Environmentalists didn’t kill the nuclear power industry, economics did.

10 08 2017

One of Nicole Foss’ standout statements for me when I last saw her speak all those years ago now, was that an economic collapse can and will occur much fater than the other crises humanity is facing, like peak oil and climate change…..  and I see signs of economic collapse every day now; not least this one.

Our friend Eclipse Now will probably blow his top and would probably post his usual rubbish here, but I saw the sense of Alice Friedemann’s blocking him from her site, I have done the same now too. After all, how can you take seriously anyone who believes in terra forming Mars and even giving that planet a flag…..?

An interesting article turned up on my feed today.

South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and partner Santee Cooper abandoned work on two new nuclear reactors this week, not because of public protests, but because the only way to pay for them was to overcharge customers or bankrupt both companies.

The decision comes after the main contractor, Westinghouse, has completed a third of the work at the V.C. Sumner Nuclear Station. Of course, the project has already bankrupted Westinghouse due to missed deadlines and costs spiraling out of control. Westinghouse parent Toshiba Corp. had to pay $2.7 billion to get out of its contract.

Electricité de France too is in trouble. EDF could be heading towards bankruptcy, as it faces the perfect storm of under-estimated costs for decommissioning and waste disposal. Hinkley C power station (in Somerset, England) has just bumped up £1.5bn, and its completion date slipped 15 months.. Meanwhile income from power sales is lagging behind costs, and 17 of EDF’s reactors are off-line for safety tests. Yet French and UK governments are turning a blind eye to the looming financial crisis.

What the nuclear industry really needs is the new technology Eclipse is always banging on about. Scientists are working on these smaller reactors that are less dangerous, but none of them are ready for commercial deployment…..  starting to sound like fusion.

There could be a future for nuclear power in the United States, but only if the technology can compete on cost with renewable sources and natural gas. That is the real challenge for the nuclear power industry.

In any case, I firmly believe that the cost of decommissioning the 400 odd reactors that are now well beyond their use by date will finish off the industry before anything worthwhile happens on this front. The energy cliff is still on its way.

UPDATE.

Since publishing this, Alice Fridemann pointed out she has written this article on her own website…….

Nuclear power too expensive. In 2013, 37 reactors predicted to shut down, 16 already have

[ Since this article was published in 2013, 10 of the 37 at risk plants Cooper listed have been or are scheduled to close down (in red) : Diablo CanyonClintonFitzpatrickFt. CalhounIndian PointOyster CreekPilgrimQuad CitiesThree Mile IslandVermont Yankee.  Plus four plants he didn’t list are scheduled to shut down as well: San Onofre 2 & San Onofre 3, Diablo Canyon 1 & Diablo Canyon 2. In addition, not long before this article was written, Kewaunee (2012) and Crystal River (2009) closed for financial reasons.

Here are the remaining plants Cooper listed that have yet to close: Browns Ferry, Callaway, Calvert Cliff, Commanche Peak, Cook, Cooper, Davis-Besse, Dresden, Duane Arnold, Fermi,  Ginna, Hope Creek, LaSalle, Limerick, Millstone, Monticello, Nine Mile Point, Palisades, Perry, Point Beach, Prairie Island, Robinson, Seabrook, Sequoyah, South Texas, Susquehanna, Turkey Point, Wolf Creek

After spending $9 billion dollars on the two reactors of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station, with only 40% completion, and expected final price tag of $25 billion, it was shut down in 2017 (Plumer).  The only new nuclear plant being built in the U.S. now is in Georgia.

Cooper leaves out the cost of nuclear waste storage, which makes the economics of nuclear plants even worse than in the article below (see his testimony before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission).

One of the costs Cooper mentions are Post-Fukushima updates. Five years after the accident at Fukushima in Japan resulted in three reactor meltdowns, the global nuclear industry is spending $47 billion on safety enhancements mandated after the accident revealed weaknesses in plant protection from earthquakes and flooding. The median cost per nuclear power reactor is $46.7 million (Platts).

“New reactors at Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant were initially estimated to cost $14 billion to build; the latest estimate is $21 billion. The first reactors at the plant, in the 1970s, took a decade longer to build than planned, and cost 10 times more than expected. In France, a new plant is running around six years behind scheduled and likely to cost around $8 billion more than planned. Even keeping old reactors running may not make financial sense. In California, for example, extending the life of the Diablo Canyon plant will require new cooling towers that cost around $8 billion. It may also need billions in earthquake retrofits, because engineers realized after the project was built that it’s on a fault line” (Peters).  2016 update: this is one of the reasons they’re going to be shut down.

There are only 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants left (of 90) in the United States

MORE @ http://energyskeptic.com/2017/nuclear-power-never-econ-viable-never-will-be/

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5 responses

10 08 2017
Chris Harries

I think it’s Time rather than Money that has worked against nuclear. Money too, but if the promised newer technology had come on about ten years ago then there was a prospect that small nuclear units (50 MS scale) would have been competing in the market place with burgeoning solar, wind and gas. As it is those other technologies took off and have all but persuaded society that nuclear is not the way to go.

We are now well into overshoot and it’s hard to see nuclear make a come back in an era of growing political and social chaos, but I’ve peen speculating that if EV production climbs as spectacularly as their proponents argue then the world will be facing a secondary electricity supply crunch and this will bring on a belated political drive to revive nuclear as the only major electricity source that can supply base load in very large volumes. But I agree with you Mike, that this may be too late for that industry.

The begging question is, what will happen when renewable energy fails to support the sustained economic growth that society is demanding? Will the global economy just blithely collapse in a heap? Will there still be enough steam in the boiler to enable desperate, last ditch attempts to keep it all going?

At some point the necessary social readjustment that will have to underpin a 100 percent renewable future will start to bite and the majority of citizens won’t take to that reality without revolting.

12 08 2017
Mark

“what will happen when renewable energy fails to support the sustained economic growth that society is demanding? ”

The answer can be seen in great detail in countries such as Greece, Egypt and Venezuela, as well as many western countries where wages etc are currently stagnating and a large percentage of the population are increasingly dependant on government support.

Those countries may not all be failing only because of energy deficit, but when energy was plentiful all populations were increasing at a rate normally only seen in rabbit/mice plagues. Now that there is a combined financial, energy, water and food shortage we can see what will happen globally when/if things collapse completely.

And a question to those in power in Australia, if coal is such a highly polluting source of energy that it is no longer safe for use in Australia, why is it safe for us to export it?

10 08 2017
rabiddoomsayer

We here so much about how economics is logic driven. Bullshit, the primary driver of economics is emotion. Emotion has control of the levers of our economic system. Emotion has no logic it just is, and it can change very quickly.

The belief in perpetual growth underpins our capitalist system, for capitalism to work we must believe the future will be better. That is why we are in such absolute denial about the myriad of problems we face.

There is no human involved system where we are going OK, it is all going to shit. When the reality of any one of these problems gains wider recognition collapse follows.

Our problems have gone beyond clearly visible to impossible not to see, but still we manage to ignore them. If not ignore, then downplay to the point of ludicrousness. One day soon one of these problems will get the public’s attention and reality will hit our economic system.

Collapse is a process they say. Not for us, it will be an event. Collapse will be fast, there is no resilience, no great stores of stuff to keep us going. It could be just a few weeks from start to finish.

11 08 2017
Chris Harries

Most studies of witnessed collapses in nature seem to follow a path like falling down a stair case. Bump, bump, bump, bang. Quite often with a plateau in the middle as a better equilibrium is reached, but most often this is a temporal respite esp where the habitat in question has been basically trashed beyond recovery.

14 08 2017
kika

dick smith is about to launch a TV ad urging a halving of our immigration intake and an increase on taxes on the rich. he talks about a coming violent revolution if these issues are not acted upon.
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/08/14/dick-smith-launch-1-million-ad-campaign-slash-immigration

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