The future of nuclear: power stations could make hydrogen, heat homes and decarbonise industry

Frédéric Paulussen/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

Bill Lee, Bangor University and Michael Rushton, Bangor University

Nuclear power has provided low-carbon electricity to the UK for over 60 years and today it generates 17% of the country’s electricity. Until mid-2018, 15 nuclear reactors were the country’s largest source of low-carbon energy. Of these, only Sizewell B is planned to remain operating in 12 years’ time. The only new plant under construction is Hinkley Point C, and with a total generating capacity of 3.26 gigawatts, it would provide just 8% of the UK’s current electricity demand.

The Committee on Climate Change advises the UK government on the effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Its proposals are strangely silent on nuclear power, occasionally lumping it in with “other low-carbon generation”. It supports a massive increase in renewable energy generation and continued burning of natural gas, using carbon capture and storage technology to mop up the CO₂ emitted. Elsewhere, the plan is to electrify transport, heating and industrial processes, meaning batteries in cars, and heat pumps powered by electricity in homes and factories.

While reducing the amount of gas and oil burned, this would at least double the amount of electricity the national grid will need by 2050. Perhaps this could be met with renewables and electricity storage in batteries, to cover those moments when the Sun isn’t shining and there’s no wind to generate green energy. But sadly, battery technology isn’t currently powerful enough to store energy at that scale.

Even today’s largest battery stores can only provide back-up electricity for a few hours, which is not always enough to cover extended periods of low wind or shorter daylight hours during winter. Battery technology is improving all the time, but it may not do so fast enough to meet rising electricity demand. Rolling out lots of electric vehicles could squeeze the supply of batteries even further, potentially even increasing their cost.

Carbon capture and storage is not a proven technology either, so it would be unwise to put too many of eggs in that basket. Aside from other technical issues – storing the CO₂ produced by burning natural gas is a potential safety hazard – the unexpected release of gas stored underground could suffocate life at the surface. While plans are afoot to make “green hydrogen” the new lifeblood of the economy, producing enough of the low-carbon fuel would take a lot of electricity. Can renewables generate enough to do that while having enough left over for the surge in electricity demand elsewhere?

Simply put, we need to start rebuilding the UK’s capacity to generate nuclear power.

A new generation of reactors

Future nuclear reactors will not just be big kettles making steam to drive turbines that generate electricity. The heat produced during the nuclear reaction can be diverted to power processes that are currently difficult to decarbonise.

Take heating in buildings, for example. Heat cooler than 400°C can be extracted after the turbine, and pumped into district heating systems, replacing fossil fuels like natural gas. This is a process that is already carried out daily from municipal waste incinerators across Europe.

High-temperature heat (between 400 and 900°C) could be diverted from nearer the reactor, before it reaches the turbine in a nuclear plant. It could be used to power processes that produce low-carbon hydrogen fuel, ammonia and synthetic fuels for ships and jets. This heat could also supply industries such as steel, cement, glass and chemical manufacturing, which often otherwise use burners powered by fossil fuels.

This flexibility links perfectly with renewables. While the sun is shining and the wind’s blowing, nuclear reactors can continue generating hydrogen or other fuels that serve as an energy store – a standby source that can be burned to generate additional energy when needed. That energy could also heat homes or produce aluminium, steel, bricks, cement and glass. When it’s cloudy and still, the reactor can still generate electricity for the grid.

A schematic illustrating how nuclear power can distribute heat and electricity for various processes.
Nuclear reactors have evolved to achieve more than just electricity generation. Royal Society, Author provided

The smaller reactors currently being developed worldwide typically generate about 300 megawatts of electricity each. They’re much cheaper to build than the current fleet of larger reactors which generate over 1,000 megawatts, such as the UK’s Hinkley Point C. Because they burn the fuel more efficiently, this new generation of reactors also produces much less nuclear waste.

Many contain passive safety measures too, which can flood an overheating reactor with cool water or remove the fuel source if there’s a problem. They’re designed to serve multiple purposes, either making electricity for the grid when renewable generation is low or making hydrogen and other fuels when it’s high. Because they’re smaller, these reactors can even be placed in industrial parks, providing a guaranteed electricity and heat supply to neighbouring factories.

We don’t believe that reaching net-zero emissions within the time we have left is possible without building new nuclear reactors. Fortunately, the new models awaiting construction can do so much more than just generate electricity.

Bill Lee, Ser Cymru Professor of Materials in Extreme Environments, Bangor University and Michael Rushton, Senior Lecturer in Nuclear Energy, Bangor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

107 thoughts on “The future of nuclear: power stations could make hydrogen, heat homes and decarbonise industry

  1. Go for it! Add, for those nuclear reactors at ocean-front locations, desalinization of sea water to produce potable water also. Who thinks Biden and the world wide network of Green Weanies are going for any of this? The only nuclear reactors they favor are in North Korea and Iran, whose intention isn’t green at all.

    • And to think, the “extra energy” can easily be used to manufacture pure hydrocarbons including gasoline. Synfuel. Manufactured since Germany, WWII. Recycles CO2 from air. Imagine.

      • German synfuels started with coal.

        Extracting CO2 from air as a carbon source would require huge amounts of area as its concentration is only about 0.04% by volume. Getting CO2 from flue gases, such as from cement manufacturing is more efficient by orders of magnitude.

        • Agreed, No one in their right mind would attempt to “mine” CO2 out of the air…you would look for a process where large quantities of CO2 are being produced and redirect it before it mixed with the air.

          But until THAT is more cost effective then crude oil extraction and natural gas from wells, it will not go anywhere.

  2. Pontification of some minor university academics!
    Typically, no mention of the total costs of nuclear power, including:
    1. the costs of toxic waste products management and disposal, toxic plant de-commissioning, ongoing massive design/supply and construction/installation costs over-runs and delays throughout the world
    2. the need for massive subsidies, tax breaks and guaranteed minimum prices to make the works commercially viable.
    No mention, also, of the urgent need to very quickly fill the UK’s crippling Energy Gap; renewables such as wind turbines and solar panels are not the base load systems needed for secure and reliable power supplies.
    Carbon capture, also only adds even more costs and is years away from being practical, efficient and commercially viable.
    The only route available to us is still an immediate programme of new Gas Turbines and UK fracking, even if CO2 reductions are necessary, and they’re not!

    • The cost of waste disposal is in fact very low. It is the cost of meeting insane regulatory requirements that is so heavy.

      The cost of building reactors is in fact very low. It is the cost of meeting insane regulatory requirements that is so heavy.

      In short the industry doesn’t need government support, it simply needs the government to roll back the onion layers of crushing regulatory burden and give guarantees not to arbitrarily close nuclear plant on a political whim.

      In the short term of course the only thing left is fracked gas.

      And I agree, the paper is another handwavery academic pie in the sky bunch of ill considered qualitative nonsense, but if ten percent of the money and incentives that have been thrown at renewables nonsense were applied to nuclear, some of it could be a reality.

      In the end we will adopt nuclear, after all the other alternatives have been found wanting. It will however be a long, expensive and nation destroying wait…

      Heat cooler than 400°C can be extracted after the turbine

      Exit temperatures of a multi stage condensed turbine are well below 100°C. Just another example of the sloppiness of this paper.

      All these incremental efficiency improvements are all very well, but meaningless unless and until the government decides to make it possible for reactors to be built. It needs no finance – a nuclear power station is a wonderful investment for pensions funds and the like – but it does need a sane regulatory environment.

        • re: “until we get fusion. ”

          Another technology will, is, in the application phase/field trialing phase now.

          Problem is, you and a ‘millyun’ others are hamstrung by the limitations and many assumptions in QM. Look at the cracks in that edifice, I dare ya …

          Steven Weinberg “lights up” quantum mechanics:

      • Leo,

        It’s hard to say what he’s thinking with the 400°C figure. It looks ridiculous. Nuclear plants typically send saturated steam to the turbine at a pressure of around 1000 psia. That would be about 285°C coming right out of the reactor or steam generator. So the author either doesn’t know anything about the subject or he meant something other than what he actually said.

        At the main turbine exhaust, the pressure of the saturated steam is typically about 1.5-2 psia, which corresponds to about 126°F.

        • 126°F?
          F?
          How can one have steam below 100°C at normal pressures?

          Anyways, I think the study is based on molten salt reactors or maybe gas cooled reactors that will be able to run at very high temperatures to be more efficient, run at ambient pressure to be safer and have the advantage of producing temperatures useful for industrial processes. But of course the molten salt reactors don’t exist yet, so the article is a pipe dream on top of wishful thinking. The thorium molten salt reactors make a lot of sense but it’s wishful thinking that they’ll get developed in the west under the ecofascist regimes that currently dominate. China will definitely have molten salt reactors online first. The pipe dream is all the complicated and dangerous Rube Goldberg schemes that come out of academia to replace safe reliable fuels like natural gas and oil. The ecofascist heart bleeds for an imaginary biosphere that would prefer to be colder and drier, than actual children working in mines to feed the green-vanity of eco-nuts jumping on the electric car and battery storage bandwagon.

      • Let us not forget the major need: namely very quickly filling the Energy Gap with reliable base load power generation and, most importantly, providing far cheaper overall cost electricity. Bearing in mind, also, the total ineffectiveness of the UK’s Energy Policy; even zero UK CO2 emissions will not stop global CO2 levels rising. UK CO2 emissions should not be any consideration, particularly when China, India and the rest of the rapidly expanding recently developed countries are giving no meaningful CO2 reduction commitments.
        We need to resurrect strategic industries using cheaper power and, like China, spend far more on R&D for training and more efficient and cheaper products and services – simply to survive. We also need to massively reduce UK plc’s overheads, primarily benefits costs, and increase skilled jobs and higher paid wages, increased defence costs and increased exports. Cheaper power and heating is an absolute necessity for reaching such objectives .

      • 60 MW Nuscale modular nuclear reactors are the only practical way to phase in a few thousand MW of nuclear over the next few decades. Trump has the financing all setup, we’ll see if Biden has the tenacity to stand up to the wind and solar alarmists (1 chance in a 100?)

      • The regulation compliance costs are costs. Those do need to be considered. The regs probably need updating, consolidation, revision, etc., but that’s a different topic.

    • Academics are clueless about what is happening in the real world.

      A Canadian company with affiliates all over the world has copied the US optimum fission reactor design that was built and tested in the US 50 years ago.

      This is a energy breakthrough. A paradigm change. Cheap, safe, fission energy. Waste problems almost eliminated.

      The new Canadian reactor is a fission toaster. (440 Mw, truckable to site) It has no possible catastrophic failure modes, it has a service life of seven years.

      After seven years, the can is drained. The facility gets a new fission toaster can every seven years. The can has six heat exchangers and six 60 hp pumps and a graphite core. The graphite core has a service life of seven years.

      The molten salt reactor produces heat at 600C (47% thermal efficiency) rather than 320C (Pressure water reactor, 36% efficiency) which enable the use of standard steam turbines rather than custom turbines which only the ‘nuclear’ industry uses.

      The ‘new’ fission reactor is roughly 1/3th the cost of the old pressure water reactors, it six times more fuel efficient, it produces 1/6 th amount of long lived radioactive waste and it can be mass produced.

      The new reactor system is sealed so it possible to have very near zero radioactive material release under any imaginable normal or accident scenario.

      The new reactor design is something that everyone would rather have near them as opposed to a coal fired power station, natural gas power plant, hundreds of wind turbines.

      Terrestrial IMSR Good Summary 11 minutes

      • William,
        So you’re on the ColMosby train I guess. As I generally remind him, you can’t tell us anything accurate about costs until we have at least one of them in commercial use.

        It all sounds terrific. But I seem to recall a story about electricity too cheap to meter (slightly before my time). So let’s count our chickens when they’re scratching in the barnyard, not before the eggs are laid.

        Oh by the way, before you get your hopes up, go ask “Vice” President Harris how many MSRs she’s going to allow. Let’s say all of this goes off as hoped and without a hitch. You know that the Green communists will fight it tooth and nail, right? This would provide dangerously inexpensive electricity which undermines the state’s control over the proletariat.

        • In reply to:

          “You know that the Green communists will fight it tooth and nail, right? This would provide dangerously inexpensive electricity which undermines the state’s control over the proletariat.”

          If CAGW is real….. in the minds of the fanatics then a safe, cheap, fission toaster that can be mass produced is logically the answer for many different reasons.

          You are missing the point. We are between a rock and a hard place economically. Reality matters. This is the optimum fission reactor design. It is cheap, safe, and mass producible.

          For many different reason. The US, France, UK, Spain, Italy, and so on have reached the end of road…. They have reached and passed and passed, the limit GDP/to accumulated debt.

          Germany has reached the engineering limit of the green scam. More money spent on the stupid green stuff does not change that in Germany. Same UK.

          Everyone knows green energy is a scam that has real engineering limits regardless of money spent.

          We can put men on the moon. The US/Germany/Canadians/UK/French and so on….

          ….absolutely can mass produce simple fission toaster cans. PWRs are unbelievable complicated, dangerous, expensive, and have an astonishing list of complex engineering/safety problems.

          A typical PWR has 50,000 fuel rods. A third of which must replaced every 2 1/2 years. The PWR is the largest pressure vessel in the world. Lose pressure, lose flow of water, lose pumps, have a pipe break, lose control power, lose pump power, loss a level control, lose pressure relief, and so on. …

          And the PWR produce H2 gas that explodes and its core melts down destroying the reactor vessel and releasing radioactive gas that accumulates in the reactor rods. The PWR reactor rods carry the dangerous radioactive gas in them after they are removed.

          The fission rods are very dangerous to reprocess because the uranium is locked in a ceramic. Breaking the ceramic is required before the acid wash which releases tiny airborne plutonium.

          The PWR fuel rods are covered in zircon which reacts with water vapor in the air to produce explosive levels of hydrogen gas. This is the reason why the spent fuel rods must be covered in water at all times.

          The liquid fuel reactors bind the uranium and all the fission byproducts in an ionic salt that is not damaged or changed by radiation. There are no exothermic reactions. The spent salt is stored in thick containers and can be air cooled.

          In comparison the salt is just melted and the uranium and plutonium is removed using electrochemistry using standard methods for reprocessing.

          The fission toaster burns more plutonium as the uranium stays in the reactor for seven years and is mixed about.

          The longer and better burn results in the production of a plutonium isotope that makes the plutonium that is produced after the seven years practically almost useless for weapons use.

          This fission can design removes radioactive gases that accumulate in the top of the reactor, everyday. The gases are then disposed in deep wells. The can is stored in a vault deep in the earth.

          There is no possible catastrophic failure modes. An attack on the reactor using explosives would release the salt stopping all fission. No explosions.

          This is a can that is filled with a liquid that melts at 400C and boils at 1400C. The can operates at 650C and produces end heat out at 600C.

          There is no water to produce explosive gas. The largest and cheapest possible fission toaster, that can be passively cooled in to provide walk away safety in event of a complete control system power failure and coolant failure is 440 Mw.

          Toaster are cheaper per Mw produced that larger they are. That is the reason the PWR’s are 1200 Mw.

          • Sound nice, if they work it would also reduce transmission cost! Still won’t solve EV problem of not enough rare earth materials to have a would wide fleet strictly on EVs. In the EV world what are you going to do with the spent batteries?

          • William, Catastrophic AGW is not real. (A little bit of Beneficial AGW maybe is real). So we are not between a rock and a hard place. We simply need to throw the bums out and return to energy independence and the elimination of unnecessary restrictions on fossil fuel use. That doesn’t mean being wasteful or putting (real) pollution in the air.

            I certainly hope I’m wrong about the elite fascists’ goals of restricting our freedom by eliminating access to cost-effective energy. Let’s just see how many MSRs you can get them to build.

      • re: “Academics are clueless about what is happening in the real world.”

        Agreed. Look at Dr. Mills and what he has discovered; QM (Quantum Mechanics) has ‘taken on’ serious amounts of water and is ‘sunk’ in his opinion with the discovery that Hydrogen’s electron can be coerced to a lower energy state, with a more than commensurate release of energy. This is now fact, and no longer a subject of conjecture GIVEN lab, test results to date.

    • Waste for nuclear power has a half lives. Waste from solar and wind do not, heavy metals are forever. Right now the green energy is hitting that wall. What some used windmill blades, you probably can get a whole boat load free. They can’t burn then, can’t reuse them and can’t recycle them, already that waste fare exceeds that of nuclear!

  3. “We don’t believe that reaching net-zero emissions within the time we have left is possible without building new nuclear reactors.”

    How much time is left? The arbitrary date of 2050?

    • “How much time is left? The arbitrary date of 2050?”

      That’s always for the next mob in power to figure out with the next tipping point advance so it’s business as usual with lots of virtue signalling and slushfunding to your watermelon mates.

  4. Nuclear has no future. Unfortunate but true since it is the only green technology for generating significant and useful electricity.

    But for the greens it is the tribal enemy. Period. The blood feud against nuclear is way too deep to ever be forgiven or forgotten. There is nothing remotely logical or rational in this. Greens are emboldened by their global rise to power and while they might affect to listen to the rational arguments in favour of nuclear, they are merely toying with it and its proponents before exterminating it. Nuclear energy is Neanderthal energy. It will be exterminated. With us humans there is never a middle way, it’s a zero sum game, it’s them or us. Bloated and power entoxicated greens are just having a bit of fun killing nuclear slowly.

    • Nuclear will be the future. Don’t care if we spend 100 years and build all the windmills and batteries we can imagine, nuclear will still take over at some point.

    • Absolutely true regarding the mindset of the watermelons/greens.

      However, nuclear has one huge thing going in it’s favor …. reality always wins. It may take a few national grids face-planting and turning advanced first-world economies into third-world shitholes, but reality will eventually prevail. Fortunately, since different nations are moving at different speeds towards self-immolation, those at the back of the queue will have the opportunity to rethink their green wish-casting and find a workable solution that aligns with reality.

      I honestly don’t think it will come to that though. We have already seen countries/states like Germany/California on the ‘bleeding edge’ of green energy coming to the realization that their green policies are overextended and start to apply the brakes and accept reality (Germany burning more coal, California moving back the schedule on on retiring power plants). Most politicians will kick the can down the road to the next guy, but eventually, the next guy has an imminent problem on his hands and his political survival depends on him dealing with it.

      • Steve, I hope you’re right when you say “I honestly don’t think it will come to that.” Two reasons you may be wrong: a) asking the greens to support nuclear is like offering steak to a vegan. Arguments based on “it’s good for you” just don’t work, and b) the core agenda published by the Club of Rome is to deindustrialize, presumably because “if we de-industrialize and stop reproducing, the rest of the world will follow suit, because we (the industrialized West) are the only unenlightened ones because colonization.”

        • Of course griff reads. How else would he follow the script that he’s paid to put out? True enough that he generally never reads any article that is posted here since he has all the talking points he needs from his paymasters. He just needs the headline to select a batch of manure to spread, and off he goes.

          Mention nuclear, and he’s got this crap. Mention ice or polar bears, and he has his arctic ice schtick. Mention temperature (cold, hot, whatever), and he has his little Siberia story. Windmills? There’s the total predictability spiel.

      • The cost of nuclear is 90% artificial and politically imposed, as well all know.
        It’s based on irrational belief in the harm of radioactivity and denial of the existence of natural radioactivity much higher than levels that the nuclear industry are forced to attain.
        It’s the same as if every wind turbine constructed was mandated to have a monastery built next to it, to be staffed 24/7 by 12 monks, who ceaselessly pray to prevent the rotating blades summoning up evil spirits from the earth. Then wind would suddenly look expensive an uncompetitive.

      • Griff
        [Nuclear] has no future simply because in this day and age it is too expensive

        So carbon emissions are not a factor? Only cost?
        Interesting to hear that from you.
        As a source of carbon free energy that is non-intermittent, nuclear is alone.
        You reason for rejecting it is tribal only, no need to pretend otherwise.

        • The basic economics kick in even before you take account of the saved carbon cost/impact…

          you can’t find a return on investment which will pay off the construction costs, let alone operating and decommissioning.

          I guess if you are a communist superstate and willing to bankroll it…

    • Basically true but because China is developing different flavours of nuclear including the thorium molten salt one, eventually their economy will be powered by reliable nukes and natural gas with a bit of solar and wind where it makes sense, and be a model system for other nations to copy. The greens are just “useful idiots” to keep the West from development, so that China can catch up and pass us by. They’ll develop and prove the tech, develop the tech and manufacturing, and probably mass-produce deliverable units (small modular reactors are all the rage now)

      • Indeed – and speaking a couple of years back at a US conference at Oak Ridge, their lead scientist said they hoped to have a running prototype by the early 2030s.

        This is potentially great tech – but even the most active researchers see it as 15 years plus for first commercial model

  5. The current Committee on Climate Change should be disbanded and replaced with highly qualified and experienced engineers from the manufacturing and energy industries and given total independence from political interference.
    The current Committee is acting in an extremely irresponsible way, being more concerned with politics than the pragmatism of energy production.
    The public deserves to know what the engineers and manufacturers have to offer, free of the dead hand of the Climate Change Act of 2008 or otherwise. There are two routes here to be considered where hopefully a sensible balance may be achieved.

    • A close look at the vested interests of some of its members, including those who claim otherwise — yes, John, I’m looking at you — would be a good idea. But you’re right, Alasdair, the CCC is a political construct, or to be more accurate a “trough”, and should never have seen the light of day in its present form.

      What exactly was going on between Ms (now Baroness) Worthington and Ed Miliband we shall never know but an Act of Parliament that made government totally subject to the whim of a Committee packed with self-interest? You couldn’t make it up!

      • You only need to look at the very first statement on their home page to understand their agenda:

        The UK’s independent adviser on tackling climate change

        No questioning, just acceptance that CO2 is evil.

  6. You can’t have an industry when a trace amount of byproduct of the industrial process is considered more dangerous than the plague and the corona together.

  7. Muppet

    The INPUT temp of the steam turbines will be around what he says

    The OUTPUT temp of the turbines is the temperature of the cooling towers – circa 30 degrees Celcius

    • Nope. Steam turbine output is still STEAM which is to say >> 100°C (liquid water droplets in this fluid would erode the turbine blades quickly).

      From the turbine, steam flows through a condenser where the it . . . condenses. The condensate flows back to the source of heat (reactor, boiler, etc).

      The condenser is a two loop heat exchanger. It is the cooling loop water, warmed to something like your 30°C that, in your example, flows through a cooling tower.

    • You are right about the respective temperatures, but in 1993 I was able to visit the Amercentrale power
      station near Breda in the Netherlands. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amercentrale…. and even then they were not using the solitary cooling tower, except for rare hot days n the summer. The turbine condensers cooling water outlets instead were fed through highly insulated pipes to local domestic heating schemes plus a massive number of greenhouses where the Dutch excel in producing fruit and vegetables “on their own doorsteps” .

  8. The point is being missed. There is a deliberate policy to deindustrialize the ‘west’. While classics and political science qualified politicians go into conniptions about climate change in the West; in the East a new coal fired power station is being commissioned every few weeks. China has overtaken the West in CO2 emissions and is unconcerned with the Paris accord apart from wanting to receive its funding from the green fund as it is a ‘developing nation’.

    Meanwhile, in other news, the government that is decommissioning base load power generation in UK is simultaneously issuing warnings to reduce electrical load as the National Grid cannot supply sufficient power. Same has been happening in California – for the same reasons. Yet both governments want to mandate increases in electricity consumption for vehicles, homes and office accommodation. Thus actively accelerating the state toward a cliff that will be met well before any ‘global warming tipping point’.
    Whether this is due to venality or stupidity these people need to be stopped. A simple method of gaining their attention is to power off the palace of Westminster and all MP’s offices and homes *using their smart meters, every time there is a power cut anywhere in UK.

  9. In somewhat similar vein, Kathryn Porter’s blog here discusses the need for and options in nuclear here

    http://watt-logic.com/2020/10/30/options-for-nuclear-power/

    I agree with Leo Smith that the main hurdle is excessive regulatory requirements, driven by anti nuclear campaigns of the past. It is of course a test of whether greens are serious about climate, or simply serious about a revolution to destroy our standard of living.

    The latest fiasco on that score appears to be Sir Simon Stevens announcing that the biggest threat to national health is not the virus, or cancer or dementia, but climate change. I recommend he be screened for dementia.

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/climate-change-poses-biggest-threat-to-uk-health-nhs-chief/

  10. The idea of using waste heat from nuclear sounds fine and dandy, in theory. But, like all hare-brained greenie schemes it very likely isn’t practical from an economic standpoint. The question is, can nuclear power be produced such that it can compete, on a level playing field with other energy sources? I am neither pro-nuke nor anti-nuke. I am pro-affordable reliable energy. Show me the money.

    • Bruce Cobb:

      Here’s the money: The very typical two-unit American reactor where I work sold its power for 1.8¢/kwh during 2019-2020. That includes all the capital costs, O&M, security, storage of spent fuel, taxes, NRC fees, striping the parking lot — everything.

      If you live in Massachusetts, your retail electricity costs 22.57¢/kwh or twelve and a half times the wholesale price of my nuke.

      If you want cheap, reliable power, go nuclear. If you want third world reliability at Massachusetts prices, windmills and solar panels are for you.

      • What current nuke plants sell their power for is immaterial, so that’s a red herring. What matters is what new nuclear would have to charge, and granted, that is somewhat difficult to predict, because it depends greatly on how long it takes to build. And yes, the anti-nukes can and do drive costs up, but there we are.

        • Current performance is a good indicator of what a well managed industry will do over the long haul. What we’re talking about here is public policy. It’s been public policy for a long time to all the greeniacs to sue ad infinitum over everything built by anyone. Hard left Luddites have used that as a tool for their madcap scheme of trying to de-industrialize the West. Lawyers, of course, profit from all that, and most congress critters are lawyers, so there’s no hope of change on the horizon.

          But public policy can and does change. If we keep adding windmills and solar panels and shutting down reliable generation, there will come a point when the lights go out. At that point, I suspect the lawyers will tweak the rules and some generating facilities will get built without meaningful objections from the greeniacs.

    • Energy from nuclear increases overall supply of energy, thus lowering the prices of other forms of energy, like hydrocarbons.

  11. “Mark my words…”
    The only reason I post is to open a few minds to possibilities….
    Guided by the success and failures of billions of dollars spent, I concluded there must be a better way. ITER and Inertial Confinement https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Inertial-Confinement-Fusion-and-Magnetic-Confinement-Fusion-Which-one-is-preferable#:~:text=Inertial-confinement%20fusion%20is%20done,energy%20devices%2C%20such%20as%20lasers.&text=Magnetic%20confinement%20fusion%20uses%20high,hot%20plasma%20of%20fusion%20fuel have been a bust “in 15 years we may see..” and the Molten Salt reactor shows promise. But as I have said, technology marches ahead.
    One step along the way is introduced in the SAFIRE Project Aureon.ca . And this one, which introduces new explorations in Plasma Physics promises to prolong the life of fission nuclear plants past the Green New Deal.
    One of the claims of Aureon is a new way to process spent fuel rods. I am not privy to what they plan, but their talking point is “remediation of nuclear waste.” Since the energy side of power production will be taken over by discoveries like the E-Cat SKL. there remains the incredible CAPEX in existing nuclear plants.
    The Green New Deal people may be less anxious to shut these plants down before they are worn out, with attendant loss of jobs and technical support, if the multiple thousands of years of fuel storage can be eliminated.
    SAFIRE, Go For It!

    • re: “SAFIRE, Go For It!”

      SAFIRE is only ‘proving’ what a certain Dr. Randell L. Mills has been writing, demonstrating via measurements for years. Check into it.

      In-house trialing/demos are on-going for manufacturing partners now. What ‘turned’ me a few years back (and after doing due diligence) was the demonstration/lab test using solid Tungsten electrodes … they were VAPORIZED during the test.

      What’s the boiling point of Tungsten you say?

      ‘High’.

  12. The French “solved” the problem of “nuclear waste” (un-reprocessed fuel) a long time ago – they merely reprocess it, creating lots of perfectly good fuel and a very small amount of waste, which contains radioactive elements some of which are used in medicine, for example.

    Nuclear fuel is very sensitive in it’s makeup, which is why it needs to be replaced. Reprocessing it removes the small amount of contaminants which have built up, making it into perfectly good fuel again.

    • Peter,
      I concur. Regardless of what the future brings in Energy, reprocessing of existing fuel rods is still an issue. The US government should have held American nuclear technical providers feet to the fire to prevent this mess. However, if you considered the incredibly stupid environmental conditions at Hanford , one can understand where the failures originate.
      Molten salt raised some interesting issues, but Alvin Weinberg was shot down when the Navy decided to go with conventional nuclear. Most of this technology (MSR) is now overseas, India and China. Money wasted on our side.
      My interest in plasma physics is uninformed, but hopeful.

  13. Sounds like they are preparing to turn out the lights. Eventually they will get to the net-zero of everything when they destroy everything.

    • Or use the Green name plant-food ❤️

      I think it is difficult in western countries to turn the fear of nuclear power away, in the same way that fear over traces of plant-food has been so engraved in so many peoples’ minds.

      Yesterday in German RTL-TV in Super-talent, or something like that, there was a fellow from a neighboring country painting on a fluorescent screen with two flashlights. Hr was very good indeed, but I lost all sympathy for him in the end.
      He started painting the sky with stars, then a coastal landscape with hills, factory and two cooling towers spewing steam up in the air. The thing Greens interpret as smoke.
      Finally, in the same picture, he painted a walrus, bird, penguin and polar bear.
      Lastly he wrote in clear handwriting:
      “Stopp globale Erwarmung !” – in English “Stop global warming !”

      Sadly I cannot show you his fluorescent painting, as I suppose RTL has the copyright.

  14. If the ship is sinking you get into the lifeboat. If you don’t believe the ship is sinking then you don’t. One way that you can tell that the people who preach imminent global climate catastrophe don’t believe what they are saying is that they are against getting in the lifeboat.

    • Oh they’ll get in the lifeboat all right, but they have to make sure that 99% of us go down with the ship first.

      The ship wasn’t sinking until they reversed the bilge pumps.

  15. I have posted this comment many times on various threads here.
    “Renewables” are not, in any way, renewable, when we are considering PV solar and wind turbines.

    In my perfect world, only PV and wind systems which were produced entirely with PV and wind power would
    be considered for installation.

    Please show me an example of such a system.

  16. Official UK power policy still assumes that 17GW of new nuclear is going to be built (I think this includes Hinkley, already under construction). sites include Wylfa, Moorside, Sizewell (alongside existing reactor) and Bradwell.

    But! No method of financing these which will actually produce a return on investment has been found and the first 2 sites, Wylfa and Moorside, are well past planned start dates, with Hitachi pulling out of Wylfa and successive prospective builders putting Moorside on hold.

    Sizewell and Bradwell would involve EDF and China – neither o which is a considered very desireable.

    It seems very unlikely that UK nuclear will proceed beyond Hinkley, which already will produce vastly expensive electricity requiring a surcharge on all UK consumers and will inevitably be delayed (still officially 9 years to complete it, if I recall correctly).

      • Interesting question niceguy…

        The financing works like this

        ‘(the govt) offered to guarantee EDF a fixed price for each unit of energy produced at Hinkley for its first 35 years of operation. In 2012, the guaranteed price – known as the “strike price” – was set at £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh), which would then rise with inflation. (One MWh is roughly equivalent to the electricity used by around 330 homes in one hour.)

        This means that if the wholesale price of electricity across the country falls below £92.50, EDF will receive an extra payment from the consumer as a “top-up” to fill the gap. This will be added to electricity bills around the country – even if you aren’t receiving electricity from Hinkley Point C, you will still be making a payment to EDF.’

        but what about penalty if it isn’t on time? This seems to indicate they have ‘considerable leeway’

        ‘the contract in its current form, which gives EDF significant leeway to delay completion of the project for up to eight years.

        EDF can still secure the full 35-year contract if Hinkley produces first power any time until 2029. Thereafter the contract would be shortened by one year for every year further delay, but could only be cancelled without penalty for the UK if Hinkley was still not generating by 2033.’

      • and it looks like the govt will be pushing that today.

        but really: look at EDFs record and finances… (Flammanville still not online)

  17. If you’re gonna use nukes for heating, you’ll need the small modular reactors in small communities. Heat is really expensive to distribute, which is why the steam pipes used half a century ago are mostly gone.

    OTOH, small GenIV reactors in small communities in the cold country would work really well. Part of the output in electricity. Part in heat for greenhouses / fish / animal farms (think chickens and rabbits). Part of the output in H2 as input for biomass to liquids / CTL operations. Lots of complexity, though the pieces are relatively straightforward.

    We looked into it here in AK a decade or so ago and had some interest from several of the larger Bush villages. Turns out that the SMRs need to be really small, < 5 MW and located in the larger villages. Bethel is the largest at 6,500. Don't have the economic infrastructure out there to support anything expensive or the expertise to support anything complex. Would be difficult to make it work in the Alaskan Bush. Never went anywhere due to the cost and none of the SMRs were ready to even test at the time. Cheers –

    • NuScale small modular reactors are 60MW. I can’t imagine a <5MW reactor being cost effective to manufacture. Can You?

  18. Rational, practical, honest. That said, our carbon-based babies will still be conceived and evolve as the boys chase girls chase boys we’re all familiar with, the carbon-based boys and girls who operate our industries and who care for grandpa and grandma, the defining model of chaotic fitness. And, if Her Choice is respected, the planet will grow green, the flora and fauna will thrive, the industry less Green, the people less green, a the burdensome… nay, burgeoning population where there is diversity of individuals, minority of one.

  19. Why are EDF and China not considered? ‘China ju st completed building a nuclear power plant in Pakistan. Construction took four years and cost . $2.5 billion. The question is why the cost so much higher in the UK.

    • “The question is why the cost so much higher in the UK

      Everything in UK, EU and US is way more expensive than in Pakistan.

      I assume the safety measures and approval demands in the UK is also much more extensive than in Pakistan.

    • The nuclear power plant in Pakistan is 300 MWe and I suspect it could not get through the licensing process in other countries.

      EDF and a Chinese utility are building 1600 + MWe of a new designed to last 60 years. My last job site before retiring was at a site in China where the first two EPR are now commercial.

      I was working on a 1000 MWe design review 20 years after it was commercial. From signing the contract to connecting to the grid was 5 years.

      Of course this was before the NRC and the EPA.

      The problem with the French is arrogance. If you are going to take credit the accomplishment of American engineers maybe you should listen to them.

      Some US utilities had the same problem. Show regulators how your reactors meet safety regulations and you are done. At my first commercial reactor, I would ask ‘is this a problem?’ Head would snap around, we would fix the problem, and tell the NRC.

      A few start ups latter I was at one of those arrogant places. I would document problems in writing and be told they were not a problem. Then the NRC came and put them on the watch list for inadequate corrective action.

      That was many years ago. Regulators have a lot of experience seeing things done right and have come to expect that.

      • The new plants, KANUP2 (2020) and KANUP3 (2021), are 1,000 MWe. China has also supplied 4 300 MWe plants to Pakistan.

        • According to WNA, those reactors are not finished. Taking longer and costing more.

          The three most important factors in building a power plant are location, location, location.

  20. Explain to me again why we need to “decarbonise.” Is it because we’re going to kill ourselves with carbon monoxide? Diversification is always good. Diversification of energy sources is good. But why does everyone call it “decarbonisation”? It seems to me that that just serves to keep “Oh, no, it’s Global Warming from the greenhouse effect!” front and center. Yeah, that’s what we need, more BS in our main public discourse. Just call it Fossil Fuels and deal objectively with fossil fuel pollutants.

    • re: “Explain to me again why we need to “decarbonise.””

      It is today’s “Tulip mania.”

      See: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds , an early study of crowd psychology by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay.

  21. When it comes to winning a debated, you need a long list of silly reasons pro and con.

    When making decisions, all you need is one good reason to do something or not do something. If a need a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house; 3 br & 2 baths is a good reason to buy the house. Of course if the roof is falling in, that is a good reason not to buy a house.

    As an engineer in the nuclear industry I had training in how to make complex decisions. Those with the training had a little sign in their work station signifying they were available to coach others.

    I used such tools for things like buying a house. On day 3 of a house hunting trip it was getting frustrating. Again reviewing the list I asked the realtor about s house that fit the matrix. She said we looked at it and did not like it. We gave it a second look and realized what we did not like could be changed easily. We loved that house.

    Power companies who do a good job of running nuke plants love their nuke plants. People who live in small cities near nuke plants love their local nuke. At public hearings for things like extending the life of nuke plant, these people provide good reasons. Of course some from far away big cities come dressed in Halloween costumes and state silly reasons.

    This is why nuclear power has a future. It is that simple.

    Steam is the best way to make electricity. Fission and burning coal or gas are good ways to make steam. Importing fossil fuels to make electricity is a complex issue that favors nuclear.

  22. This article sucks. Why not publish an article by someone who knows something about the obvious future nuclear technologies, which are NOT, repeat NOT, going to be based on light water reactors
    with advanced safety measures, but on molten salt reactors which require no safety features, as they are intrinsically safe and cannot create any kind of dangerous environment no matter what and are cheaper and able to load follow (no need for peak load generators) . They also can burn our current “nuclear wastes” (spent fuel) , reducing it to a mildly radioactive substance which can easily be stored for the dozens of years (not thousands) that are required for it to return to background radioactive levels. There is no other power technology that even remotely compares to molten salt small modular reactors. And they will be in commercialization before 2030 and can be constructed very rapidly in factories.

    • The coal powered steam locomotives were around for a century before diesel-electric locomotives replaced them in about a decade. It was almost the same for jet engines and piston-prop airplanes. Will MSRs replace coal as quickly? What has Kirk Sorensen said about it? Kirk was at ORNL MSRW 2020 in October.

    • My usual response Col,
      Shows us 10 MSRs running and connected to the grid.
      100 more under construction.
      1,000 more planned, sited (geography), and financed.

      When this is all happening, that is “commercialization”, we may see the future more clearly.

  23. I am all for building new generations of nuclear power plants to generate electricity and possibly pure water (from the water vapor used in the final coolers), but tapping into high temperature/high pressure steam to feed a close-by chemical plant sounds somewhat risky in a “what could possibly go wrong?” sort of way.

    Keep the nuclear plants simple, modular, and repeatable. Do NOT build a bunch of one-off “each one has different problems” nuclear power plants. This design by committee leads to disasters.

    As for a hydrogen-based economy…? You have a big host of problems that often seem to be overlooked. Energy density is one of the easier ones to understand.

    Oh, and only being half-sarcastic – if you start splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, where does all that oxygen go? Into the air where is can become ozone? Next they will declare oxygen is a pollutant and start an Oxygen Tax. To go with that tax on the most dangerous greenhouse gas of all – water.

  24. “Heat cooler than 400°C can be extracted after the turbine, and pumped into district heating systems, “

    Hey wait there.. Why are they going to need heating ?

    According to the scary climate people, we will only need cooling.

  25. As I type this at 11.00pm gas and Nuclear are generating 65% of U.K. demand, we are importing 11% and Wind is contributing only 7%.
    This in a country that already has the greatest concentration of off shore wind farms in the World! Solar is of course contributing nothing.

    The fantasy of renewal generation is beyond comprehension, yet the green lobbyists keep staying its a reality and our dim politicians believe them simply because the want to.

  26. copy
    While the sun is shining and the wind’s blowing, nuclear reactors can continue generating hydrogen or other fuels that serve as an energy store –
    This marketing ploy, trying to sell nuclear because it matches so well with RE, is silly. Any generating station using coal or gas is 100% equal. Anyone giving a moments thought to power load demand understands that generating plants could be smaller (less expensive) if the excess late night early morning electrical capacity could be economically stored or used to produce competitively priced products. Hydrogen production is a last gasp distraction from what is now proven in Germany: Wind and solar can not work without storage and storage will always be too expensive.

  27. German wind turbines are in big trouble.

    Turbines with a total capacity of 4,000 MW will drop out of the state subsidy scheme next year, which was guaranteed 20 years ago under Germany’s Renewable Energy Law (EEG).

    BayWa, a leading renewable energy developer, estimates that a quarter of the existing wind power could be cut off by 2025 when older turbines become unprofitable.

    Legal actions against German wind energy projects have multiplied in recent years, leading to a dramatic decline in the number of new onshore wind farms.

    All over Germany, only 35 new windmills with a combined output of a mere 290 MW were installed in the first half of 2019 — a decline of more than 80% compared with the same period 2018 and the lowest total in almost two decades.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/07/29/collapse-of-wind-power-threatens-germanys-green-energy-transition/

  28. BEWARE the pitfall of “sunken (or sunk, non-recoverable) cost”. Nuclear (as well as so-called renewables) fall into this category going forward against the, well, the inaptly (IMO) named SunCell ™.

    Mills should have called it a Hydrino Reactor, more correctly aligning the name with what’s taking place esp these days.

    And yes, they operating units in the lab.

  29. “Nuclear power has provided low-carbon electricity”

    Not sure how it can be low-fossil when it costs so much.
    Not sure whether the question even makes sense.

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