Turkey Point > Small Reactors – Going where the fight is

I track the nuclear reactor news; it’s an old habit that i can’t seem to kick.  There is a lot of digital ink spent on small modular reactors (SMRs).  Bill Gates is funding them! Department of Energy has millions for research for SMRs! Virginia will lead the Renaissance with SMRs.  This must be a happening thing right?
Bill Gates
Actually, it is not.  If you care about the future of clean energy in this country, you are not going to put in a bunch of time fighting Small Reactors.  That fight is over.  The nuke boosters lost again.  Same old reason, nuclear power (especially from inefficient sized reactors) is crazy expensive and the market will select anything else that is cheaper, or in some cases no carbon foot print and cheaper.

Shouldn’t we do more research?  Well, the Navy has for 60 years and can’t get small (non-modular) reactor costs down to anything reasonable in either aircraft carriers or submarines.  They do them anyway, because these are cost plus rather than market driven projects, but don’t look for cities or utilities, which have to watch bottom lines, to follow the military in energy investment strategy.

We can just build them like this and pay 10X the market rate

We can just build them like this and pay 10X the market rate

If over half a century of well funded research and significant motivation on the part of the military does not convince you that economical SMRs are not imminent, then let me up the ante.  Westinghouse Nuclear, the largest nuclear construction company in the US, has dropped SMRs. This means the second best nuclear marketing team in the world thinks they can’t sell these.  

All five reactors under construction in the US currently are Westinghouse designs.  Westinghouse’s reason for ditching SMRs, “There are no customers”

To be clear, just because these reactors that make no economic sense will not stop a few of them from being built.  But there will be no commercial contracts for these reactors, no orders from other countries, no merchant reactors operating in the US.  In terms of the dangerous part of the fight, this is not where the action is.
The fight that matters and that we totally can win is the campaign against new reactors in the US.  And there are proposals for new ones, especially Turkey Point blocks 6 and 7.  Below is a letter i wrote to a Florida green group on the topic:
I am interested in working with you providing information and strategy suggestions for the campaign to block the Blocks 6 and 7 at Turkey Point.

First the good news (for fighting TP6&7, not for the citizens of FL or the environment):

These reactors are early in their licensing stage, so there is plenty of time to slow down/bog down the approval process and or kill the proposal outright. Specifically, we have until July 17 to get comments into the NRC.

The reactors use a tremendous amount of water in an area which likely can’t handle it, even if local sewage treatment water is heavily used.  The existing reactors are not able to stay cool despite huge quantities of water being used.

The site is located both near parks and at a very low water level that will flood in the event of hurricanes and otherwise rising waters.

The key is cheap, reliable storage - Tesla Utility Scale Batteries

The key is cheap, reliable storage – Tesla Utility Scale Batteries

Solar PV augmented with new Tesla Electric utility scale batteries trumps TP6&7 financially today.  And the longer we drag out the discussion, the more true this becomes. The most recently ordered (but not yet confirmed) nuclear reactor, Hinkley 3, is more expensive than either Solar PV or onshore wind in the UK, twice as much.

All of the 5 reactors under construction in the US are both late and over-budget.  As has been every other reactor built in the US of the last 70 reactors in a row. FLP will almost certainly blow its proposed budget for this pair of new reactors.

Now the bad news:

Florida has Construction Work in Process (CWIP) which allow utilities to charge rate payers for expensive project failures.  This was central to the new reactor in SC and Georgia being approved, when they can not get similar projects thru in states without CWIP.

The nuclear utility has tremendous political power and are generally able to get both the FL Public Utility Commission and the FL State Legislature to give them everything they want.    This said, it is still worth talking with state activists to see if there had ever been a successful campaign to lobby the PUC.  Certainly, loud enough campaigning can influence the legislature, though they are screamed at with some regularity and bought off far more often.  The nuclear utilities in Florida have made a most fascinating argument against solar power: it helps rich people get richer.  Because of the high up front costs of roof top solar PV, only rich people can afford it, so, since we want a grid funded by everyone, the rich should be prohibited from profiting from their capital and everyone should pay for the grid. To be clear, the reason utilities build nuclear power plants is that they have a bunch of money (or credit) now and want to buy this incredibly expensive thing, that only they can buy and then make lots of money off (by not paying for waste, insurance, terrorist risks, etc).   So the incredibly rich FL utilities have convinced the sunshine state that solar power is bad here, because it will give the rich more money.

Instead of Reactors, let's do this in the Sunshine State.

Instead of Reactors, let’s do this in the Sunshine State.

The Solutions Project has 50 plans, one for each state, on how to get to 100% renewable energy in the US by 2050.  Not one plan uses nuclear reactors.

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About paxus

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

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