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Response to wtmusic (Reply #3)

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 01:27 AM

4. Hoped we were beyond the nuclear option by now.

I never have been able to understand the logic which allows nuclear power plants to be part of our community power grid.

This is a graph demonstrating the costs of various power sources

"When the full nuclear fuel cycle is considered - not only reactors but also uranium mines and mills, enrichment facilities, spent fuel repositories, and decommissioning sites - nuclear power proves to be one of the costliest sources of energy".[73]

Doesn't seem like there is much rational conversation happening before these decisions are made. Unfortunately, that really isn't all that out of character when you look at the cardholder.

Comparisons with other power sources[edit]

See also: Relative cost of electricity generated by different sources
Generally, a nuclear power plant is significantly more expensive to build than an equivalent coal-fueled or gas-fueled plant. However, coal is significantly more expensive than nuclear fuel, and natural gas significantly more expensive than coal thus, capital costs aside, natural gas-generated power is the most expensive.[dubious discuss] Most forms of electricity generation produce some form of negative externality costs imposed on third parties that are not directly paid by the producer such as pollution which negatively affects the health of those near and downwind of the power plant, and generation costs often do not reflect these external costs.
A comparison of the "real" cost of various energy sources is complicated by several uncertainties:
The cost of climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases is hard to estimate. Carbon taxes may be enacted, or carbon capture and storage may become mandatory.
The cost of environmental damage caused by (fossil or renewable) energy sources, both through land use (whether for mining fuels or for power generation) and through air and water pollution and solid waste.
The cost and political feasibility of disposal of the waste from reprocessed spent nuclear fuel is still not fully resolved. In the U.S., the ultimate disposal costs of spent nuclear fuel are assumed by the U.S. government after producers pay a fixed surcharge.
Operating reserve requirements are different for different generation methods. When nuclear units shut down unexpectedly they tend to do so independently, so the "hot spinning reserve" must be at least the size of the largest unit (this partly makes nuclear power more suitable for large grids). On the other hand, many renewables are intermittent power sources and may shut down together if they depend on weather conditions, so the grid will require either back-up generation capability or large-scale storage if the portion of generation from these renewables is significant. (Some renewables such as hydroelectricity have a storage reservoir and can be used as reliable back-up power for other power sources.)
Governmental instabilities in the next plant lifetime. New nuclear power plants are designed for a minimum of 60 years (50 for VVER-1200), and may be able to be refurbished. Likewise, the waste from reprocessed fuel remains dangerous for about this period.
Actual plant lifetime (to date, no plant has been shut down due to maximum licensed lifetime being reached, or been refurbished).
Due to the dominant role of initial construction cost and the multi-year construction time and planned lifetime, the interest rate for the capital required is of particularly high importance for estimating the total cost.
Several recent comparisons of the costs of plants are available (see below); however, commodity prices have shot up since they were completed, and so all types of plants will be more expensive than shown[22]
A UK Royal Academy of Engineering report in 2004 looked at electricity generation costs from new plants in the UK. In particular it aimed to develop "a robust approach to compare directly the costs of intermittent generation with more dependable sources of generation". This meant adding the cost of standby capacity for wind, as well as carbon values up to 30 (45.44) per tonne CO2 for coal and gas. Wind power was calculated to be more than twice as expensive as nuclear power. Without a carbon tax, the cost of production through coal, nuclear and gas ranged 0.0220.026/kWh and coal gasification was 0.032/kWh. When carbon tax was added (up to 0.025) coal came close to onshore wind (including back-up power) at 0.054/kWh offshore wind is 0.072/kWh nuclear power remained at 0.023/kWh either way, as it produces negligible amounts of CO2. (Nuclear figures included estimated decommissioning costs.)[4][24][65]
However a much more detailed review of over 200 papers by the UK Energy Research Centre, on the issue of intermittency came to much lower costs about the cost of wind energy compared to nuclear energy.[66] A recent study shows the current generating costs of wind, nuclear and coal plant in the UK which stills shows nuclear the cheapest, but not by a great a margin.[67]
The lifetime cost of new generating capacity in the United States was estimated in 2006 by the U.S. government: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MWh, coal (cheap in the U.S.) at $53.10, natural gas at $52.50 and nuclear at $59.30. However, the "total overnight cost" for new nuclear was assumed to be $1,984 per kWe[61] as seen above in Capital Costs, this figure is subject to debate, as much higher cost was found for recent projects.[citation needed] Also, carbon taxes and backup power costs were not considered.[68]
A May 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office concludes that a carbon tax of $45 per tonne of carbon dioxide would probably make nuclear power cost competitive against conventional fossil fuel for electricity generation.[69]
Estimates of total lifetime energy returned on energy invested vary greatly depending on the study. An overview can be found here (Table 2):[70]
The effect of subsidies is difficult to gauge, as some are indirect (such as research and development). A May 12, 2008 editorial in the Wall Street Journal stated, "For electricity generation, the EIA(Energy Information Administration, an office of the Department of Energy) concludes that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and 'clean coal' $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59."[71]
However, the most important subsidies to the nuclear industry do not involve cash payments. Rather, they shift construction costs and operating risks from investors to taxpayers and ratepayers, burdening them with an array of risks including cost overruns, defaults to accidents, and nuclear waste management. This approach has remained remarkably consistent throughout the nuclear industry's history, and distorts market choices that would otherwise favor less risky energy investments.[72]
In 2011, Benjamin K. Sovacool said that: "When the full nuclear fuel cycle is considered - not only reactors but also uranium mines and mills, enrichment facilities, spent fuel repositories, and decommissioning sites - nuclear power proves to be one of the costliest sources of energy".[73]
An EU-funded research study known as ExternE, or Externalities of Energy, undertaken from 1995 to 2005, found that the cost of producing electricity from coal or oil would double, and the cost of electricity production from gas would increase by 30% if external costs such as damage to the environment and to human health, from the particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, chromium VI, river water alkalinity, mercury poisoning and arsenic emissions produced by these sources, were taken into account. It was estimated in the study that these external, downstream, fossil fuel costs amount up to 1-2% of the EU's Gross Domestic Product, and this was before the external cost of global warming from these sources was included.[74] The study also found that the environmental and health costs of nuclear power, per unit of energy delivered, was lower than many renewable sources, including that caused by biomass and photovoltaic solar panels, but was higher than the external costs associated with wind power and alpine hydropower.[75]

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Arrow 5 replies Author Time Post
Kolesar Jun 2013 OP
Optimistic Crone Jun 2013 #1
kristopher Jun 2013 #2
wtmusic Jun 2013 #3
LineLineNew Reply Hoped we were beyond the nuclear option by now.
Optimistic Crone Jun 2013 #4
wtmusic Jun 2013 #5
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