RealClimate logo


Technical Note: Sorry for any recent performance issues. We are working on it.

Unforced variations: Apr 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 April 2011

This months open thread. There are some Items of potential interest::

or whatever you like.


525 Responses to “Unforced variations: Apr 2011”

  1. 451
    Anna Haynes says:

    I’d like to ask a variant of “Scientific American”#365′s “attribution” Q above (“What are the “natural”(non-human)causes and what proportion?”) –

    Namely: Is there any peer reviewed, reasonably unflawed research out there, attributing any of the last 50 yrs’ avg warming to a natural cause(s)? (and if so, what cause, & what papers?)

  2. 452

    #450, and “prequelae”–

    Well, the one thing that is sure is that we don’t know how this will all play out. There are a lot of things you can point to as grounds for pessimism, or even defeatism, but there are also some grounds for hope.

    And actually, there’s another thing we know for sure: despair is not adaptive.

  3. 453
    Anna Haynes says:

    Probably no need for anyone to reply to my question above (at “24 Apr 2011 at 6:38 PM”, Q re availability of peer reviewed, reasonably unflawed research out there, attributing any of the last 50 yrs’ avg warming to a natural cause(s) ), since I’m reading through IPCC AR4 WG1 Chapter 9 (link) (detection & attribution)

  4. 454
    Edward Greisch says:

    uranium from sea water:
    http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/200704/000020070407A0057435.php

    Anti-nuclear cartoon book, 1978 – anything changed?
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/25/npfb-1978/
    NOTHING is changed since 1978. We are continuing to increase the CO2 production from coal fired power plants every year AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO as long as people keep on protesting against nuclear power. Remember the DEADline from BPL: The 2050s. Bart Levenson is correct, and so is RC. Ray Ladbury: I could answer your questions if I had your email address. “the ‘do-it-yourself’ bomb kit” still does not exist and never will.

    We could have stopped the manufacture of CO2 by coal fired power plants by 1970, and we could have replaced all Gen 2 reactors with Gen 3 and 4 by now. Read my previous comments on recycling and Numec. The coal industry is clearly winning over the human race. The 2050s is when we go extinct because of GW, and we are on track to do so. Which danger is greater, even if the cartoon book is right, which it isn’t?

  5. 455
    Nick Gotts says:

    Didactylos@445,

    Can you point me to the cost estimates you are relying on for decommissioning and long-term storage?

  6. 456
    JCH says:

    I have found a few articles on volcanism and the climate, but so far nothing that really addresses the rebound effect discussed in the James Hansen’s draft paper: see figure 22 on page 40.

    In summary, precipitous decline in the growth rate of GHG forcing about 25 years ago caused a decrease in the rate of growth of the total climate forcing and thus a flattening of the planetary energy imbalance over the past two decades. That flattening allows the small forcing due to the solar cycle minimum, a delayed bounceback effect from Pinatubo cooling, and recent small volcanoes to cause a decrease of the planetary energy imbalance over the past decade. – Hansen et al

    I’ve noticed criticism on this on blogs has concentrated on Pinatubo, but he’s also including small volcanoes since then:

    [Response: The result comes from single forcing experiments that show in the volcanic case, you got a net cooling from the eruption itself, which sets up a negative temperature anomaly in the sub-surface ocean. This lasts longer than the stratospheric aerosols (and other studies support that long tailed response for big volcanoes - i.e. Gleckler et al). Thus once the atmospheric composition goes back to normal, you have a small diffusive flux of heat at the surface of the ocean that is related to the warming of that anomalously cool layer. This would cause an positive TOA heat flux anomaly for subsequent years (getting smaller in time). - gavin]

  7. 457
    sidd says:

    There is a paper on the PNAS website measuring CO2 burden related to exports and imports by country. CO2 numbers net of trade decrease China’s emissions by 23% and increase the US emissions by 11%, EU nations by 30%. Nice graphs and pictures.

    Davis and Caldeira. “Consumption-based accounting of CO2 emissions”

    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/12/5687.full.pdf+html?sid=90f0fd67-a376-42c6-a9b3-4c4977b98a0c

    sidd

  8. 458
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 457 sidd – great info!

    (I don’t know just how detailed the data is, but maybe this could help set CO2eq tariffs to have trade on a level playing field when domestic CO2eq emissions are taxed (at different rates and at different points in the flow in different nations).)

  9. 459
    David Miller says:

    Ed (454 and many others)

    I think you’ve spent way too much time over at bravenewclimate.com to be analyzing anything about nuclear power any more. I read it too, though more critically, and find it to be little more than an astroturf site for the nuclear industry. I’m not saying Barry is a nuclear industry stooge, but a lot of the posters clearly are.

    Your comments here amount to what they explicitly say over there:

    Conservation is nice but isn’t really going to help
    Renewables can’t be scaled in a reasonable time frame
    It’s nuclear everywhere or it’s climate change. Either/or, there are no alternatives.
    Nuclear is the safest and cheapest form of producing electricity. At least it *could* be the cheapest form if we just did it right with technology
    Proliferation concerns aren’t a problem because the fissionable Pu is mixed with non-fissile Pu.

    They don’t tolerate dissent very well over there. But other sites make it pretty clear that we can get most of the way there much sooner for a much lower cost than with nukes. If we applied the sort of energy and money they claim is necessary for new nuclear to conservation, renewables, and storage we would be repowered with renewables.

    An example of the logic that I find flawed:

    1) civilian plants have no impact on proliferation because of the isotopes of Pu produced.

    A) This is a completely specious argument. It assumes that because countries that have already developed nuclear weapons wanted high yield bombs, not radioactive fizzles, terrorist nations or organizations would want the same.

    Ed, do you really think Al-quida would care that their ‘nuke’ only yielded 10 Ktons if it spread 100 kg of Pu around Manhattan? I don’t.

    2) If environmentalists hadn’t quashed building plants in the 70′s we’d have new, safer designs in place and displacing coal already

    A) Environmentalists didn’t quash a single plant. Economics and a bit of realism killed them. As I recall, one plant on Long Island was built and abandoned when the NRC came to the realization that there was no real way to evacuate the whole island in the case of disaster.

    3) Nuclear is the cheapest way to produce power. Just look at the levelized cost in France or Japan or existing US plants.

    A) The past may not indicate future performance. Using the cost of production of existing plants to justify building new plants is just dishonest. The relevant question, of course, is the cost of electricity produced by new plants.

    I’m not necessarily anti-nuclear, but I want to see the issues honestly addressed, and I want to have real comparisons of cost. I also want to see the unique nuclear issues addressed, including proliferation and waste disposal. I’m not seeing that. If and when I do I’ll consider it more seriously among the mix of alternatives.

  10. 460
    Ron R. says:

    David, It’s obvious the site is pro-nuclear from the nuke logo on the page.

    I wrote a 3,500 word essay detailing my opposition to nuclear power and asked if they would be interested in posting it as a guest editorial. They weren’t but suggested I post it in bits and pieces on their comment page. I tried but for some reason the comment box would not appear for me. I know this is an issue with my computer as it’s ancient (Windows Millennium) and uses out-of-date browsers (the lastest I can use with this OS). As it is this computer is straining just to download the average web page. ;-)

    I completely understand their decline of my unsolicited essay. They’re probably getting a lot of them in the wake of Fukushima.

    My feeling is anything with as many serious attendant issues as nuclear power has, and there are a lot of them, is best left alone especially as we have better choices available. It’s a waste of valuable time we could be using to outfit the world in clean alternatives.

  11. 461

    #458-460–

    I’d say, just cost carbon emissions honestly and let the market decide. Based on what is happening already, I suspect that we’d find renewables could scale a whole lot quicker in reality than the nukes–though I think we’d see more of both.

  12. 462
    RussH says:

    A mini global warming event? Would a sudden increase in air temperature arise after an accidental release of bromotrifluoromethane into a sealed room which contained a very hot heat source like a boiler? Would the high GWP of 6800 slow down the heat loss rate through the walls of the room?

    Thanks in advance

  13. 463
    David Miller says:

    Kevin in #461

    I completely agree. Level the playing field. Put a real price on carbon and roll back/eliminate ongoing subsidies.

    I disagree about nuclear power in such a case though. I don’t believe investors have a stomach for the risk of construction overruns, and I don’t know if insurance companies know how to price premiums for something with a very small chance of occurring but nearly unlimited liability if it does. And as cool as next generation nukes sound – burning up waste, passive safety, etc – I don’t see private companies willing to underwrite the R&D. I see virtually no chance of getting it developed and into production in enough of the world to do anything useful in lowering CO2 emissions in the required time frame. Having the perfect solution in 30-40 years is of no value, we need to start reducing atmospheric levels a few decades ago.

    But a level playing field, pricing in carbon and health externalities, would be a great place to start. If I’m wrong about the economics of nuclear they’d have everything they need to prove it to me.

  14. 464

    #463–”Having the perfect solution in 30-40 years is of no value. . .” Amen.

    #462–RussH

    GWP is distinct from specific heat, so no, the GWP of this chemical is irrelevant to the case you describe. The heat source won’t heat the room any more with a GWG present than without, and if it’s “very hot,” then that will be plenty. Convection will be quite significant inside the walls, and will surely trump any decrease in radiative efficiency. (I think it would actually be a negative feedback upon any such decrease, actually, since a temperature gradient will tend to create convective circulation, such as you see in a lava lamp.)

    Unlike the atmosphere, for which radiative cooling is the only ultimate possibility, your sealed room will be cooling mostly NOT by radiation–unless by “sealed” you mean absolutely airtight. (And insofar as radiative cooling might come into play, it would presumably be occurring outside those “sealed walls,” and so would be unaffected by the bromotrifluoromethane.)

    Or so says this musician.

  15. 465
    Anna Haynes says:

    What’s the status of “Arctic Dipole anomaly” as an explanation for bizarre winter N. hemisphere weather? i.e., is this paper & Jeff Masters’s synopsis still holding up?
    (Zhang et al 2008, http://folk.uib.no/gbsag/Zhang_etal_2008.pdf )

    (and/or what keywords should I be searching for, to find out?)

  16. 466
    RussH says:

    Thank you Kevin. The room is absolutely airtight. It is interesting that you mentioned that convection will play a part as I am sure it does. Perhaps the bromotrifluoromethane is altering the shape and size of the convectional movements? If a temperature measurement probe is in a certain position within the room then I might be seeing a false increase in temperature of the room? I postulated that the chemical molecules would reradiate the heat that is coming from the heat source randomly thus altering the direction of the heat loss from its surface thus increase the air temperature. Cheers again.

  17. 467
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 466 RussH – if the walls were transparent to the relevant wavelengths and the GHG were released (starting from zero GHG), they would actually increase the rate of cooling of the air in the room by increasing emission of radiation which then escapes. But with increasing GHG this effect will saturate as the air becomes completely opaque; then, thinner and thinner layers of air around the edge will be opaque enough to block radiation from the center of the room, and as the outer edges cool, radiation from the warmer center (assuming convection is somehow halted – perhaps the air is in transparent blocks stacked on top of each other and side-by-side) will not escape, so the rate of cooling will slow down.

    If the heat source works by radiating heat into the room at the same wavelengths that the GHG absorbs, then (with transparent walls, etc.) adding GHG would at first allow the room to absorb that heat, but then, adding more would concentrate that absorption near the heat source and so a larger temperature gradient would be sustained by the opacity.

    How a GHG works on planetary climate: radiation at other wavelengths comes from a star (or else some other energy is a heat source – or else there is simply residual heat present and the GHG will only slow a cooling rate), and some is absorbed. GHGs block some of the radiation emitted from the surface from reaching space; they can themselves radiate to space, but if the climate system is sufficiently heated from below (as it is on Earth and many other planets), much of the atmosphere has temperature decreasing with height from the surface (or where much of the solar heating occurs), so that the radiation that the GHGs can radiate to space will be a smaller amount, except at wavelengths where the GHGs are so opaque that thin upper layers where temperature increases with height can radiation significantly to space (increasing opacity at such wavelengths can have a cooling effect, but the cooling effect occurs first in those upper layers and then radiative feedback spreads some of that to lower layers. See ‘stratospheric adjustment’). Significant convection/conduction/diffusion may be sustained in a layer, in which case, the temperature of that layer must in some way rise or fall until the emission of radiation from that layer balances absorbtion by that layer, but the temperature distribution within that layer will depend on some additional physics (such as the adiabatic lapse rate). This is what happens in the troposphere+surface – they are generally convectively coupled and tend to respond together to changes in the net radiative flux at the tropopause (which equals the total solar heating below the tropopause minuse the net longwave cooling below the tropopause – geothermal, tidal, and other energy sources being small enough to be ignored for many purposes).

  18. 468
    Patrick 027 says:

    PS stratospheric adjustment can involve stratospheric cooling even if GHGs are not so optically thick and even if temperature doesn’t increase with height in the upper atmosphere, but it depends on the spectra of the GHGs, etc.

  19. 469
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    [moved from Schneider thread]

    @ 37 Edward Greisch Here’s a link. Romm has long supported a combination of 14 – 16 methods to stop burning carbon. This is sometimes presented as a pie chart, or “wedges” as Romm calls the slices. Nuclear energy is one of the wedges. He does mention at times that nuclear plants are not often constructed because of cost. You may debate that if you wish.

  20. 470
    Martin Vermeer says:

    #37 Edward Greisch, if you really believe that selling the people of the world on the safety and cleanliness of nuclear fission power is any less impossible than making power companies change their business plans — stop inhaling :-)

  21. 471
    Didactylos says:

    Nick Gotts: my favourite source is the UK Energy Research Centre.

    They are completely transparent about what is included and excluded from levelised costs. Levelised costs have their flaws, but the silly complaints about decommissioning are simply negligible compared to other uncertainties such as discount rate. So why use levelised costs at all? Simple. They’re the best comparison we’ve got.

    I’m not using these figures to claim that one power source is cheaper or more expensive than another. I’m just reiterating the point (which ought to be incontestable) that nuclear power is competitive with other power sources, and the most economic power sources vary by region as the result of many factors.

    Ultimately, most complaints about the expense of nuclear power are just sticker shock. We just don’t have the perspective to put such big capital build and end-of-life numbers in context.

  22. 472
    Maya says:

    Appropos of nothing in the current discussion, I found this paper on clouds and the faint young sun paradox. It’s open-access, so I thought it might be of interest to some other readers here.

    http://www.clim-past.net/7/203/2011/cp-7-203-2011.pdf

  23. 473
    Nick Gotts says:

    Didactylos,
    Thanks. I’ll look into this further, but the documents I’ve seen so far on the UKERC site say nothing at all about decommissioning or long-term storage. Can you be more specific?

    The following is from “ELECTRICITY GENERATION COSTS AND INVESTMENT DECISIONS: A REVIEW”, which is the top document when “levelised costs” is put into the UKERC site’s search facility:

    “The total annual costs (C) of providing output from a generating plant equal its annualised capacity costs, plus fixed annual costs plus variable operating and fuel costs:
    [Sorry - the equation doesn't print properly here]
    Where A(n,r) is the annuity rate for a plant life of n years and an interest rate of r, c is capital cost per kW installed, X the installed capacity, m the fixed annual cost (mostly maintenance) per unit of capacity, f the cost of fuel, Q the annual kWh output and η the plant efficiency.”

    Possibly the decommissioning and long-term storage costs are folded into the “fixed annual cost”, but this is not specified. Nor, as far as I can see, would “levelised costs” take any account of the kind of disaster seen at Fukushima, nor of proliferation risk.

  24. 474

    #466–

    “Perhaps the bromotrifluoromethane is altering the shape and size of the convectional movements?”

    Maybe so. If the temperature gradient outward increases due to increased absorption of the heat close to the heat source, then I’d expect more convection. That would (I think) then tend to increase the heat flow outward and bring the temperature gradient back down a bit once again–hence the negative feedback I imagine would exist.

    “If a temperature measurement probe is in a certain position within the room then I might be seeing a false increase in temperature of the room?”

    Again, maybe so. Certainly in actual rooms you can get hot or cool spots depending upon the patterns of air flow.

    “I postulated that the chemical molecules would reradiate the heat that is coming from the heat source randomly thus altering the direction of the heat loss from its surface thus increase the air temperature.”

    I don’t think so. If anything, it might increase *cooling* as Patrick says, because you’ve effectively increased the radiating surface. But as Patrick’s comments suggest, this question is probably not susceptible of a simple qualitative answer. You probably need to know how much BTFM is released and how hot the source is, at least. (Theoretically, that would let you calculate how well the spectra match. Just don’t ask me to calculate it!)

    And I strongly (yet humbly) suspect that convection will dominate for any realistic set of parameters and room dimensions.

  25. 475
    Edward Greisch says:

    459 David Miller: I am tired of saying the same stuff over and over. “I think you’ve spent way too much time over at bravenewclimate.com to be analyzing anything about nuclear power any more.” Nope. I didn’t even know about bravenewclimate.com until a month ago. I got a degree in physics from Carnegie-Mellon U in 1968. I almost took a job at Numec designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker, but the army offered me more money to do research on nuclear weapons effects. Numec recycled spent nuclear fuel until some of the spent fuel found its way to Israel.

    1 A Al-quida can’t make a plutonium bomb that would have a nuclear explosion. It is beyond their technical capability. Very few national governments are able to make plutonium bombs. Al-quida could make a dirty bomb with a conventional explosive, but they don’t need plutonium for that. So far, Al-quida has been unable to make even a dirty bomb. Al-quida clearly would have if it could have.

    Note that Iran is trying to make a uranium bomb, not a plutonium bomb. That is why Iran is enriching uranium beyond 20%. Reactors require 0.7% to 8% U235 oxide. Uranium bombs require 90% or higher U235, the shiny reduced metal, not oxide. A uranium bomb is a “simple” gun-type device. Plutonium requires an implosion device, where many high speed explosives work in near perfect synchrony. It is very hard to do.

    “The relevant question, of course, is the cost of electricity produced by new plants.”
    From: Jim Jones at hyperionpowergeneration.com

    Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 2:27 PM
    Subject: Re: $.05 to .06 per KWh

    Assume HPM costs $30M and plant side doubles it:

    $60M divided by 25,000kw = $2,400/kw
    $2,400/kw divided by 5 years = $480/KWyr
    $480/KWyr divided by 8760 hours = $.0547945/KWhr (Call it 5 and half cents per KWhr)

    OR

    $60M divided by 20,000 homes = $3,000/home
    $3,000/home divided by 5 years = $600/home/year
    $600/home/year divided by 12 months = $50/home/month (How’s that for an electric bill?)

    Jim

    Yes, hyperionpowergeneration is waiting for NRC clearance. That is one of the problems the nuclear industry faces that other power sources don’t. But coal produces 100 to 400 times as much radiation and infinitely more other poisons such as arsenic. Chernobyl is included in that figure.

    463 David Miller: “I don’t believe investors have a stomach for the risk of construction overruns”
    That is the beauty of factory built reactors. There are no construction overruns. See:
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf33.html
    for a list of factory built reactors.

    “they’d have everything they need to prove it to me.” I doubt anybody can prove anything to you. You have already made up your mind.

  26. 476
    David B. Benson says:

    Pete Dunkelberg @469 — Elsewhere in the world NPP are being constructed, just not so muc h right now in the USA. As examples, India’s power plan includes building 40 NPPs; UAE is starting construction of 4; Vietname will definitely build one and possibly two more; Indonesia, Mayalsia, South Africa and Chile are planning on starting construction as soon as maybe; China is currently constructing 6 NPPs and seems to be planning on about 60 more.

  27. 477
    David Miller says:

    Ed: 459 David Miller: I am tired of saying the same stuff over and over.

    Then perhaps you should listen more:)

    Nope. I didn’t even know about bravenewclimate.com until a month ago.

    I’ll take your word for that. Nevertheless, what you’ve posted here the last few weeks is very nearly word for word what they’ve been saying there since Fukashima.

    1 A Al-quida can’t make a plutonium bomb that would have a nuclear explosion. It is beyond their technical capability. Very few national governments are able to make plutonium bombs. Al-quida could make a dirty bomb with a conventional explosive, but they don’t need plutonium for that. So far, Al-quida has been unable to make even a dirty bomb. Al-quida clearly would have if it could have.

    This is exactly the kind of cheerleading that turns me off. There are hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel in pools and casks all around the world. You, and others, advocate for many times more nuclear plants being built all around the world. In the developing world. And you simply wave off proliferation concerns with stuff like ‘Al Queda doesn’t know how to build a bomb out of plutonium, so no worries!’

    Saying that if terrorist organization could have built a bomb they would have is just silly.

    To address the cost issue I see that you dodge what new nuclear plants actually cost to build, skip past the insurance and loan guarantee issues, and cite nuclear battery projections on a device that at most has had a prototype built. It hasn’t been produced, hasn’t been approved by any government agency anywhere, hasn’t been refueled or decommissioned. It’s 90% vaporware. Once they have regulatory approval and have some in production come back with the next-unit price and we’ll talk. Until then we’re left with AP1000′s and the like and they’re not cheap.

    Lastly:
    I doubt anybody can prove anything to you. You have already made up your mind.

    This is more of the nonsense on display over at BNC. It’s the attitude that if you’re not already convinced that we need to roll out nuclear power asap, and everywhere, you’re closed minded and not looking at the evidence. It seems to be an either-or situation; one cannot honestly have doubts and need proof.

    I don’t accept vaporware as proof of low cost. I don’t accept “Al-Quida can’t build a bomb” as evidence that proliferation is not a problem. I do accept that TMI and Fukushima are evidence that despite the best plans and procedures nuclear power plants are managed by people working for corporations with a strong motive for profit, and that Murphy will make appearances from time to time.

    Prove it to me. Show me a nuclear plant being built on time and on budget today for a price that’s cheaper than wind. Show me a plant built anywhere in the world without government backing. Then I’ll listen.

    Please note that’s a very different proposition from an idealistic “what nuclear power could have been” perspective. Nuclear, built with a fail-safe design burning all its fuel (LFTR, perhaps) could have been great. Perhaps it would even be really cheap. But it’s not here now, and it takes too long to design, test, redesign, and deploy on a big enough scale to do anything about global warming.

  28. 478
    John E. Pearson says:

    Ed:

    Why are you so sold on Hyperion over the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) designed at Argonne? Hyperion’s reactor is vaporware and not an awful lot is known about it. ANL has designed and built 50 MW IFRs and performed loss of coolant tests on them. As far as I know they can be scaled up to a GW. I don’t understand the appeal of trying to power the country on 50 MW reactors. To replace the current half terrawatt of electric power you’d need 10,000 of them. If you distributed that 10,000 uniformly over the 48 states, the mean spacing between them would be on the order of 20 miles which would mean you couldn’t be further than 10 miles from a reactor. If you don’t go for uniform distributions you’re going to have to distribute them into population centers which puts more people closer to more reactors.

  29. 479
    David B. Benson says:

    David Miller @477 — A chinese compnay has built their CPR-1000 in China for $1.7/W, using the current exchange rate. That, if done via a 30 year 10.8% loan, provides electic power at a lower cost than wind (in the USA).

    But the situation for wind is actually worse than often considered as one has to have a balancing agent (backup) for periods of low or no wind. So while it appears in the advertising as low cost the necessity of balancing agents means the cost of those agents must be averaged in. There is quite a good series of comments attached to
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/21/energy-debates-in-wonderland/
    which tends to demonstrate the poor utility of wind power.

  30. 480
    Ron R. says:

    Just adding a couple of studies on the costs of nuclear. I have not read them. But suffice to say the “too cheap to meter” PR spin was, well, wildly wrong.

    “Estimates for new nuclear power place these facilities among the costliest private projects ever undertaken. Utilities promoting new nuclear power assert it is their least costly option. However, independent studies have concluded new nuclear power is not economically competitive.
    http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/nuclear-costs-2009.pdf

    “When the full nuclear fuel cycle is considered – not only reactors but also uranium mines and mills, enrichment facilities, spent fuel repositories, and decommissioning sites – nuclear power proves to be one of the costliest sources of energy”
    http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/docs/policy-briefs/201101_RSU_PolicyBrief_1-2nd_Thought_Nuclear-Sovacool.pdf

    Out of six of seven studies comparing the costs between the dirty big three (nuclear, coal and gas) Nuclear is the the most expensive.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Nuke%2C_coal%2C_gas_generating_costs.png

    How much is Fukushima going to cost Japan? It is estimated that the cost for the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns could cost up to $612 BILLION. And that’s “even without accounting for wider issues such as radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.” … “Standard & Poor’s warned that its projections were ‘uncertain’ due to ongoing developments at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where workers are battling to cool reactors and spent fuel rod pools to prevent a meltdown. ‘Much will depend on Japan?s political leadership and its ability to forge a political consensus on how to offset fiscal measures in the future,’ it said. ‘The extent of environmental contamination in northeastern Japan remains unknown.’”

    I don’t know how these costs works out just for the nuke disaster though my guess is if large swaths of land are rendered uninhabitable those costs could go much higher.
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gmH-wyCANUy4g3kyZDiZm-Eg7KEw?docId=CNG.12890d5f3796f0ec93e813fed2f0c8c5.701

    Of course not all costs are measured in dollars and cents.
    http://www.news-medical.net/news/2007/07/20/27840.aspx
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18082395
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2757021/

  31. 481
    Ron R. says:

    My guess is after this disaster, the already high cost of building new nuke plants is going to go through the roof.

    You know, it gets really tiring hearing these eternal promises. ‘Oh’, they say, ‘if we only tried this or if could just do that nuclear power would be SO much better‘. Maybe, but in saying this they are admitting that what we have now is not so safe after all. And what are thry going to say when their next experimental generation suffers a major catastrophe? ‘Oh if only…’?

    Michael Rose wrote an article for Huffington Post called To Cheap to Meter. Here’s a comment he made that I think nails it.

    “It [nuclear power] hasn’t been the panacea he [Lewis Strauss] foretold. In fact, it’s been a train wreck of accidents, cost overruns, nuclear weapons proliferation and an ever-growing waste problem that is always on the verge of being solved.”

    Again, nuclear is a costly waste of time and money that we could be using to finally rid ourselves of dirty energy with all it’s horrible baggage.

  32. 482
    David B. Benson says:

    Correcting my prior re: India
    India has plans to increase its nuclear power capacity from the present 4780 MWe to 20,000 MWe by the year 2020 with the expansion of capacity to include 2500 MWe of fast breeder reactors and 8000 MWe of light water reactors. from
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Indian_response_to_safety_calls_2704112.html

  33. 483
    sidd says:

    Mr. David B. Benson wrote on the 27th of April, 2011 at 9:30 PM:

    “A chinese compnay has built their CPR-1000 in China for $1.7/W, using the current exchange rate.”

    Please may i have a reference ? I went to the bravenewclimate URL that you referenced but i found nothing to corroborate this figure. Perhaps I missed it, would you provide a direct link to this number ?

    thanx
    sidd

  34. 484
    David B. Benson says:

    sidd @483 — You’ll havbe to find the news article on
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/
    where you will find the construction cost given as $1.5/W, but the exchange rate has changed since then. Such low costs may only be possible in China. Elsewhere a more realistic figure is the $3.8/W bid by a South Korean consortium for the 4(?) NPPs just now under construction in the UAE; look for the article in the same WNN site indicated above.

  35. 485
    Didactylos says:

    Nick Gotts:

    Have you looked at Levelised costs estimates for electricity generating technologies?

    It is a meta-study, so to get into details of where the figures come from you will have to look through many, many papers. But it says explicitly:

    Components that are captured by, or factored into, the calculation:

    # Capital costs
    # Fuel cost (including projected cost inflation) and fuel taxes
    # Operating and maintenance costs
    # Waste management costs
    # Decommissioning costs
    # Site-specific R&D and insurance costs
    # Costs of meeting emissions regulations (including possibly the cost of
    carbon)
    # Plant lifetime (economic)
    # Plant load factor
    # Discount rate
    # Build schedule
    # Shape of the learning curve and it’s impact on future cost reductions

    Payments into civil liability funds will be included in operating and/or insurance costs, depending on the regime.

    Quite a few plants have been decommissioned now, so the cost isn’t a surprise any more. I think you have a point that it was originally a shock when the first reactors reached the end of their life, but now we already know about the expense and factor it in.

    Ron R: I would take an unbiased meta-study over any cherry-picked individual study you can dig up, because for every biased study you can find, there will be plenty biased the other way. This meta-analysis shows the range and highlights both the outliers and the sources of potential bias, by separating out experimental and pioneering designs. Also, the main thesis of the meta-analysis is to show that despite the typically higher levelised cost for wind power, it is still a very good choice. Generally speaking, it’s on your side. The result that nuclear power is competitive is, as I said to Nick, incontestable. We know it’s competitive because it is competitive. It’s a no-brainer.

    Ron R, you should also be aware that your top “study” for claiming that nuclear is too expensive is by some unqualified CPA, is unpublished, and if it were ever published, would appear under Fiction. I have seen it before, and it’s pure fantasy. I picked through its errors once before, so I have no appetite to do so again.

    David Miller: “Show me a nuclear plant being built on time and on budget today for a price that’s cheaper than wind.” That’s a silly question. Nuclear has higher capital costs, and you know it. So do you want to talk about levelised costs, or do you want to waste your time with inappropriate and misleading comparisons? Ask yourself “What would a denier do?”

    This isn’t vapourware. Levelised costs are based on existing installed power – over 200 nuclear plants – so the numbers are not volatile.

    And, for the record (I can’t believe that people here are so paranoid, but what can you do?) I am not employed by the nuclear industry (or even the energy industry) in any capacity, nor do I have any personal or professional connections with either industry.

    I simply agree with James Hansen and David MacKay on the question of nuclear power.

  36. 486
    Nick Gotts says:

    “A chinese compnay has built their CPR-1000 in China for $1.7/W, using the current exchange rate.” – David B. Benson

    Considering that the current exchange rate is set artificially low to assist Chinese exporters, and that Chinese labour is far cheaper than labour in the USA, the relevance of that claim – even if true – is highly dubious.

  37. 487
    Nick Gotts says:

    BTW, David B. Benson, taking a bravenewclimate assessment of the cost of wind power seriously is like accepting Rush Limbaugh’s view of Obama as unbiased. Take a look at the site owner’s initial comments on Fukushima: like some here, he’s simply in love with nuclear power.

  38. 488
    Nick Gotts says:

    Didactylos@485,

    Thanks! That looks very useful. I’ll get back to you when I’ve read it.

  39. 489
    M says:

    Does anyone know what has happened to the CDIAC website? I was hoping to get a copy of CO2SYS but I haven’t been able to get the website to load for a week (and now it isn’t even appearing in google searches anymore)

  40. 490
    flxible says:

    M – Find CO2SYS in zip form on the list here

  41. 491
    David Miller says:

    Didactylos says:

    David Miller: “Show me a nuclear plant being built on time and on budget today for a price that’s cheaper than wind.” That’s a silly question. Nuclear has higher capital costs, and you know it. So do you want to talk about levelised costs, or do you want to waste your time with inappropriate and misleading comparisons? Ask yourself “What would a denier do?”

    Sheesh. Let me rephrase the question so that you can’t parse it to anything other than what I intended to ask:

    Show me a nuclear plant being built on time and on budget that delivers electricity for a lower cost per KWH than wind.

    This isn’t vapourware. Levelised costs are based on existing installed power – over 200 nuclear plants – so the numbers are not volatile.

    Interesting. You call *me* a denier, then claim that “this isn’t vaporware”. This after changing cost estimates from what I did say was vaporware (the Hyperion battery) to nuclear plants built by-and-large some three decades ago.

    The relevant question isn’t “for what price can nuclear plants built three decades ago deliver KW hours today”. The relevant question is “what is the lowest cost way to produce a KWH today and for the next three decades that has a sufficiently low carbon intensity”. To answer that honestly you have to price what new nuclear plants cost to build and compare it to all forms of solar and wind and other renewables.

  42. 492
    Didactylos says:

    David Miller: I prefer to discuss actual costs, not fantasy costs.

    You are quite right to ignore the optimistic marketing for nuclear power. But you are deluded if you think that the same doesn’t apply to all industries, including wind!

    No, I’ll stick to actual costs and actual performance, thank you. I’m not playing your guessing game.

    PS: the world is bigger than the United States. Many, many reactors came online in the last 30 years.

    PPS: I didn’t reparse your question. I rejected the premise, because it was a really silly question, however you parse it.

    PPPS: You really need to be more careful with your “questions”, because if you followed your twisted logic, then you would have ruled out wind power altogether. On-shore wind was clearly more expensive than nearly all other forms of power until comparatively recently. Off-shore wind still is very expensive. Why can’t you be honest and say that you have ruled out nuclear power for other reasons, and you don’t care how much it costs?

  43. 493
    Ron R. says:

    Didactylos — 28 Apr 2011 @ 2:31 AM

    Well maybe Severance is just an unqualified plumber (I mean CPA) as you claim, but a lot of serious people cite his study. Too bad they didn’t have you there to set them straight.

    http://www.ipe-berlin.org/uploads/media/Mez__Economics_of_Nuclear_Power.pdf
    http://energyscience.org.au/EconomicsNucsRElecReformatted.pdf
    http://www.ises.org.il/assets/files/News/20100909_cooperStudy.pdf
    http://tinyurl.com/648uzzm
    http://tinyurl.com/69vjkps
    http://tinyurl.com/5wbtlsc

    See also: http://energyeconomyonline.com/GPPI_Nuclear_Conference.html

    And what, no easy dismissal of the Sovacool study?
    http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/Faculty_Benjamin_K_Sovacool.aspx

    Sorry. I’m not buying it. The cost for adequate insurance ALONE is wildly expensive. Do you really think it’s right to saddle ratepayers and taxpayers with all these costs?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110421/ap_on_bi_ge/nuclear_power_insurance

    http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

  44. 494
    SecularAnimist says:

    Didactylos wrote: “On-shore wind was clearly more expensive than nearly all other forms of power until comparatively recently.”

    And now it is competitive with coal and natural gas fired electricity generation.

    As far as costs are concerned, the problem for nuclear advocates is that the cost of wind and solar technology is dropping rapidly, and is poised to drop even more rapidly as new technologies move from R&D to commercialization to mass production.

    It’s interesting that in these discussions, nuclear advocates tend to emphasize future nuclear technologies that have yet to be deployed commercially, and that in some cases don’t actually exist at all, except as design concepts (e.g. Hyperion has yet to even build a prototype).

    Whereas renewable advocates emphasize today’s mature, powerful wind and solar technologies which are now being deployed at large scales all over the world.

    If we were to have a more symmetrical discussion, then I’ll be happy to start posting about the really “disruptive”, ultra-cheap, ultra-efficient photovoltaic and energy storage technologies that will be moving from lab to commercialization within the next few years, which will revolutionize the way we produce and use electricity, much as cell phones revolutionized telecommunications and personal computers revolutionized data processing.

  45. 495
    Ron R. says:

    Didactylos And, for the record (I can’t believe that people here are so paranoid, but what can you do?) I am not employed by the nuclear industry (or even the energy industry) in any capacity, nor do I have any personal or professional connections with either industry.

    I don’t remember making any such claim, who did?

  46. 496
    David Miller says:

    Didactylos says:
    You are quite right to ignore the optimistic marketing for nuclear power. But you are deluded if you think that the same doesn’t apply to all industries, including wind!

    Of course it does. There is a huge difference between costing the next wind farm at the price of the last one less the price decreases from the manufacturer and pricing the next nuclear plant at the cost of the last one built (decades ago).

    CSP and thermal storage is still pretty new, and I think it’s a reasonable expectation that prices will come down as it matures. Ditto for offshore wind. I’m all for researching these with both private and public dollars in an effort to bring the price down. I’m not, whatever you seem to think, in favor of building out them out until they’re cost competitive.

    I also think prices would come down with new nuclear power plants designs. The time required to get these designed, tested, redesigned, and deployed, is simply more time than we have.

    No, I’ll stick to actual costs and actual performance, thank you. I’m not playing your guessing game.

    But you are. You’re guessing the cost of nuclear will come down from Areva’s Scandanavian disasters. You’re quoting vaporware to me, talking about what it costs to build second gen plants in China with Chinese labor costs, and fantasizing about what LFTR’s or other gen 4 reactors will cost.

    I notice that you haven’t come back with any plants that produce KWH’s for less than new wind farms. Nuclear fission plants are not new technology. They’ve been here for decades, and operators of current plants have made many billion dollars. Why is it so hard to quote the price of a new plant and what a KWH from it is going to cost?

    PS: the world is bigger than the United States. Many, many reactors came online in the last 30 years.

    Great! So lets have a list of what generation each one is, how much it cost to build, and what it produces a KWH for. Show me this robust industry that I’m naively ignorant of. Please, show me how it’s just the nutty tree hugging environmental nut jobs that are keeping wall street from investing billions in new low-cost nuclear plants.

    PPS: I didn’t reparse your question. I rejected the premise, because it was a really silly question, however you parse it.

    Interesting. Comparing the price of new nuclear power (per KWH) to the production of renewables is “silly, however it’s parsed” ?

    I don’t think we have the basis for a rational discussion here.

  47. 497
    Walter Pearce says:

    Ron R.@493, David Miller @496. You’ve done a brilliant job of illuminating the sketchy thinking behind the financial arguments for nuclear. One additional troubling aspect is the human element — the tendency for sloth, greed, lax regulators, etc. to amp up risk in unpredictable ways that are bad enough in the context of, say, the 3200 abandoned oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico — but could prove disastrous in a nuclear context.

    SecularAnimist, symmetry would be most welcome — please elaborate on disruptive energy technologies.

  48. 498
    M says:

    Thanks, flxible!

    (though… at some point, I’d still like to get my hands on the DOS version in addition to the Excel version. Also… I’m still curious about why CDIAC’s website seems so broken)

  49. 499
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    So, are the different costs of Nuclear power in different countries a matter of policies and insurance rates?

  50. 500
    David B. Benson says:

    Nick Gotts @487 — Actually, Barry Brooks (Brave New Climate owner) is quite sensible about the alternatives. In any case, he doesn’t price wind; I have found (and posted earlier) an actual contracted price for a new wind farm which is just coming on-line.

    David Miller @496 — Up thread I earlier posted a carefully estimated LCOE for the pair of NPPs currently under construction in the USA. I’ve also indicated, yesterday, where on can go to obtain build costs for NPPs in various other countries.

    Pete Dunkelberg @499 — China is a special case because of the artificial exchange rate. That the South Korean AP-1400s being constructed in UAE are so much less expensive than the Westinghouse AP-1000s in the USA (estimated cost) is probably mostly due to the way the financing is done. Leaving out the finance charge the units is the USA will still be more expensive which might have to do with the differences in the sites, different labor rates and maybe also the different designs; after all the AP-1000s have to obtain US NRC approval and the South Korean AP-1400 does not.

    More briefly, I don’t know and the previous paragraph is just suggestions and musing.

    All — One cannot fairly price wind power without considering the balancing agents (backup) employed. Since wind is an intermittent resource, it can only displace other generation in a reliable, on-demand power grid.


Switch to our mobile site