The Death Of Nuclear Power  

Posted by Big Gav

Mongabay has a look at a debate between Amory Lovins and a guy who is a victim of the "baseload fallacy", looking at why nuclear power will die out along with coal.

Lovins opened by noting the global decline in nuclear power plants, a trend he attributed to two powerful market forces: energy efficiency (i.e. "negawatts") and supply competition.

"Global nuclear expansion is coasting to a halt," he said, noting that the last nuclear rector was completed in the U.S. was in 1973 and that even under China's most ambitious targets for nuclear expansion, it would displace only 10 percent of the nuclear capacity that will soon go offline. Lovins said the reason for the decline is cost: on an even playing field with no hidden subsidies, nuclear is simply more expensive than other options, especially co-generation.

Lovins argued nuclear plants are currently being financed only in places where they are either mandated by governments or supported with generous subsidies. "The global market is going in a different direction," he said. "Risk-taking capitalists are concluding that nuclear power is not an attractive option compared with other technologies" including distributed power from co-generation (combined heat and power generation), next-generation biofuels, solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal energy.

Lovins said that micropower (i.e. distributed energy generation) now accounts for one-sixth of world power, surpassing nuclear as a source of electricity for the first time in 2006. He noted that in 2005 micropower added four times as much output and eleven times as much capacity as nuclear added. "Nuclear is dying of incurable attack of market forces despite what the industry wants you to believe," he remarked, adding that micropower offer more climate solution per dollar spent than nuclear. ...

Lovins said that Richter was understating energy efficiency gains. Lovins expects the market to reach 2050 targets 75 percent through efficiency and 25 percent through supply. He noted China has made energy efficiency its top strategic priority for development.

Richter said we need a $60-100 fee per ton of carbon and that policymakers should skip cap and trade schemes. Lovins responded that Carbon pricing will hurt centralized energy producers, including nuclear plants, and give an advantage to solar, co-gen and wind. Richter said Lovins' projected costs for solar, co-gen and wind were too low; they didn't have enough installed capacity to make up for intermittency of the energy sources.

Lovins replied that a diversified portfolio of distributed power sources would reduce intermittency and help mitigate the storage problem. Biomass, tidal, wave, geothermal all work at night while there is always wind blowing somewhere. He noted that nuclear energy isn't dependable, with regular down time for maintenance and said that it took two weeks to get nuclear plants up running at full speed after northeastern blackout. He said no renewable has this limitation. Besides, he said, 98-99 percent of power failures originate in the grid. Distributed power is simply a more reliable energy source. He compared distributed energy to distributed (network) computing. ...

Lovins said there's 100GW of potential for co-gen in the U.S.--the same amount as nuclear power currently provides. "Nuclear is grossly uncompetitive with options I've mentioned," he continued, adding that in India wind power is growing fast with investment in nuclear is flat.

"We need a workable energy storage option for the globe," said Richter. "For much of the world solar isn't viable." "The poorest countries should be allowed to do anything they want to increase their energy supply and take any path they want in order to develop," Richter continued. "It's rich countries that are in continued state of denial."

"Atoms for peace is a stupid idea," said Lovins. "Sunbeams for peace is better and it undercuts proliferators. I'm all for making solar technology freely accessible." "I observe that nuclear plants are a choice that is not made by markets," Lovins continued. "Micropower and efficiency are backed by risk-taking capitalists."

Grist observes that one factor deterring investment in nuclear plants is the threat of customer revolt if they shift from one dirty energy source to another.
Why does Amory Lovins say that the market is deciding against nukes?

One of the things that not many people seem to realize is that we had just enough deregulation in this country to scare the pants off investors who formerly treated utilities as stocks you could safely put in widows' and orphans' portfolios.

Even with the largess being showered on nukes in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EP Act 2005), there hasn't been quite the stampede to license new nukes that many hoped for. The feds are obviously ready to shovel money at the problem, but the utilities are nervous about state regulators and whether they'll stay on the reservation.

Outside of a few areas in the south, where there is fairly strong support for the existing nukes, companies looking to build a new one are terrified that the consumer backlash will kill them in the marketplace.

The utilities know that there has been such an incredible extravagance of wasteful electricity consumption built into the system today that there is huge potential for demand collapse if people got mad and decided to get even by going on a shopping spree with their local alternative energy contractor or, in the few states that allow it, by going to an AES (alternative electric supplier).

For that reason, I guess that where there is retail electric competition you will not see any nukes built, period.

The Age reports that Google and Intel are leading a push for greener computers.
A coalition of technology companies and environmental groups led by Google Inc. and Intel Corp. launched an initiative Tuesday to conserve electricity and curb global warming emissions by making the world's computers and servers more energy-efficient.

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative, organized by Internet search leader Google and computer chip maker Intel, sets ambitious industry targets to ramp up the energy efficiency of computing gear over the next four years.

The plan aims to cut the amount of electricity computers consume in half by 2010 using existing power-saving technologies. Currently, the average PC wastes about half of the power it consumes, while the average server squanders about one-third, officials said. "Let's create a more efficient IT industry by driving up the efficiency of computers," said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group. "We think we can have huge savings in terms of carbon footprint and energy costs."

The initiative is expected to save more than $5.5 billion in electricity costs by 2010 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change by 54 million tons annually - an amount equal to eliminating 11 million cars or 20 large coal-fired power plants each year, company officials said.

Gelsinger estimated that energy-efficiency technology would initially make computers about $20 more expensive and servers about $30 costlier, but consumers are expected to recoup the costs through lower electricity bills and rebates from utilities. "It will also make computers better," Google co-founder Larry Page said at the news conference at company headquarters in Mountain View. "By taking out some of the inefficiencies of computers, it will make them quieter and more reliable."

Manufacturers that take part in the initiative agree to design, produce and sell equipment that meet its energy-efficiency standards. The initiative requires computing gear to initially meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star standard of 80 percent efficiency, with the target rising to 90 percent by 2010.

Participating companies also agree to buy corporate computers and servers that meet those targets and follow guidelines to maximize their equipment's energy efficiency. Electric utilities will be encouraged to offer rebates to consumers who buy the energy-efficient gear.

Green Options has a post on Paul Hawken's talk in San Francisco to The Long Now.
Hawken told a story of how Ralph Waldo Emerson was inspired by Antoine and Bernard Jussieu in Paris and subsequently wrote Nature. He then told how a college-aged Henry David Thoreau was inspired by Emerson and wrote Civil Disobedience, and how Rosa Parks then read Thoreau's essay the summer before she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus in 1955. He was describing the networking and the roots of the collective conscious that he calls the "curriculum of the 21st Century".

Hawken observed that the common thread between the literally millions of organizations in the movement is that, although they all have different ways of expressing their goals, none have contradictory values. They are all, in unique ways, exhibiting moral opposition to an unjust state. He quoted Thoreau: "If the government is unjust, the just man is in jail." Hawken described an atomized, bottom-up collection of organizations working to put down the injustice that permeates every institution, everywhere. He told of how the movement, like the immune system, categorically identifies and destroys disease (or the disease destroys it).

Next came the exciting part as Hawken explained that in the last five to ten years, as a result of the Internet and new ways of communication, the connections among groups and people in the movement have accelerated with unprecedented speed, causing a shift in the balance of power. He used the example of how text messaging technology is disrupting the censure control of the Chinese government, leading to growing unrest and protests the government can't control. A once subdued and contained environmental and social justice movement is now gaining rapid ground the world round.

Over years of collecting data and conducting research on social movements Hawken has come to the conclusion that this is a movement of its own kind, and more powerful and larger than any other. It's not an ideology or an "ism", but, rather, ideas and solutions to the problems of injustice. It is a movement for "what is right", and one that can't be broken apart, because it was atomized from the beginning. It's a movement that is dispersing conglomerations of power. Finally, it's a movement that no one saw coming, and that is manifesting in new resources, swift action, and real change.

Hearing Paul Hawken's words solidified the feeling that there is value in our time. It made up for feeling isolated and overwhelmed in the face of mounting consumerism and environmental pressures. He refused to predict what would happen, but instead relayed an image of the scale of the movement and the power that it holds. Hawken offered a beacon of entry to the long, extended green consciousness that will span well into the future, with or without us.

The first chapter of Blessed Unrest is available in an adapted version at Orion Magazine. A videocast of the lecture is available online for Long Now members.

More news:

The Australian - Australian Oil Production Rises 8%
The Australian - Bad Weather Reduces Australian Export Earnings. Especially oil and LNG.
The Australian - Carbon Trade Will Be Huge
The Age - Time for results, US tells Iraq PM. US commander in Iraq says "hand over the oil".
The Age - Hurricane Katrina Disaster Tours Still Popular
The Charlotte Observer - A Price To Pay For Alternative Fuels
Chris Skrebowski (Energy Bulletin) - How Close To Peak Oil Are We?
Portland Oregonian - 'Humongous fungus' takes toll on fir forest
TreeHugger - Award-Winning Home Design Requires No Heating, Cooling Equipment
PR NewsWire - Solaicx Announces Major New Solar Facility in Portland
IT Week : Business Green Blog - Opec biofuel brinkmanship is a sign of things to come
Crikey - The Oz Tells Us Not To Worry About Free Speech. Errr - weren't they complaining (accurately) a couple of weeks ago about the lack of press freedom ?
Reuters AlertNet - Nuremberg prosecutor says Guantanamo trials unfair
George Monbiot - The Conspiracy Widens. As usual, when it comes to peak oil and global warming you don't have to look far to find tinfoil, with conspiracy theories and wild accusations flying about in all directions. The latest outburst is between George Monbiot and CounterPunch's Alexander Cockburn, with Monbiot coming close to accusing Cockburn of being an acolyte of Lyndon LaRouche...
RealClimate - The CO2 rise. Who dunnit?. RealClimate is keeping a slightly cooler head about it all.
Zbigniew Brzezinski (Time) - How to Avoid a New Cold War. Still playing on the Grand Chessboard.
ICH - Putin’s Censored Press Conference. Last time I saw a Mike Whitney article he was telling us to prepare for peak oil by learning to sleep under bridges. However, the idea of Putin as the world's "last democrat" is kind of amusing, although it may be stretching the truth somewhat, even allowing for our usual media coverage of of Russia being a bit skewed. Added points for the sheer bizarreness of quoting Pat Buchanan at this site.


Fantastic info...I have been very interested in geothermal energy as of late, especially after Gov. Schwarzenegger formed a bill into law that set a CO2 limit on coal plants as a future source of electricity in the West Coast market. This is a good (early) time for geothermal energy production.

I would also recommend this report to everyone...


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