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Nuclear Energy Now More Expensive Than Solar

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the sunlight-is-free dept.

Earth 635

js_sebastian writes "According to an article on the New York Times, a historical cross-over has occurred because of the declining costs of solar vs. the increasing costs of nuclear energy: solar, hardly the cheapest of renewable technologies, is now cheaper than nuclear, at around 16 cents per kilowatt hour. Furthermore, the NY Times reports that financial markets will not finance the construction of nuclear power plants unless the risk of default (which is historically as high as 50 percent for the nuclear industry) is externalized to someone else through federal loan guarantees or ratepayer funding. The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive, and the push from the US government to subsidize it seems to be forcing the wrong choice on the market."

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Conditions Apply (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066400)

Except during nights.

Re:Conditions Apply (4, Insightful)

ThoughtMonster (1602047) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066434)

Which also means you'll need to buy batteries, which are quite expensive, and have a fairly short lifespan. Which was always the point.

Re:Conditions Apply (4, Informative)

eexaa (1252378) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066482)

Did everyone forget about molten salt and similar tech? It was here a week ago...

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/07/23/0125235/Worlds-First-Molten-Salt-Solar-Plant-Opens?from=rss [slashdot.org]

Re:Conditions Apply (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066580)

RTFA, it's about PV, not CSP!

"The data include only PV-generated electricity"

Re:Conditions Apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066702)

isn't solar thermal cheaper then PV.

Re:Conditions Apply (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066838)

No - we didn't forget

We are still pissing ourselves laughing at it's price..........
There is no way it is going to be sold unsubsidised for 16c per kwHr

Re:Conditions Apply (2, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066898)

We are still pissing ourselves laughing at it's price..........
There is no way it is going to be sold unsubsidised for 16c per kwHr

And of course, prices on new technology never go down.

Re:Conditions Apply (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066856)

Did everyone forget about molten salt and similar tech? It was here a week ago...

Plus night time usage is not the problem, it's daytime demand that is the problem, so large scale solar plants could help reduce them and thereby reduce emissions. There is plenty of other use cases for solar power such as domestic air conditioners in places like Florida, why run them on grid power when you can install solar cells on the roof and use them to power your air conditioner, or you could use solar cells for charging your hybrid/electric cars. In Germany I've seen roof mounted solar cells being used even in colder climates for heating/lighting and to generally reduce dependence on grid power. The problem is that while solar remains an expensive option users of coal/oil/gas are enjoying cheap energy prices because nobody is making them or their suppliers pay for the environmental mess these energy sources are causing. There was an interview with an ex-oil executive on BBC Hardtalk recently. The reporter suggested making fossil fuel users pay the full price for their fossil fuel products, that is the extraction/production/transportation/etc... costs plus the environmental costs of things like carbon emissions due to oil shale processing... for a second there I thought I'd actually get to see steam coming out of a guys ears. He narrowly resisted the temptation to go totally ballistic and started ranting on about how the energy policy choices sovereign nations should not be questioned and rioting in the streets (that last part is probably a legitimate concern in some countries). People think coal/oil/gas is cheap but in reality it's just that a big part of the cost is being off loaded on the environment, if you factor that damage into the equation oal/oil/gas alluvasudden gets a lot more expensive.

Re:Conditions Apply (2, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066494)

Except, it's always day on some part of the planet...

Re:Conditions Apply (5, Informative)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066740)

Ok. Let's factor in the cost of transporting the energy or storing it to provide night time load handling capability and look at the costs again.

To be honest I don't buy the "nuclear is expensive" thing. It's expensive the way you're doing it. Learn from the French [slashdot.org] .

In Japan and France, construction costs and delays are significantly diminished because of streamlined government licensing and certification procedures. In France, one model of reactor was type-certified, using a safety engineering process similar to the process used to certify aircraft models for safety. That is, rather than licensing individual reactors, the regulatory agency certified a particular design and its construction process to produce safe reactors. U.S. law permits type-licensing of reactors, a process which is being used on the AP1000 and the ESBWR.

Re:Conditions Apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066920)

Learn from the French-- yes, let's! (Superphenix [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Conditions Apply (2, Informative)

panda (10044) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066956)

Hi, my name is Yucca Mountain [http] . I'd like to disagree with you about the costs of nuclear energy.

Re:Conditions Apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066556)

In France, they let the light burn during the night because Nucular (!?) electriciy in so cheap during the night.

And the wind still blows in the night, and air conditioners don't use that much during the night.

Re:Conditions Apply (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066620)

Except during nights.

Use excess to raise sea/river water to an upper artificial lake. During nights, move water back down through turbines. Build hotels around artificial lake to pay for the lost land.

Now that I think on it, wouldn't it be possible to do the opposite? Lower sea level with the extra daylight energy, let it rise back up by night.

How big a cilinder would one have to build to accumulate a sufficient amount of energy (about 1/2 or daily production)?

Hmm, maybe fill a gargantuan underwater balloon? (deflate furing night)

MAybe sink a floating item deep in the sea?

Re:Conditions Apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066654)

or, you know, use a battery.

Re:Conditions Apply (2, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066802)

Pumped storage is certainly possible. But sites are not common, and it adds to capital costs - which add to production costs. The costs of both PV and pumped storage are dominated by capital costs, so this crossover is unlikely to have occurred if you have to add in pumped (or other) storage.

Re:Conditions Apply (0)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066836)

You lose a huge amount of the energy when you convert from electricity to potential and then back to electric.

Re:Conditions Apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066640)

Lunar power?

What's with the conclusion? (4, Insightful)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066414)

The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive

Of course the same people would be arguing that oil and gas are the way to go.

Nights (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066416)

FTA:

"2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP)."

So yes, maybe it's cheaper, but it wont give you any power during nights.

Re:Nights (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066472)

That depends on how the grid is interconnected.
There is always day somewhere.

Re:Nights (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066536)

That is true, however a worldwide power grid would be incrediblly expensive to install. Joining america to eurasia would require either long undersea runs or long runs through inhospitable places like sibera.

Re:Nights (2, Insightful)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066544)

There are already power lines in Siberia. There are even oil pipelines there.

Re:Nights (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066626)

That is true, however a worldwide power grid would be incrediblly expensive to install. Joining america to eurasia would require either long undersea runs or long runs through inhospitable places like sibera.

If we keep up with global warming it might be tropical

Re:Nights (1)

flux (5274) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066566)

Until we get superconducting interconnections, there will be massive efficiency losses.

Perhaps advancements in superconductivity is what will finally kick green power sources into a gear?

Re:Nights (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066876)

"There is always day somewhere."

A lovely sounding line but try actually doing the math.

Unless you have a superconducting grid you lose massive amounts of power in transmission over long distances.
Try powering something off panels thirteen thousand miles away and you'll lose most of the energy in the lines.

And if they do build a superconducting grid the issue becomes that of keeping thirteen thousand miles of superconducting cable cools to the temperature of liquid nitrogen.
If your cable goes underwater in the sea you'll lose a shitload of energy. (magnetic field, conductor etc)

And don't forget that these superconducting grids will be dangerous as hell, if you're pushing enough current through a cable to power north america and any part of the cooling system fails the resistance goes from zero to anything non-zero and your superconducting cable explodes extremely violently.

It's always day somewhere.
unfortunately sometimes that place is in the middle of the pacific and your hundreds of thousands of square miles of solar panels along with the explosive cables would have to be on rafts capable of surviving whatever tropical storms come their way.

Re:Nights (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066870)

So yes, maybe it's cheaper, but it wont give you any power during nights.

It's daytime consumption that's the problem no night time consumption. Solar is never going to be the magic bullet that replaces all other energy sources but it has the potential to help considerably reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

USD per watt and watts per sqm (5, Insightful)

psone (1416351) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066424)

Nuclear power offers the advantage of massive energy production on a small area of land, giving it a high W/skm rate. The ideal solution probably lies in the intelligent combination of several powering solutions depending on the zone type, energy demand and area coverage...

USD per W + W per sqm for alkaline batteries (1, Insightful)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066550)

So do alkaline batteries, but both are very inefficient and very, very expensive when all the costs over the lifecycle of the mass used in the product are counted.

Re:USD per W + W per sqm for alkaline batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066624)

And yet in some situations alkaline batteries are an appropriate and useful choice

Re:USD per W + W per sqm for alkaline batteries (2, Insightful)

kyuubi (1355069) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066782)

Alkaline batteries, like Hydrogen Fuel Cells, are a storage medium for energy. It is not an energy source, and is not in any way related to this discussion.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066598)

Yeah, but nuclear fuel is running low. If it is more costly too, there is very little to go for it. You're not going to solve your energy problems by investing large amounts of energy in a technology which is facing imminent fuel shortages. At best nuclear would only ever be a stop-gap until long term energy production systems could be deployed. But that only made sense as long as it was cheaper to deploy.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

CxDoo (918501) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066692)

Care to support this with a citation? The only news I read about nuclear is how to get rid of waste and at the same time stop teRRists from getting it.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (2, Interesting)

micheas (231635) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066788)

Care to support this with a citation? The only news I read about nuclear is how to get rid of waste and at the same time stop teRRists from getting it.

I don't have a citation handy, but as I understand the situation, the rich uranium deposits are very low, resulting in the mining of lower grade deposits, Thus the cost of extracting uranium is going up, on a semi permanent basis.

That said, Uranium is a fairly small cost of a reactor, and reactors on the Mississippi river shut down when there is a concern over water, not uranium.

The other myth is that carbon dioxide is the major green house gas. Water vapor is the major green house gas (about 80% of the green house effect that makes earth livable is from water vapor.) This is relevant because Nuclear power plants, like coal fired power plants, are big steam engines, many of which release large quantities of steam into the atmosphere.

Power plants like Diablo Canyon in Southern California get around the issue of needing large quantities of water by being feed by the ocean, but the new power plants on the Mississippi river seem to be causing other power plants to run short of water, so more power plants on the Mississippi probably will not result in much of an increase in electricity produced.

I don't know which issue the grand parent poster was referring to, but in summary, the economics of an isolated nuclear power plant looks pretty good, but when you put them in the real world ... well as the saying goes, the difference between practice and theory is small, in theory.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066914)

coal plants are the same- they require cooling and cause water vapour to be released.
Solar thermal, ditto, it needs a lot of water to run.
Pretty much any power plant which uses steam turbines has that drawback.

uranium isn't going to run out any time soon.

Water is the big greenhouse gas but the amount humans cause to be released vs natural evaporation from the oceans is trivial, methane, CO2 and other well known greenhouse gasses on the other hand are vastly more potent and we release a lot of them.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066934)

Most reactors only use up a fraction of the energy in Uranium (less than 1%). Breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] (which will become much more viable once we have large stockpiles of 'spent' fuel) can use almost all of it and leave very little radioactive waste behind.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066810)

Known uranium resources have about 40 years of life. But this was the state with oil in the 70s. Rising prices and new markets will prompt exploration, which will increase resources. But this predicates rising prices which, in context of TFA, merely proves the point.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066922)

the difference of course is that the cost of uranium is a trivial factor when it comes to nuclear power.
The plants are expensive, the fuel could double, triple etc in price and it would barely be noticed next to the cost of the plant.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

Liam Pomfret (1737150) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066710)

Fuel shortages? What fuel shortages? First I've heard about that. If there's a fuel shortage, I'd suggest it's more because a lot of Uranium deposits aren't currently being exploited (we have quite a few here in Australia where Environmentalists have prevented mines being opened), rather than an actually a shortage of available supply.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (4, Informative)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066722)

Yeah, but nuclear fuel is running low

Dude, you need a reality adjustment. It is estimated that there is enough surface-mineable thorium alone to power us for hundreds of thousands of years to come. In fact, just the thorium discarded from our surface-mined coal could power us for thousands of years.

Then when have fast breeder reactor designs which burn uranium at efficiencies orders of magnitude better than our current production reactors. These designs even allow you to burn up almost all of the nuclear waste from slow breeder reactors.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066902)

"Then when have fast breeder reactor designs..."

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066750)

Given that best (and sufficient) sources of solar energy are situated in deserts (in America, Asia and Africa), I don't see this as important issue.

Re:USD per watt and watts per sqm (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066770)

Nuclear power offers the advantage of massive energy production on a small area of land, giving it a high W/skm rate.

I wonder how that changes when you take into account the land needed to mine fuel.

Coal (4, Insightful)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066440)

Yeah, and what about coal? Fossil fuels are still by far the cheapest ways of getting / storing energy. (I recommend reading "Physics for future presidents", which lists and explains the reasons for our "love" of oil/gas/coal).

I'm not arguing that we should use coal, but rather that a free market is inherently not (always) in line with protecting the environment. Sure, in the long run fossil fuels will become more expensive and "green energy" more affordable. But in the meantime, the government has to make sure that the industry doesn't destroy the environment. International treaties (Copenhagen, I'm looking at you) would have been a first step.

Re:Coal (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066764)

I am posting anon. since I am moderating here.
The problem with your posting is that you have it backwards. The reason why Coal is popular is because it receives the largest subsidies out of ALL energy (save nukes), AND the pollution costs are not considered in the price. Basically, Coal is popular, BECAUSE the gov. plays favorites with the free market. OTH, if they would quit subsidizing Fossil Fuels, AND would shift subsidies to what is in America's NEED:
  1. a subsidy for no imports AND is emissions clean.
  2. a subsidy for emissions clean AND baseload capable (24x7).
  3. a subsidy for clean storage.

If you do the above, but with limited time and decreasing, then you will see that we do not need regulations. The free market works, but the problem is, that the feds play favorites with companies, rather than the needs of the nation. And remember that there is a difference between those two concepts.

Windbourne.

Nuclear might not be competitive in hot climates (4, Interesting)

Calinous (985536) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066442)

But in cold and rainy climates, especially when electricity is used when it's cold outside (as opposed to when it's hot outside), nuclear can be much better than solar.

Re:Nuclear might not be competitive in hot climate (3, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066512)

For cold climates, active solar water heating systems are a good alternative.
Read more here. [wikipedia.org]

And by the way, in Germany on sunny days there is more electricity produced by photovoltaics than by nuclear reactors.

Re:Nuclear might not be competitive in hot climate (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066540)

Silly me for not reading the article.
      This compares the photovoltaics and nuclear reactors, and it seems photovoltaics are becoming cheaper. Active solar water heating is even cheaper and more efficient - as long as there is sun.
      Never knew photovoltaics are more "popular" than nuclear energy in sunny days

Re:Nuclear might not be competitive in hot climate (3, Informative)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066768)

And by the way, in Germany on sunny days there is more electricity produced by photovoltaics than by nuclear reactors.

That's because Germany has long have had an anti-nuclear stance, while actively promoting solar energy. Even they are reconsidering on keeping nuclear plants open for a longer time, in the wake of economic realities.

Re:Nuclear might not be competitive in hot climate (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066832)

Thanks to extensive lobbying by the nuclear plants' owners and an extremely pro-business party being in power, actually.

Re:Nuclear might not be competitive in hot climate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066848)

And by the way, in Germany on sunny days there is more electricity produced by photovoltaics than by nuclear reactors.

That's because Germany has long have had an anti-nuclear stance, while actively promoting solar energy. Even they are reconsidering on keeping nuclear plants open for a longer time, in the wake of economic realities.

You mean, they are considering it because the political party has been bribed enough to consider it.

Comprehensive rebuttal (5, Insightful)

Mugs (551377) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066452)

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (3, Interesting)

grimJester (890090) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066558)

I'm as pro-green energy as anyone, but the chart here [thephoenixsun.com] looks completely absurd. Nuclear has quadrupled in price in a few years? Even ignoring the trend lines, how on earth does nuclear go from 8c/kWh to 22 from 2005 to 2010? A jump like that can't be assumed to be a trend, surely.

The good news, assuming the data points can be trusted to be somewhat realistic, is that solar _is_ getting competitive and has changed significantly in a very short time.

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066686)

Uranium mines are shutting down world wide.

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (4, Insightful)

Hinhule (811436) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066696)

1. Energy industry cartels.
2. Energy industry realizes people will still use roughly the same amount of power regardless of price why not capitalize on that and make outrageous profits.

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066698)

The trend is nonsense, but the data is not. A lot of nuclear fuel came from decommissioned nuclear warheads, over the past couple of decades. As a result, a lot of mines were shut down or reduced to a lower output because there was less demand. Now the spare warheads are almost used up, but it will take a couple of years to reopen the mines and get them up to production capacity. This means that there is currently a (short term) shortage of fuel for nuclear reactors, driving the price up. Once production increases again, this should stabilise (not, as that graph indicates, continue to increase forever).

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066760)

The spot price for uranium peaked at just under US$140/lb in 2007 and since then has dropped well below US$100/lb. Fuel is chump change compared to capital costs, insurance, decommissioning, waste disposal, etc.

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (1)

micheas (231635) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066820)

The trend is nonsense, but the data is not. ... Once production increases again, this should stabilise (not, as that graph indicates, continue to increase forever).

True, however it appears that it will stabilize at a much hirer price than before, as the easy super cheap to get at high grade ore seems to be mostly mined. (this does not mean there is a shortage, just that the new mines are going to have higher costs and have more waste per pound of uranium extracted.)

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066830)

The comparison is between existing fully amortized nuclear reactors and brand new nuclear reactors with their expected high construction costs.

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (1)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066736)

Hear hear.

Re:Comprehensive rebuttal (4, Informative)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066944)

The money shot from that, for those who are too lazy to follow the link:
"For the cost of solar electricity, Blackburn and Cunningham relied on reported offers of "commercial scale" solar electricity at a certain price to the grid supplier - without noting that those offers are on a strictly "when available" basis that is also take or pay.

Here is an analogy - if you happen to grow tomatoes in your yard, imagine going to your local grocery store and demanding that the grocer pay you the same price that he charges at retail. The grocer must take all of the tomatoes that your garden produces, but you make no promises about how many you will bring each day. When you want to eat tomatoes at home, but your garden has not produced any, you expect to be able to walk into the store and purchase all of the tomatoes that you need at the same price that you sold them for. (Actually, this is not a very good analogy, because on page 11 of their paper, Blackburn and Cunningham admit that certain solar electricity suppliers will actually be paid a "subsidized" rate of 19 cents per kilowatt hour, which is almost two times the residential retail price in North Carolina of 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour.)

In addition to failing to mention the terms and conditions under which electricity is being offered, Blackburn and Cunningham bury a few "minor" details about solar electricity real costs in an appendix. As they admit in a section that few people will read, the price that some installers are talking about charging utilities is the "net" price - after they receive and bank all currently offered payments from other taxpayers and after they have obtained taxpayer subsidized 25 year amortization, tax free loans. In North Carolina today, a homeowner who purchases a solar energy system receives a 30% cash grant from the federal government and a 35% cash grant from the state government.

Using the example provided in the paper, those cash payments turn a 3 KWe (max capacity), $18,000 system that produces electricity at 35 cents per kilowatt hour (if financed at 6% interest for 25 years) into a system costing the homeowner just $8,190 and producing electricity for a total of 15.9 cents per kilowatt hour - when the sun is shining. Of course, that means that the homeowner has received a grant of $9,810 from his or her neighbors, some of whom may not own a home (renters) or even own a roof (condo and apartment dwellers). Blackburn and Cunningham admit that they did not include energy storage costs of any kind (pg 11)."

and
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_lfibbBnlKt8/TFAYotKn1yI/AAAAAAAAA4Q/e7giOX_5kV4/s1600/LCOE_Electricity_OECD.png [blogspot.com] ...that shows the sustained price for modern nuclear power to be about $50/MWh or 1/3 of Solar. (That's in the US; in Eur/Jpn/Kor where their proficiency and experience is much better, about $0.033/MWh.)

New York Times guilty of 'writing to their preconceptions' again.

Except places where the sun don't shine ... much (4, Insightful)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066454)

Fantastic for those who live in sunny states. A lot less great for those of us who don't. Try repeating those studies in northern Europe. For extra credit, factor in the saving from MODERN nuke plants. Even better, factor in the savings from serial production of those plants.

The plants in the US are ancient one-off designs. Small wonder they don't compare well.

Re:Except places where the sun don't shine ... muc (4, Insightful)

bbtom (581232) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066500)

"Fantastic for those who live in sunny states."

Yeah, it would be handy if there was some way of moving electricity from one place to another. Some sort of national grid service where power can be routed from the place it is being produced to the place it is required. I'm sure someone is working on something like that...

Re:Except places where the sun don't shine ... muc (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066662)

If you're transmitting it from a place where it's summer to a place where it's winter, or from a place where it's noon to a place where it's midnight, you're going suffer pretty bad losses in those long long cables.

Unless you've invented a practical, economic room-temperature superconductor. In which case, send us a postcard from Stockholm. Sign it "smug asshole" - we'll know who it is.

Re:Except places where the sun don't shine ... muc (1)

tarscher (1000260) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066888)

It's actually possible to transport electricity via a high-voltage direct current cable over very long distances with only 3% loss each 1000 km.

Re:Except places where the sun don't shine ... muc (1, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066762)

Fantastic for those who live in sunny states. A lot less great for those of us who don't.

So what? You can at least use it in sunny states then. Just because you have found some place on the map where solar is not practical doesn't mean that the whole idea of solar energy shouldn't be ignored for the rest of the world. It is like saying that solar power is useless because the Amish don't need electricity.

You build whatever is practical for a given location. If their calculations are true, this just eliminates one factor that was against solar power previously. Simple really.

I wonder.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066464)

I wonder how happy the Not In My Backyarders are right now. Nuclear, an awesome power source is now more financial suicide than anything else.

I hope you all enjoy spending your nights in the dark, that is until fusion comes along and you try to kill that too.

Re:I wonder.... (0, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066648)

I wonder how happy the Not In My Backyarders are right now.

Yes very thank you.

Nuclear, an awesome power source is now more financial suicide than anything else.

Woa, I never opposed nuclear power-stations. Only those in my back yard.

I hope you all enjoy spending your nights in the dark, that is until fusion comes along and you try to kill that too.

No, lets have them. Just so long as they aren't in my back yard

Re:I wonder.... (5, Interesting)

rufty_tufty (888596) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066678)

It's dead easy to kill fusion:
Explain to the Luddites about neutrinos. A fusion plant produces massive quantities of them that are free to radiate into the environment and no attempt is made to shield them. Not only that but there have been studies that show that neutrinos can transmute matter and therefore are a possible cause of cancer. No studies have been conducted about the effects of neutrinos on young children's development and so far all subjects exposed to neutrinos have later died or showed effects of cell degradation.

Overregulation (5, Insightful)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066470)

I'm sure that the amount of regulation in plant creation, "green" subsidies for solar and "politically correct" as opposed to "environmentally correct" disposal of waste serves to distort the true price of these sources.

Besides, anyone who has played sim city knows that nuclear is much cheaper.

Re:Overregulation (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066758)

the amount of regulation in plant creation

Every aspect of manufacturing and industry is regulated in the Western world. The factories that manufacturing solar cells are also regulated. Regulation is a cost of doing business. The BP spill should remind everyone of what happens when regulation fails.

"green" subsidies for solar

The study authors already thought of that - from TFA: "While the study includes subsidies for both solar and nuclear power, it estimates that if subsidies were removed from solar power, the crossover point would be delayed by a maximum of nine years."

"politically correct" as opposed to "environmentally correct" disposal of waste

Do you have any evidence that this occurs? Storage and disposal of nuclear waste has real costs - even nuclear industry scientists acknowledge that disposing of the UK's nuclear waste stockpile will cost £85 billion [independent.co.uk] . Cleaning up decommissioned sites is costing £72 billion [bbc.co.uk] Who do you think pays for this - the nuclear industry, or the tax payer? Why are taxpayers subsidising disposal costs for new-build plants? [guardian.co.uk] The nuclear industry benefits enormously from the taxpayer.

Re:Overregulation (1)

tafkadasoh (1634863) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066804)

Besides, anyone who has played sim city knows that nuclear is much cheaper.

Once I used only wind to generate all my power. Advantage is that they don't have to be replaced every 20 years or so. Also, one of my nuclear plants exploded and I had lots of radioactive symbols in my city. Also the microwave plant was the coolest looking.

Have to take externalities into account too (1)

techmuse (160085) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066484)

Unfortunately this reasoning doesn't take into account that there are severe health and environmental costs from other forms of power production. When you take into account acid rain, global warming, air pollution, respiratory health effects, environmental damage from mining and oil drilling, and damage to the global ecosystem, Nuclear is likely to be far cheaper over the long term than most other forms of power. You have to look at the total cost of the technology, including obtaining and processing fuel, generating power, emissions, waste disposal, and costs to deal with externalities such as the effects mentioned above. When you take all of this into account, nuclear and solar are a bargain.

Re:Have to take externalities into account too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066522)

Most of externalities are factored in the fuel price / construction price already. That's where the "price" comes from.

Re:Have to take externalities into account too (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066844)

"Most of externalities are factored in the fuel price / construction price already. That's where the "price" comes from"

Poppycock, "acid rain, global warming, air pollution, respiratory health effects, environmental damage from mining and oil drilling, and damage to the global ecosystem", are all partially or totally socialized externalities. If they were built into the price, coal would suddenly become the most expensive way to produce electricity.

And that ... (1)

JonnnnY (1854724) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066504)

... is the reason why the solar (and wind) energy has to be supported in most of the Europe, and energy corporation has to buy it for twice the price as energy from other sources !

explain to me again (1, Insightful)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066508)

why the citizen must be subjected to teraherz imaging, loss of privacy, a bureaucracy that in the name of national security can stop whatever investigation, the expenses for armies going around the world to fight terrorism, while the industrial complex can build plants that pose an incredibly high national security risk with government subsidies right at home.

I have nothing against nuclear if the cost per kWh includes all the expenses for insuring, securing the venture from all likely dangers and dealing with nuclear waste while it is still radioactive/toxic. It currently doesn't. Solar has ALWAYS been better than nuclear because you don't have to guard used panels for thousands (millions? billions?) of years. Nuclear just put us into more debt.

Re:explain to me again (0)

JonnnnY (1854724) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066570)

Do you live in the world, where no electricity is required in cloudy days and at night ?
I don't.
You just can't base any significant part of your energy production on uncontrollable sources like sun and wind.

And as far as I know, solar energy is far more expensive.

Re:explain to me again (3, Insightful)

gtall (79522) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066630)

Wow, you mean the world is not fair? And you say we need to explain this to you? I don't know if that is possible.

Nuclear + reprocessing = much less to protect. And there was a European study reported in TheRegister awhile back, if you were to cover most of the Sahara with photo, you might be able to light up Europe..for now. So could you please get started, then we'll see about covering the U.S. south with photo.

Re:explain to me again (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066904)

You've got your numbers wrong. See here [wikipedia.org] for the land surface needed to power the world (total human energy consumption) with sun energy with extremely inefficient (8%) solar cells. Solar thermal is probably capable of doing much better (see here [desertec.org] and here [spiegel.de] for interesting discussions).

Also some interesting news [lemonde.fr] (sorry, in French) about the myth of nuclear waste reprocessing and the French being exemplified as what could be done if the greeny nuts/stupid Carter did not pass stupid laws against it; to summarize:
  • French nuclear industry claims 96% of waste can be reprocessed;
  • Currently reprocessing allows to conserve 12% of consumed U, expected to raise to 17%;
  • France has to dispose each year of 220,000 tons of depleted U, 120 tons of used fuel and 330 tons of reprocessed but unused fuel;
  • Nuclear industry claims this material will eventually be useable in 4th generation breeder reactors (which, like fusion reactors, are the technology of the future - currently 2040, out of their ass - and always will be).

Re:explain to me again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066930)

Ah, the siren song of the troglodyte. There are Bad People, so let's not build anything Nice which they could subvert to evil purpose. The danger is not that terrorists will rob YOUR American nuclear power plant. It's that they will rob a nuclear power plant in some two bit country in some 13th century part of the world. And if they don't do that, they will find other Bad things to do. It's time the world as a whole stood up. There is one so-called "religion" whose holy texts read like instructions for making war on the world, and the stupid bastards still believe every antiquated word of it. This so-called "religion" is actually an evil conspiracy. Yes, Islam. It should be declared what it is, an evil conspiracy incompatible with civilization, not a religion. All its holy places should be razed to the ground, and its practice made outlaw. If 5 billion can't stand against 1, then they will be rolled over. Only a small fraction of the one billion are truly terrorist minded and motivated - NOW! But every day the evil, hateful cult they subscribe to pounds the evil and hate into their heads, and more slip over the edge.

Sure, you can't stop an idea, but you can sure make it tough for its adherents. You can make them know they will not be tolerated, and you can suppress their free expression. You should have done it to reverend Jim Jones, and you can do it to a larger freak show; it just takes commitment and effort.

Dammit! (2, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066514)

I just had a reactor fitted to the south side of my roof aswell!

And the largest solar power plant currently is... (5, Insightful)

AbbeyRoad (198852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066538)

Check out:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_thermal_power_stations [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_power_stations [wikipedia.org]

Now considering that one nuclear power station usually generates 1 to 5 GIGAwatts, and these generate in the order of TENS OF MEGAwatts, it is inconceivable to me how anyone can compare Solar to Nuclear.

Re:And the largest solar power plant currently is. (2, Informative)

evilandi (2800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066676)

Now considering that one nuclear power station usually generates 1 to 5 GIGAwatts, and these generate in the order of TENS OF MEGAwatts, it is inconceivable to me how anyone can compare Solar to Nuclear.

You forgot to consider the costs of building and decommissioning the power plant. A solar plant can be built and operational in a couple of months (or a couple of days if small-scale), with decommissioning taking half that. A nuclear plant takes 3-5 years to build and several hundred years, if not thousands of years, to decomission.

You need to factor in the whole life of the project.

I still think nuclear wins, but it's not a trivial choice.

Re:And the largest solar power plant currently is. (5, Informative)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066732)

Now considering that one nuclear power station usually generates 1 to 5 GIGAwatts, and these generate in the order of TENS OF MEGAwatts

The Mojave plant already produces over 300 megawatts, the plant in Spain produces 100 megawats, and there are plans for solar plants of half a gigawatt to about a gigawatt. The Topaz Solar Farm in central California is supposed to produce 550 megawatts, and cost around a billion, which is steep but pretty comparable to the skyrocketing price of nuclear power. It's a PV installation. Of course solar only works during the day, but that's when demand is by far at its peak (especially in central and southern California) and customers pay the highest prices.

Why does the plant capacity make a difference, anyhow? Cost seems like a much bigger issue than capacity. If you can build and operate ten 100 megawatt solar plants for the cost of building, operating and decommissioning one 1 gigawatt nuke plant (and insuring it for liability, and dealing with its waste), why not go with solar?

I think real advantage solar offers over nuclear though comes from photovoltaics, which are also just starting to become practical, especially in warm sunny climates where peak summertime power rates spike. I think subsidizing the deployment of rooftop panels atop homes and businesses in places like California and Texas is going to be a more cost effective strategy than sinking tens of billions into nuke plants, and it'll help to advance a technology that could conceivably lead us to near total energy independence.

It also gets a chunk of power generation out of the hands of the enormous energy conglomerates and into the hands of the people, which'll make it much more difficult for the powers that be to play games with the price of electricity on the spot market, a la Enron. And moving power generation much closer to the source of demand could ultimately reduce the overall peak summertime load on our power grids (at least here in America), not to mention the drastic cut in transmission losses.

Where? In Manchester or California? (2, Insightful)

evilandi (2800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066542)

Where is it cheaper? Cheaper than nuclear in the north of England, or just in the southern United States?

Hydro dams or wave power, possibly cheaper than nuclear near Manchester. Solar... not so much.

Re:Where? In Manchester or California? (4, Funny)

AGMW (594303) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066728)

Where is it cheaper? Cheaper than nuclear in the north of England, or just in the southern United States?

Hydro dams or wave power, possibly cheaper than nuclear near Manchester. Solar... not so much.

Oh yes Manchester ... now if we could only harness the kinetic energy of the falling rain over Manchester we'd be able to power the world!

Really? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066578)

On which timespan?

We have no energy problem per se... (1)

elFisico (877213) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066588)

We have an energy DISTRIBUTION problem. The problem lies in moving the energy from where it's cheap (sunny areas for solar) to where it's needed (e.g. the cold north). So subsidizing solar isn't the whole solution unless you also start subsidizing enhancements to the electric grid. Like changing it from AC to DC to reduce energy loss.

"Study" includes subsidies (5, Informative)

LordFolken (731855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066656)

It factors in the subsidies for solar energy. Compares an absolute discount price of solar to the average of nuclear power, ignores the fact that nuclear energy is a constant supplier etc.

In short: sensational and bogus.

I think the rebuke mentioned earlier should be read as well: http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/07/gullible-reporting-by-new-york-times-on.html [blogspot.com]

Solar power is cheaper for a long time already (4, Informative)

fadir (522518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066704)

Just because the follow-up costs of nuclear energy are consequently ignored in those calculations it has been so cheap so far. While the costs of the solar panels, installation, etc. is to be fully covered by the one installing it, the nuclear waste is handled by the government and so is the insurance.

Calculate the full costs, including recycling, insurance and the like and there is hardly any power source that's more expensive than nuclear energy.

Thorium (2, Insightful)

madsenj37 (612413) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066742)

What is its price compared to uranium?

Energy storage is the bottleneck (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066776)

Solar power needs to be stored in some kind of system and released at night, otherwise it is not in the same category as nuclear power and cannot be compared. Not to mention that TFA is apparently completely wrong about costs too as one poster noted.

Re:Energy storage is the bottleneck (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066792)

P.S. Of course there are some ways out of this: space-based systems, and systems that use wind, waves or biofuels which themselves are ultimately powered by the sun. There is no reason the storage cannot be biological.

Nuclear power is secondary. (1, Troll)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066784)

I was always under the impression that nuclear power was a way to get access to knowledge and materials for buildning bombs, not really for electric power. It has never been worth the cost if you calculate the price per Kwh over its lifespan, including waste handling and other often hidden costs.

The US knows this as does the rest of the countries that has nuclear power. I suspect thats one of the reasons the rest of the world scoff at Iran when they say they only want nuclear reactors for generating power.

Re:Nuclear power is secondary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066880)

Several reactor designs do allow for plutonium production (needed for weapons), but most modern reactors used for power generation, in fact do not produce weapons grade material

Bicicle Power it's even cheaper. (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066796)

A bicycle it's the most energy eficient method of transportation that ever existed ... still, as cool as it is (I go to work by bicycle everyday), it can't replace other transportation.

Now, the same it's true about solar power. Let's do some maths. A Nuclear reactor, produces 500 MW in an area of about 1 Km^2. To produce the equivalent to that, under optimum conditions (in the tropics during the day, at noon), we would need. 500000/52 -> 10 Km^2 of solar panels. Well, in fact the average in Earth, taking into account that there is night, and that most of the biggest spenders of energy are at high latitudes, and that you loose quite some energy in sending them to batteries and then get it back from it for using would be less that 1/10th of that energy (at the best), so, we would need about 100 Km^2 of solar panels PLUS batteries (I would like to use electricity during the night) to get the same as I would get from a single nuclear REACTOR ... it's not even a nuclear plant, that can have 3-5 reactors.

So, yeah, it can be cheaper, but I want to see you getting space to build that near a big city. The only way it would be to install solar panels in every buildings rooftop. But well, it would still be enough and you would need to buy the batteries to accumulate during the day. In the end, nuclear is the best option. I know people are afraid when they hear about it, but it's time to let old gosts go away and embrace the future.

utter nonsense (3, Informative)

TheLoneCabbage (323135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066806)

The report compares running costs of a solar plant against the running costs of nuclear PLUS construction costs. Not only that but also chooses the most expensive plant designs, and takes the extremely high end estimates.

Taken from http://energyfromthorium.com/ [energyfromthorium.com] :

Fuel costs. Thorium fuel is plentiful and inexpensive; one ton worth $300,000 can power a 1,000 megawatt LFTR for a year – enough power for a city. Just 500 tons would supply all US electric energy for a year. The US government has 3,752 tons stored in the desert. US Geological Survey estimates reserves of 300,000 tons, and Thorium Energy claims 1.8 million tons of ore on 1,400 acres of Lemhi Pass, Idaho. Fuel costs for thorium would be $0.00004/kWh, compared to coal at $0.03/kWh.

Capital costs. The 2009 update of MIT’s Future of Nuclear Power shows new coal plants cost $2.30/watt and PWR nuclear plants cost of $4.00/watt. The median of five cost studies of molten salt reactors from 1962 to 2002 is $1.98/watt, in 2009 dollars. The following are fundamental reasons that LFTR plants will be less costly than coal or PWR plants.

Re:utter nonsense (1)

fadir (522518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33066866)

Absolutely unimportant as long as you leave out the costs for insurance and waste handling - those are the ones that drive up the costs by a multitude.

No sane insurance company on this planet will insure a nuclear power plant, no matter if it's fired by uranium, thorium or godknowswhat - simply because the risks are too high. It's always the government (and therefore the taxpayer) that has to pay if something goes wrong. And history teaches us that things will go wrong at some point in time.
The same applies to the waste handling. It might be just small amounts of waste - but they are dangerous and remain dangerous for an extremely long period of time. The U.S. exists for a little more than 200 years - yet we are dealing with waste that remains a serious threat for thousands of years. No one knows what will happen within this period of time and yet everyone is just assuming that by some miracle a solution will be found or at least the waste is safely stored for that time span.
That's pretty ridiculous, especially when you consider that the same government that is encouraging the usage of nuclear power plants on the other hand is making a hell of a fuss about some 10 year old kid taking a bottle of orange juice on a plane.

16 cents/kWh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33066938)

Not sure where they get their numbers from, I pay 10.5 cents/kWh for power from my local nuclear plant.

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