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Wed Aug 31, 2016, 05:50 PM

Decommissioning costs: A blind spot in the nuclear power debate

Decommissioning costs: A blind spot in the nuclear power debate
In nuclear policy, too little thought is given to the considerable costs of storing radioactive waste on site

By Christina Simeone | August 30, 2016 Printprint

The following is a viewpoint article from Christina Simeone, director of policy and external affairs at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

With over 10 GW of nuclear capacity at risk for premature retirement – defined as retirement before license expiration – many states are considering subsidy policies to keep these economically struggling reactors operating.

Arguments for subsidies focus on protecting local jobs, keeping low-cost baseload power, maintaining reliability, and preserving the zero-carbon resources needed to address climate change. Opponents argue that out-of-market subsidies distort competitive markets and amount to ratepayer bailouts of uneconomic generation.

Absent from the debate, however, is a focus on what happens to nuclear power plants when they retire and decommission. Specifically, how Americans like you and I will continue to pay more and be subjected to greater risks as nuclear power plants are converted to interim waste storage facilities.

This is the focus of a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, entitled “Nuclear Decommissioning: Paying More for Greater, Uncompensated Risks.”

Let me explain....


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Reply Decommissioning costs: A blind spot in the nuclear power debate (Original post)
kristopher Aug 2016 OP
progressoid Sep 2016 #1
kristopher Sep 2016 #2
progressoid Sep 2016 #3
kristopher Sep 2016 #4
progressoid Sep 2016 #5
kristopher Sep 2016 #6
kristopher Sep 2016 #8
OKIsItJustMe Sep 2016 #7

Response to kristopher (Original post)

Thu Sep 1, 2016, 02:47 PM

1. Another blind spot is what will replace those nuclear plants.

She sort of implies that it should be more nuclear plants.

For my part, I think nuclear energy is needed if we are going to address climate change while keeping the lights on.

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Response to progressoid (Reply #1)

Thu Sep 1, 2016, 03:13 PM

2. Countries that support nuclear energy lag on climate targets

Study: Countries that support nuclear energy lag on climate targets

Madeleine Cuff
23 August 2016

Countries with a strong national commitment to nuclear energy tend to make slower progress towards meeting their climate targets, compared to countries without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it, according to research published yesterday by the University of Sussex.

The researchers looked at the progress of European countries towards cutting carbon emissions and increasing their share of renewable energy under the EU's 2020 Strategy. They found nuclear-free countries such as Denmark and Norway have made the most progress towards their climate targets, while pro-nuclear countries such as France and the UK have been slower to tackle emissions and roll out clean energy sources.


"Looked at on its own, nuclear power is sometimes noisily propounded as an attractive response to climate change," Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex, said in a statement. "Yet if alternative options are rigorously compared, questions are raised about cost-effectiveness, timeliness, safety and security."

"Looking in detail at historic trends and current patterns in Europe, this paper substantiates further doubts," he added. "By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive."

Countries which have no nuclear energy ...


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Response to kristopher (Reply #2)

Fri Sep 2, 2016, 03:55 PM

3. That's an odd correlation.

I don't have access to the study (I'm not a subscriber). Does Stirling explain why he thinks "entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive." ? Is there an actual cause and effect?

It's great that Norway is getting closer to it's goal. It's per capita carbon foot print is about double that of France. Of course both pale in comparison to the US.

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Response to progressoid (Reply #3)

Fri Sep 2, 2016, 04:43 PM

4. It isn't odd at all. In fact, it's entirely predictable.

Based on their operational characteristics, the economics of centralized generation are antithetical to the economics of distributed generation. Since the two technological structures optimize in polar opposite directions a commitment to one is bound to lead to neglect of the other.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #4)

Fri Sep 2, 2016, 05:00 PM

5. Is this Stirling's conclusion or yours?

Because that doesn't seem to be the case with wind generation (which is big around here). It's primarily a centralized, corporate run product not unlike coal or natural gas plants. In fact it works in coordination with those other power plants.

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Response to progressoid (Reply #5)

Fri Sep 2, 2016, 06:14 PM

6. If you think wind generation is, by nature, like coal or natural gas...

...I don't know what to tell you - they aren't even close to be the same. Your questioning should start with the "fuel" source and the way the technology for converting that fuel to electricity is able to be merged with the available other "fuels" and technologies to form a system that supports modern culture.
Once you're intimately familiar with the characteristics of all the options, you'll come to see that one set conceptually begins at a center point and radiates out to myriad end users; while the other conceptually begins with meeting the needs of the end user on site and then links the end users into a sustaining network.

The conclusion I offered is shared by most people who are well informed on the nature of energy systems and all of the associated technologies. The fact that Stirling's findings are consistent with that knowledge base is to be expected.

You might enjoy this:
Full article for download here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/revsolglobwarmairpol.htm

Energy Environ. Sci., 2009, 2, 148 - 173, DOI: 10.1039/b809990c

Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security

Mark Z. Jacobson

This paper reviews and ranks major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution mortality, and energy security while considering other impacts of the proposed solutions, such as on water supply, land use, wildlife, resource availability, thermal pollution, water chemical pollution, nuclear proliferation, and undernutrition.

Nine electric power sources and two liquid fuel options are considered. The electricity sources include solar-photovoltaics (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, tidal, nuclear, and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The liquid fuel options include corn-ethanol (E85) and cellulosic-E85. To place the electric and liquid fuel sources on an equal footing, we examine their comparative abilities to address the problems mentioned by powering new-technology vehicles, including battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), and flex-fuel vehicles run on E85.

Twelve combinations of energy source-vehicle type are considered. Upon ranking and weighting each combination with respect to each of 11 impact categories, four clear divisions of ranking, or tiers, emerge.

Tier 1 (highest-ranked) includes wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs.
Tier 2 includes CSP-BEVs, geothermal-BEVs, PV-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs.
Tier 3 includes hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs.
Tier 4 includes corn- and cellulosic-E85.

Wind-BEVs ranked first in seven out of 11 categories, including the two most important, mortality and climate damage reduction. Although HFCVs are much less efficient than BEVs, wind-HFCVs are still very clean and were ranked second among all combinations.

Tier 2 options provide significant benefits and are recommended.

Tier 3 options are less desirable. However, hydroelectricity, which was ranked ahead of coal-CCS and nuclear with respect to climate and health, is an excellent load balancer, thus recommended.

The Tier 4 combinations (cellulosic- and corn-E85) were ranked lowest overall and with respect to climate, air pollution, land use, wildlife damage, and chemical waste. Cellulosic-E85 ranked lower than corn-E85 overall, primarily due to its potentially larger land footprint based on new data and its higher upstream air pollution emissions than corn-E85.

Whereas cellulosic-E85 may cause the greatest average human mortality, nuclear-BEVs cause the greatest upper-limit mortality risk due to the expansion of plutonium separation and uranium enrichment in nuclear energy facilities worldwide. Wind-BEVs and CSP-BEVs cause the least mortality.

The footprint area of wind-BEVs is 2–6 orders of magnitude less than that of any other option. Because of their low footprint and pollution, wind-BEVs cause the least wildlife loss.

The largest consumer of water is corn-E85. The smallest are wind-, tidal-, and wave-BEVs.

The US could theoretically replace all 2007 onroad vehicles with BEVs powered by 73000–144000 5 MW wind turbines, less than the 300000 airplanes the US produced during World War II, reducing US CO2 by 32.5–32.7% and nearly eliminating 15000/yr vehicle-related air pollution deaths in 2020.

In sum, use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, PV, wave, and hydro to provide electricity for BEVs and HFCVs and, by extension, electricity for the residential, industrial, and commercial sectors, will result in the most benefit among the options considered. The combination of these technologies should be advanced as a solution to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Coal-CCS and nuclear offer less benefit thus represent an opportunity cost loss, and the biofuel options provide no certain benefit and the greatest negative impacts.

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Response to progressoid (Reply #5)

Sat Sep 3, 2016, 11:59 PM

8. I just came across this short piece on microgrids.

It's helpful in rounding out my earlier remarks.

Public purpose microgrids: Mixed-ownership models spur utility investment in growing sector
Thinking of microgrids as public infrastructure — and financing them like it — could point the industry to new growth
By Herman K. Trabish | August 30, 2016

Across the U.S. and around the globe, the appeal of independence from the power grid continues to grow.

Whether stemming from the floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy or worsening seasonal wildfires out west, companies and communities are realizing that having a backup power supply for when the unthinkable happens is an increasingly good bet in an era of climate disruption.

That trend promises to open up new opportunities for microgrid deployments, which allow institutions to provide power on-site, without the grid.

U.S. cumulative microgrid capacity is expected to reach 4.3 GW by 2020, according to GTM Research’s recent report U.S. microgrids 2016. That represents a 116% increase in annual installed capacity from now until then.

Those numbers are promising, but analysts say many business opportunities for microgrids remain closed off by mainstream private sector financing models, which fail to take into account the public service that many microgrids can play.

“The inherent benefit streams from microgrids are varied and include cost reductions that accrue to the owner-operator of the project but also include social value streams,” Ken Horne, energy director at Navigant Consulting told Utility Dive. “That has been a conundrum for the marketplace.” ...

More at: http://www.utilitydive.com/news/public-purpose-microgrids-mixed-ownership-models-spur-utility-investment-i/425296/

The heart of the issue in moving forward isn't nearly so much technical, as it is one of economic 'winners and losers'. The established system is entrenched and obstinate, but the value they offer is being steadily eroded by the problems they've wrought and the solutions they offer to those problems. It's a downward spiral for them that is already well packed with inertia.

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Response to progressoid (Reply #3)

Fri Sep 2, 2016, 06:35 PM

7. Here’s an “open-access” article which may be of interest

[font face=Serif][font size=5]Nuclear energy and path dependence in Europe’s ‘Energy union’: coherence or continued divergence?[/font]

Page 622-641 | Published online: 01 Jul 2016

[font size=4]Abstract[/font]

[font size=3]Since its initial adoption, the EU’s 2020 Strategy – to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 20% of consumption, and achieve energy savings of 20% or more by 2020 – has witnessed substantial albeit uneven progress. This article addresses the question of what role nuclear power generation has played, and can or should play in future, towards attaining the EU 2020 Strategy, particularly with reference to decreasing emissions and increasing renewables. It also explores the persistent diversity in energy strategies among member states. To do so, it first surveys the current landscape of nuclear energy use and then presents the interrelated concepts of path dependency, momentum, and lock-in. The article proceeds to examine five factors that help explain national nuclear divergence: technological capacity and consumption; economic cost; security and materiality; national perceptions; and political, ideological and institutional factors. This divergence reveals a more general weakness in the 2020 Strategy’s underlying assumptions. Although energy security – defined as energy availability, reliability, affordability, and sustainability – remains a vital concern for all member states, the 2020 Strategy does not explicitly address questions of political participation, control, and power. The inverse relationship identified here – between intensity of nuclear commitments, and emissions mitigation and uptake of renewable sources – underscores the importance of increasing citizens' levels of energy policy awareness and participation in policy design.

Policy relevance

This article highlights the significance of non-market forces in shaping the EU’s energy markets. It finds that intensities of national commitment to nuclear power tend to be inversely related to degrees of success in achieving EU climate policy goals. While the nuclear sector is increasingly economically uncompetitive and appears to be in decline for the EU as a whole, an abiding political challenge remains one of increasing interests and incentives in popular participation and interest in energy systems management.


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