HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » kristopher » Journal
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next »


Profile Information

Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

Journal Archives

UK 18 month study shows wind requires less backup than conventional generation


It has become an article of popular faith that building wind farms also involves constructing fossil-fuelled power stations for back‑up when the weather is calm. As a result, some opponents go on to say, wind turbines do little or nothing to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Now the National Grid has studied what actually happens in practice, with explosive, if surprising, results.

Between April 2011 and September 2012 – its head of energy strategy, Richard Smith, told the Hay Festival – wind produced some 23,700 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. Only 22GWh of power from fossil fuels was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow. That’s less than a thousandth of the turbines’ output – and, as it happens, less than a tenth of what was needed to back up conventional power stations.

It proved to be much the same with emissions.
Wind saved nearly 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over that 18 months; standby burning of fossil fuels only reduced this by 8,800 tonnes, or 0.081 per cent.
Not surprisingly, given these figures, no new fossil‑fuel power station has been built to provide back‑up for wind farms, and none is in prospect.


I'm looking for more information on this study to clarify the results. - k

Small Modular Reactors: Safety, Security and Cost Concerns

Press release

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Won’t Solve Nuclear Power’s Safety, Security and Cost Problems, New Report Finds

WASHINGTON (September 26, 2013)—Nuclear power proponents pinning their hopes on small modular nuclear reactors to resurrect the industry’s fortunes will likely be disappointed, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report, Small Isn’t Always Beautiful, concludes it will be extremely difficult for small reactors—which are less than a third the size of a standard 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor—to generate less expensive electricity and, at the same time, be safer than their larger cousins.

“Nuclear safety and security don’t come cheap,” said UCS Senior Scientist Edwin Lyman, the author of the report. “A utility that thinks it can have its own little nuclear reactor at a bargain-basement price may get exactly what it pays for: a plant more vulnerable to serious accidents and terrorist attacks.”

When the U.S. nuclear “renaissance” sputtered due to high construction costs, low natural gas prices and the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the nuclear industry began to tout small reactors as way to find new customers, such as utilities that cannot afford a large reactor’s $8-billion price tag or countries where electric grids cannot accommodate a large reactor’s output. The federal government, too, has gingerly jumped on the small reactor bandwagon. The Department of Energy (DOE) is now offering $452 million in matching grants to subsidize design and licensing costs. The agency foresees deployment of a commercial small reactor by 2020.

But do small reactors make economic sense? As Lyman’s report points out, utilities started building larger reactors in the first place because they produce electricity at a much lower cost than smaller ones due to the principle of economies of scale. So even if small modular reactors were cheaper to build than a large reactor on a per-unit basis, they would be less cost-competitive on a per-kilowatt basis, putting enormous pressure on reactor vendors to slash the costs of construction and operation to make small reactors cost-effective.

In an attempt to reduce capital costs, small reactor vendors are cutting corners on important reactor safety features, such as containment structures, which reduce radiation releases in the event of an accident. To cut operating costs, vendors also are pressuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken requirements for emergency planning, control room staffing, and security force staffing. And to make matters worse, the NRC’s discussions with vendors on their designs and safety analyses are occurring largely in secret to allegedly protect proprietary information.

“Some small modular reactor concepts may have desirable safety characteristics,” said Lyman, “but if they are not carefully designed, licensed, deployed and inspected, they could pose comparable or even greater safety, security and proliferation risks than large reactors. Meanwhile the vendors are hiding their design details and asking the public to trust them.”

Small reactor aficionados argue that mass-producing the reactors on an assembly line instead of building customized reactors on site would cut costs. Lyman says that this is an unproven proposition and warns that any benefits of manufacturing reactors on a production line could be undercut by generic defects that would spread throughout the entire reactor fleet. Problems with modular construction already have delayed four new AP1000 reactors in Georgia and South Carolina.

“It will take many years of manufacturing experience before the industry will be able to confirm that small reactors can be built as cheaply as they say,” said Lyman. “And that means that it will take massive taxpayer subsidies to get this industry off the ground.”

The challenge for small reactor manufacturers will be to figure out how to reduce costs without sacrificing safety and security, the report concludes. It calls on the DOE and the nuclear industry to collaborate on developing nuclear plant designs that would be truly safer than the current generation, and on Congress to ensure the DOE—which has traditionally been an unapologetic nuclear power cheerleader—to spend taxpayer money only on designs that are safer and more secure than currently operating reactors.

“In the aftermath of Fukushima, the Energy Department and the industry should not be promoting the false idea that small reactors are so safe they don’t need 10-mile emergency planning zones,” said Lyman. “Nor should they be encouraging the NRC to weaken its other safeguards just to facilitate small reactor licensing and development. That would be a recipe for disaster.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.


Small Modular Reactors: Safety, Security and Cost Concerns
Small isn't always beautiful

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and some members of the nuclear industry, the next big thing in nuclear energy will be a small thing: the “small modular reactor” (SMR).

SMRs—“small” because they generate a maximum of about 30 percent as much power as typical current reactors, and “modular” because they can be assembled in factories and shipped to power plant sites—have been getting a lot of positive attention recently, as the nuclear power industry has struggled to remain economically viable in an era of flat demand and increasing competition from natural gas and other energy alternatives.

SMRs have been touted as both safer and more cost-effective than older, larger nuclear reactor designs. Proponents have even suggested that SMRs are so safe that some current NRC regulations can be relaxed for them, arguing that they need fewer operators and safety officers, less robust containment structures, and less elaborate evacuation plans. Are these claims justified?

Economies of Scale and Catch-22s
SMR-based power plants can be built with a smaller capital investment than plants based on larger reactors. Proponents suggest that this will remove financial barriers that have slowed the growth of nuclear power in recent years.

However, there's a catch: “affordable” doesn’t necessarily mean “cost-effective.”...


DOWNLOAD: Small Isn't Always Beautiful: Safety, Security, and Cost Concerns about Small Modular Reactors

IKEA starts selling solar panels in Britain

IKEA starts selling solar panels in Britain
Updated 1:35 am, Monday, September 30, 2013

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA says it will start selling residential solar panels at its stores in Britain in a move aimed at bringing renewable energy to the mainstream market.

The company said it will start selling solar panels made by Hanergy in its store in Southampton on Monday and in the rest of Britain in coming weeks.

It said a standard, 3.36 kilowatt system for a semi-detached home will cost 5,700 British pounds ($9,200) and will include an in-store consultation and design service as well as installation, maintenance and energy monitoring service...


Thumb-Sized Hornets Are Getting More Aggressive — And Fatal — As China Warms

Thumb-Sized Hornets Are Getting More Aggressive — And Fatal — As China Warms

Over the last few weeks, giant, deadly hornets have killed more than two dozen people in China, the result of bizarre weather patterns there that have allowed the bugs to proliferate.

This summer, China suffered through massive heat waves, breaking records in places like Shanghai, Changsha, and Hangzhou in July, and affecting 700 million people through August. This has lead to dozens of heatstroke deaths, and, now, increasingly aggressive giant insects.

Attacks by giant hornets, most likely the 5-centimeter (2-inch) Vespa mandarinia, have left hundreds injured and 28 people dead, mostly in the Shaanxi region of northwest China. Some victims reported being chased for hundreds of meters and stung — some up to 200 times — by swarms of the insects traveling 40 km/h (25 mph). A director of the Ankang Disease Control Centre said more 30 stings required “immediate emergency treatment.”

A sting from the hornet’s quarter-inch-long stinger feels like a “hot nail through my leg,” according to an entomologist who got too close for comfort. The venom contains an enzyme that can dissolve human tissue, and too much of it can also bring renal failure or death.

Authorities recommend local residents ...


Near-Miss Accident at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Reactor to be Cited by NRC

Following the press release are two links, one to the NRCs finding, and the other to a powerpoint slideshow that will walk you through the event.

Near-Miss Accident at Nine Mile Point to be Cited by NRC

Media Advisory

September 25, 2013

Contact: Tim Judson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (315) 415-3005
David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists (423) 488-8318

Oswego, NY Nuclear Plant to be Cited for Safety Violation
Near-Miss Accident in April Due to Operator Errors, “Inadequate Procedures”
Agency Cites Inadequate Time to Evacuate Local Residents

Alliance for a Green Economy and Nuclear Information and Resource Service received notice that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is preparing to cite the operator of the Nine Mile Point nuclear station for safety violations in relation to a near-miss accident on April 16, 2013. The event was loss of power to shutdown cooling systems, during which the reactor was within two hours from boiling and releasing radioactive steam into the reactor building.

Details: Constellation operators lost all power to the shutdown cooling systems for over 30 minutes, at the beginning of the refueling outage. Operators were preparing to defuel the reactor, and had opened containment seals and disconnected steam vent to the reactor vessel, effectively removing all barriers to a radiation release and disabling one of the essential backup cooling systems. Constellation had not removed the reactor vessel head, and all of the fuel was still in the reactor.

The incident happened just two days after shutdown for refueling, so the fuel in the reactor was still at its hottest, and the water in the vessel heated up by 27 degrees in a half-hour. NRC estimates the reactor would have begun boiling within 110 minutes -- or less than 80 minutes from when Constellation workers managed to get the pumps working again – thereby spewing steam into the building that houses the reactor and many of its key safety systems.

NRC says it would have taken about 9 hours before the water boiled down to where the fuel was exposed, which could have led to a meltdown. (NRC letter, page A-2)

The NRC notice also cites a major concern over the lack of time to evacuate the public in the vicinity, due to the fast-breaking nature of the radiation release that could have occurred. With the reactor vessel and containment both open, there were no barriers to the release of radiation, and local residents might not have gotten enough notice to leave the area before they were exposed.


EDF must shut oldest nuclear plant before starting new reactor -official

EDF must shut oldest nuclear plant before starting new reactor -official

Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:48am EDT

PARIS, Sept 26 (Reuters) - France's plan to cap nuclear power output capacity means operator EDF must close its oldest plant, Fessenheim before it can get permission to bring online its next-generation reactor at Flamanville, a French official said.

French President Francois Hollande said last week an energy transition law, set to be adopted before the end of next year, will include a cap on nuclear capacity at its current level.

France, the world's most nuclear-reliant country, has 58 reactors operated by state-run utility EDF, with a total capacity of 63,260 megawatts (MW).

"The announcement of a cap to production capacity is a real signal for Fessenheim, because EDF will need to have it shut if it wants to obtain a production authorisation for Flamanville," Francis Rol-Tanguy, inter-ministerial delegate in charge of the closure of Fessenheim, said...




Even without Fukushima, the verdict on large centralized US nukes is probably in, for the following reasons:

1) They take too long: In the ten years it can take to build a nuclear plant, the world can change considerably (look at what has happened with natural gas prices and the costs of solar since some of these investments were first proposed). The energy world is changing very quickly, which poses a significant risk for thirty to forty year investments.

2) They are among the most expensive and capital-intensive investments in the world; they cost many billions of dollars, and they are too frequently prone to crippling multi-billion dollar cost overruns and delays. In May 2008, the US Congressional Budget Office found that the actual cost of building 75 of America’s earlier nuclear plants involved an average 207% overrun, soaring from $938 to $2,959 per kilowatt.

3) And once the investments commence, they are all-or-nothing. You can’t pull out without losing your entire investment. For those with longer memories, WPPS and Shoreham represent $2.25 bn (1983) and $6 bn (1989) wasted investments in which nothing was gained and ratepayers and bondholders lost a good deal.

Some recent investments in centralized nuclear plants in other countries highlight and echo these lessons.

Electricite de France’s Flamanville plant has seen its budget explode from 3.3 to 6 bn (July 2011) to 8 bn Euros ($10.5 bn) as of last December, with a delay of four years over original targets. EDF in part blames stricter post-Fukushima regulations for part of the overrun). To the north, Finland’s Olkiluoto – being constructed by Areva – has seen delays of nearly five years, and enormous cost overruns. The original turnkey cost of 3.0 bn Euros has skyrocketed beyond all fears, increasing at least 250%. Just last month, Areva’s CEO conceded “We estimate that the costs of Olkiluoto are near those of Flamanville.”

In the US, recent experience doesn’t look much better...


Rokkasho: nuclear white elephant or yen sucking black hole?

Rokkasho: nuclear white elephant or yen sucking black hole?
SEP 21, 2013

...Two decades and $21 billion after construction commenced, Japan’s nuclear reprocessing and waste storage facility at Rokkasho may finally start operating in 2014, but probably later. There have been numerous delays and large cost overruns, but the operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), is hopeful because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has revived prospects for restarting nuclear reactors. The Japan Atomic Energy Commission and JNFL want to get the facility running as soon as possible, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is busy reviewing applications to restart 12 reactors based on the new safety guidelines issued in July 2013.

The NRA has also drafted tighter regulation standards, which take effect in December 2013 for facilities like Rokkasho that deal with nuclear fuel and is expected to conduct an in-depth geological survey of the site to determine if it is located on top of active fault-lines. Thus the timing of Rokkasho’s commissioning remains uncertain.

A report issued recently by the Princeton, New Jersey-based International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), compiled by independent nuclear experts, gives a failing grade to Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling policy and urges reconsideration because it is, “dysfunctional, dangerous and costly” and because “Japan is undermining the non-proliferation regime.” The IPFM recommends, inter alia, a government takeover of spent fuel management, air-cooled dry-cask storage of spent fuel at nuclear power plants, continuation of local subsidies to offset axing the reprocessing project and deep burial of Japan’s 44 tons of separated plutonium.


Recycling spent fuel comes with a staggering price tag; a projected $245 billion over 40 years. Just burying it would be much cheaper, but then the government would have to coax a desperate town in a lightly populated area with a stable geology to become the nation’s designated nuclear cesspool for the next few centuries. Is there such a place in Japan? Aomori has already said “No thanks.” With the Rokkasho and Mutsu facilities, a nuclear reactor close by at Higashidori (that the NRA believes is sited above active geological faults) and another under construction at Oma, this backwater already is a major nuclear node.

Mothballing Rokkasho ....


Tokyo Electric: will add $10 bln for Fukushima cleanup to turnaround plan

Tokyo Electric: will add $10 bln for Fukushima cleanup to turnaround plan

TOKYO, Sept 27 | Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:26am EDT
(Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, said on Friday it will revise its business turnaround plan to allocate an additional 1 trillion yen ($10.1 billion) for the Fukushima facility's cleanup....


Not much more except a claim that everything is hunky dory.


By Douglas P. Guarino
Global Security Newswire
September 25, 2013 2 Comments

Who -- and what pot of money -- would drive cleanup after a severe nuclear-power-plant incident is a question still left unanswered by the federal government, New York state officials say in a recent legal filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Under the Price-Anderson Act, which Congress first passed in 1957 and has renewed several times since, the nuclear-power industry’s liability in the event of a catastrophe at one of its facilities is limited. The industry pays into an insurance account -- which NRC officials say has a current value of $12 billion -- that would be used to compensate the public for various damages incurred as the result of an incident. Those costs could be related to hotel stays, lost wages and property replacement.

However, how actual cleanup of the contaminated area surrounding a compromised facility would be paid for remains unclear, the New York state attorney general’s office notes in the Sept. 13 filing with the commission. In 2009, NRC officials informed their counterparts at the Homeland Security Department and the Environmental Protection Agency that the Price-Anderson money likely would not be available to pay for offsite cleanup -- a revelation made public a year later when internal EPA documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Another three years have gone by and the federal government has yet to provide a clear answer, the New York AG office says. Last year, NRC Commissioner William Magwood acknowledged in a presentation to the Health Physics Society that “[t]here is no regulatory framework for environmental restoration following a major radiological release.”

Magwood’s presentation touched on the fact that it is not only the issue of where the money would come from and which agency would take charge, but also how that federal entity would define “clean.”...


The Roadmap to El Dorado: SunEdison’s PV Module Technology Strategy

The Roadmap to El Dorado: SunEdison’s PV Module Technology Strategy

SunEdison wants to be the lowest-cost module manufacturer in the world at 40 cents per watt for a 20% efficient module in 2016. How is this possible?

Shyam Mehta September 19, 2013


Source: SunEdison Module Cost Target: Cheaper Than the Chinese

To put these targets in context, consider that SunEdison’s module cost in 2012 was 67 cents per watt, implying a planned reduction of over 40 percent from 2012 to 2016. Considering that prices for key module materials like polysilicon, glass, frame and encapsulants are widely expected to level off following a painful and protracted period of compression in 2011 and 2012, and that consumables price reductions contributed around 80 percent of the cost declines we saw from 2010 to 2012, it’s fair to say this is an aggressive target.

Just how low SunEdison is planning to go becomes all the more clear when its module cost target is compared to GTM Research’s base case estimate of $0.38 per watt for industry-leading Chinese producers in 2016. The comparison isn’t apples-to-apples, as SunEdison’s target includes non-manufacturing costs such as selling expenses, warranty, and inbound freight, which would contribute $0.06-$0.10 per watt. In other words, SunEdison is shooting for a “core” manufacturing cost (defined as depreciation of property/plant/equipment costs, materials, direct labor and utilities) of $0.30-0.35 pr watt by 2016 -- which is comfortably below our estimate for Chinese producers, and would likely position SunEdison as the lowest-cost module manufacturer in the world.

Conversion Efficiency Target: Head and Shoulders Above the Herd

If SunEdison’s module cost target seems ambitious, its conversion efficiency roadmap is likely to turn even more heads. Assuming a 72-cell module, its 2016 power rating target of 400 watts translates to a conversion efficiency of around 20.4 percent. This compares to a mean efficiency of 16.3 percent for the firm’s Silvantis monocrystalline module at present and implies an average increase of almost 1.5 percent per year for the next few years -- almost eight times higher than the historical rate of improvement for crystalline silicon technology in recent years (roughly 0.2 percent per year). At this level, SunEdison would be placed far ahead of both multi and mono c-Si Chinese fleet efficiencies -- even assuming, as GTM does, that the Chinese mono line incorporates a selective emitter platform at that point. In fact, a more appropriate comparison would be with industry leaders in efficiency such as SunPower, Silevo and Panasonic, all of which use highly proprietary IP to drive efficiency gains above and beyond the mostly commoditized technology of the mass market.

Source: PV Technology and Cost Outlook, 2013-2017

However, there is a very important difference between SunEdison’s roadmap and those of efficiency leaders like SunPower and Panasonic, and this is where things get interesting. Step-function efficiency increases generally come at the expense of additional costs, be it through additional capital investment, a bigger or more expensive bill of materials, more process steps, or lower manufacturing yields. SunPower and Panasonic, for example, have amongst the highest module cost structures in the industry. SunEdison, on the other hand, is aiming for a cost structure below that even of the lowest-cost Chinese firms.

The chart below, which plots efficiency against manufacturing cost for different firms’ ...


This is an excellent, detailed article that deserves a full read if you have the time.

Go to Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next »