Nuclear vs. Solar, Permanent Temperature Increases

by Robert Nagle on 5/17/2010

in global warming,Open Media

 

This thread gives a great discussion about nuclear vs. solar.  The comments are more interesting than the article itself. From the comments, here’s a map of the US along with its solar energy generation potential and a fascinating article by Australian Peter Lang about how significantly lower the costs of nuclear power are over time when compared to solar. One informed  commenter summarizes the Lang article:

Peter Lang does a thorough analysis of the cost of supplying all of Australia (one of the best locations on Earth) with Renewables. Conclusion:
Solar PV with Pumped Hydro storage: $2,800 billion
Solar PV with NaS battery storage: $4,600 billion
Solar Thermal with storage: $4,400 billion
Nuclear Power: $120 billion
Just the cost of the Power Transmission TRUNK lines (500kv AC – not superexpensive superconducting ) to supply Australia with Wind & Solar Energy is $180 billion — 50% MORE THAN THE ENTIRE NUCLEAR OPTION!!
CO2 emissions for all of Australia for 30 days:
Solar PV: 71 million tonnes
Coal: 219 million tonnes
Coal with CCS: 33 million tonnes
Nuclear: 3.3 million tonnes

(I don’t deny that the devil is in the details, and that each proponent is armed with their own set of numbers justifying their own economics, but still these numbers should make stop and pause at least. Joe Romm offers a lot of articles with the opposite viewpoint). A lot depends on what kind of nuclear power plant are you talking about. Third Generation and Fourth Generation nuclear power plants have solved many of the common problems cited about nuclear power. Joe Romm summarizes about nuclear as a climate change solution:

Based on a post last year on the Keystone report, to do this by 2050 would require adding globally, an average of 17 plants each year, while building an average of 9 plants a year to replace those that will be retired, for a total of one nuclear plant every two weeks for four decades — plus 10 Yucca Mountains to store the waste. I also doubt it will be among the cheaper options. And the uranium supply and non-proliferation issues for even that scale of deployment are quite serious.

Fascinating audio recording of one of the last negotiating round tables between presidents.   Notable details:  Obama warns that the meeting can’t go on forever,  China refused to send their Premier to this session (a major slap in the face), EU nations seem unaware of how differently developing nations see the negotiations (in fact, developing nations made their own agreement in a separate negotiating session). The Mexican Environmental minister commented on the aftermath: "When more than 190 countries are supposed to reach a consensus, it’s simply too complicated."

About the oil spill, I have been following it closely. I don’t have much new to say about that, except that PBS’s coverage of it has been pathetic .. mainly because of their choice of guests. This has happened before.  Also, the New York Times has sometimes failed us although overall they have been providing good coverage.  Houston Chronicle’s coverage has been ample but industry-focused. (You have to remember that Oil and Gas are the cornerstone of the Houston economy. Tuesday May 18 is officially  Exxon Mobil Anniversary Day in Houston).   I regret that most newspaper sources are focusing on forensics and not really on global or long term implications.  My rule of thumb for reading media reports is to disregard all company spokesman. They may have interesting information to impart, but only a skeptical or critical eye can understand what it means (and does not mean). 

Craig Severance reviews the latest Peak Oil research and Sima Gandhi reviews tax subsidies for the oil industry.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan Elliott May 18, 2010 at 12:58 am

“to do this by 2050 would require adding globally, an average of 17 plants each year, while building an average of 9 plants a year to replace those that will be retired”

If the average plant size is 1GW, this is correct. It should be noted that not all plants that are presently scheduled for retirement (40 years) will need to be retired.

“plus 10 Yucca Mountains to store the waste”

Assuming we don’t reprocess, which there’s a big push to change. If we reprocess our nuclear waste, we don’t even need 1 Yucca Mountain.

“I also doubt it will be among the cheaper options.”

Nuclear, sans regulatory excess, is the cheapest type of energy money can buy. Nuclear with regulatory excess is a huge profit driver for the NRC, and competitive with coal otherwise.

“And the uranium supply” Will last 20 years without reprocessing, and roughly 1000 years with.

“and non-proliferation issues”

Proliferation is presently a red herring. If nuclear material is more valuable as energy than as weapons, which do you think will be used?

Meanwhile, about 20 minutes on wikipedia should be enough to get you to stop worrying and realize that the comcept that it takes a government to make a nuclear weapon is a myth: A source of thorium, a cheap neutron generator, and about three months of continuous operation are all you need to gather a critical mass of 233-U – and a terrorist won’t care much about the hard gammas that the 232-U dopants that naturally form give off. No, proliferation is mostly unrelated to power, except in that nuclear power means there are commercial interests squatting on the rich veins of nuclear material.

example May 18, 2010 at 3:13 am

The problem with this kind of analysis is that the price of solar panels are continually dropping. In 2008 there was an enormous increase in panel production capability, especially in China. Basically a bubble. It collapsed (for now) and right now panels are dirt cheap.

The difference between a nuke plant an a panel plant is that once you build a nuke plant, it continually produces cheap electricity.

When you build a panel plant, you continually produce CHEAP PANELS which then in turn produce free electricity.

Look at moore’s law and the price of transistors. The raw material for solar panels is cheap, it just needs to be purified. If we focus on building solar panel plants, we can drive the price of solar WAY down. Right now it’s economical for a home owner to put up solar panels and recoup in a few years on saved power bills. Panels that cost $9k 4 years ago cost just $1k today.

I say we ought to blaze down *both* paths full steam ahead, but nukes won’t come online for decades. You can get a home solar panel installed in a few HOURS and it requires almost no new infrastructure. And with net metering, homes can sell excess electricity back to the grid, so storage at night isn’t needed (and won’t be until a majority of power is wind or solar based)

Since the up front investment with solar can be so much smaller, it’s something individuals can do on their own without requiring massive government effort, I think it’s much more likely to be widespread.

bhupendra pratap singh June 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm

http://twitter.com/#!/arindam_iipm

Read the IIPM ThinkTank Cover Story on Solar v/s Nuclear (pg 46-50) [Business & Economy (10th – 23rd June)]

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