The Finnish Domino and Chinese Hurricane

a letter from the future has these stamps

There are three common lies you hear about why renewables can not replace nuclear power:

  1. They dont run 24/7 like reactors and you dont want to be without power just because the wind stopped blowing or the sun dipped behind a cloud.
  2. They are too expensive (require too great govt subsidy) to run
  3. They can not be put in place fast enough and represent only a tiny fraction (excluding large hydro) of the most countries energy mix.

If you read the comments on articles about nuclear power you will hear these reasons repeatedly, they are the backbone of the opposition to real renewables.  Today, these paragraphs appeared in BusinessWeek:

“Utilities are pulling out of nuclear projects across Europe as uncertainty over energy prices makes them too risky. EON’s withdrawal from Finland follows its decision in September 2011, along with SSE Plc and RWE AG (RWE), to give up building nuclear plants in the U.K.

German 2013 power dropped to a record 46.90 euros ($60.85) a megawatt-hour on Oct. 15 as output from wind and solar cuts usage of gas and coal plants.”

So the first lie about renewables not being available 24/7 is not actually meant for technicians and energy analysts who know better, it is for lay people to believe and become skeptical about wind.  Intermittent renewable resources can be forecasted and “firmed“.  This is happening all over the world, it works out to cost about US$0.004/kWh to store wind power.

What about the cost argument?  Well, these paragraphs from Business Week (hardly the environmental press) are telling us the exact opposite.  That because of the ramped up introduction of wind and solar in the wake of nuclear plants being closed in Germany, renewables are entering the market and driving prices down, displacing both gas and coal as they do it.  And as i have written about before, on hot days this past summer Germany was generating 50% of it’s electricity from solar alone.  So much for not being able to ramp up quickly enough

EONs withdraw from this project is quite likely to kill it.

After i started writing this post the new broke of China’s new energy plan.  China had halted approval of new reactor construction after Fukushima for the last year and a half.  So the nuclear industry was hopeful that they would get good news from the new 5 year plan.  They got some, but clean energy activist got far more.  China decided to slow the growth of nuclear power significantly from the targets it has confirmed as recently as earlier this month.  It has eliminated all proposed inland reactors because of protests from population centers.  China will begin approval of new reactors, ending its Fukushima moratorium, but will approve 10 to 20 reactors fewer than previously planned by 2015.

China’s energy future

While the business press is focused on the restart of reduced new nuclear projects, reading the full plan reveals that the target installed capacities for 2015 are:

290 GW Hydro power

100 GW wind power

40 GW nuclear power

21 GW solar power

[Remember that installed capacity is not what is delivered to the grid, these numbers must be multiplied by capacity factors, which are higher for nuclear than intermittent renewables]  But when these numbers are compared to where China was at the end of 2011

230 GW hydro power (first in the world)

47 GW wind power (first in the world)

12.5 GW nuclear power

3 GW solar power

We can see that China’s real commitment is to the rapid growth on non-nuclear, real renewable power.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found on Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “The Finnish Domino and Chinese Hurricane”

  1. Tree Bressen says :

    Saw this in a NARP newsletter (re Amtrak): When talking about any function that requires large sums of public $ to operate, if you agree with the thing it’s called “investment;” if you disagree, it’s called “subsidy.” So a word to the wise in framing: nukes call for subsidies, while renewables call for investment. Rail requires investment, while highways & air travel require subsides. Etc. Cheers!

  2. paxus says :

    Dearest Tree:

    Sometimes it is framing, sometimes it is just straight subsidy. Operating nuclear power plants have been bailed out multiple times. One of the largest has been when existing reactor operators have been given billions of dollars for their “stranded assets”. There is no investment here, regardless of how you frame it – it is a straight subsidy – or perhaps more precisely a “gift” from tax payers to rich corporations with clever unscrupulous lawyers.

    Paxus in Giza
    27 Falling Leaves 2012

  3. George Stevens says :

    Actually the myths you state are not completely myths, and referencing Europe and the US won’t give you the real costs because bureaucracies drive up prices through construction delays.

    New nuclear is 5c/kwh in china and coming down. Renewables add fixed cost for utilities who must supply backup generation. Large percentages of renewables may be unfeasible with current grid infrastructure.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest George:

      We have very different experiences. The delays on the reactors i have fought, have never been the function of regulators slowing things down, they have always and regularly been because the construction firms have problems building these things. It is true that in some cases (like Finland) the construction firms have screwed up so badly that they have had to redo faulty work they did and this was dictated by the regulator.

      The problem in the west is that regulators are generally “captured” by the nuclear utilities. We see this repeatedly in the US (see http://funologist.org/2012/10/20/nrc-hides-information-about-high-probability-dam-breaks/ in which we see the NRC hiding damaging information they know about utilities so they can save money and not do corrective actions which are needed).

      Chinese reactor builders dont have this problem. The regulators are doing nearly nothing, so they basically never check safety features (similar behavior in the ex-USSR helped createt he Chernobyl accident). I would be willing to bet the Chinese delivered price on both Hydro and Wind is below nuclear. (See http://funologist.org/2012/10/25/the-finnish-domino-and-chinese-hurricane/ in which China is developing by far more renewables than nuclear power).

      Your simplistic “bad government slows good reactor makers” analysis does not pass the laugh test. The fact is reactor makers worldwide have over promised and under delivered consistently. I have been told as much by pro-reactor folks who were willing to have an honest conversation about nuclear. Perhaps you should join that group, rather than the Fox News crowd.

      Paxus at Twin Oaks
      14 Kewaunee Closes 2013

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