII) for a host of technical reasons.

      As for “EROI’s” there are a host of opinions on this (Varun etal 2009, Bodlund 1999, Bilek et al 2008, Sovacool 2008 to name a few), some conclude that renewables have greater EROI’s, lower carbon emissions, etc. than nuclear, others say its about the same or nuclear is slightly lower. However the key point I make is that its spliting hairs, the difference between any low-carbon source (even nuclear) and any fossil fuel based option (even those using carbon capture and storage) is a order of magnitude lower.

      closed cycle nuclear” HAS been in the works for decades and they’ve still not gone anywhere (myth VIII or here), despite wasting many billions (that could have been better spent on developing those new renewable systems you seem to agree would be a good idea!). I find nuclear supporters fall into two categories on this point. Those who change the subject and write Fast Reactors off as a massive mistake and waste of time. And those who lurch for crackpot conspiracy theories trying to blame the Fast reactor’s failure to launch on a host of targets such as the fossil fuel lobby, renewables, Greenpeace, the LWR lobby, etc. When in fact the more obvious answer is the technology just doesn’t work as well as they’d like to imagine.

      Finally, as I discuss in a more recent post, there’s a massive gap between the current build rate of renewables and that of nuclear power (even accounting for intermittency related issues, renewables are being installed at a rate 9 times faster than nuclear). The best case scenario for nuclear is probably to stand still (expansion of capacity in developing countries being cancelled out by an inevitable reduction in western nations) and the worse case scenario a slow decline to obscurity. While not everything is rosy in the renewable garden, based on IAEA projections, nuclear is likely to grow (if indeed there is any growth) at a rate about 3% of what’s needed to avert dangerous climate change.
      https://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/a-global-report-card-for-renewables/

  16. pendantry says:

    Wow. So many words, so little time. Thank you for providing this, I can see myself coming back again and again to try to follow everything through.

    I recommend a read of The Debunking Handbook: I suspect that the way in which you’ve presented your mythbusting information may suffer from ‘the familiarity backfire effect‘.

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