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Belgium To Give Up Nuclear Power

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the sorry-for-the-swear-word-in-the-headline dept.

Power 298

AmiMoJo writes "Belgium's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to shut down the country's two remaining nuclear power stations. Older reactors will be decommissioned by 2015, with the final closures happening before 2025. The exit is conditional on alternatives being available. 'If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket, we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003,' a spokeswoman for Belgium's energy and climate ministry said."

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A little slow... (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915376)

They've been planning this since 2003, when they passed legislation to do so.

Re:A little slow... (2)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915850)

Not quite. Legislation was passed in 2003 requiring it, but the current news is that both political sides have finally hammered out a strategy, plan to do so and actually agreed to the implementation process.

Actually, for politicians, eight years to plan turning off a few power plants seems almost speedy... *cough*

Re:A little slow... (3, Insightful)

lordholm (649770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916482)

There was a very nice disclaimer though, which went something like "if alternatives can be found to replace the power plants". Without going with coal/oil (and Belgium is not very rich in hydro), there are not that many solid options. Effectively they are saying to the public that "yes we will turn them off" but in reality they are saying "yeah, we will turn them off (but you know... there are no realistic alternatives, so we will just kick the can in front of us and make a decision later)".

Slow and stupid. (1, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916730)

It's sad to watch whole countries shoot themselves in the foot over hysteria and foolishness. But those are the times we live in: where most countries have adopted a system where any two idiots can outvote an expert, whether those people are rank and file (straight democracy), or holding elected office (republics and so on.) And all this in environments where experts are actually rare.

Re:A little slow... (2)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916500)

It's ingenious really. Politicians get to say they killed nuclear power (15 years from now) so they appease the anti-nuke crowd. Pro-nukes wins either way, if reactors are replaceable and some technology does come along then we get cheap clean energy anyway, if not then the nukes stay around.

Unless we find an alternative it's essentially pro-nuke legislation dressed up as greenpeace.

in other news, (2, Insightful)

Son of Byrne (1458629) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915378)

Ron Paul has said that if he is elected, then he will support the opening of two new nuclear power plants for every power plant that is decomissioned.

Re:in other news, (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915656)

I was about to ask where the money for this would come from, but seeing as it's Ron Paul, I'd imagine he's aiming at cutting the safety regulations behind nuclear power and letting the free market have a field day at creating shoddier, but significantly cheaper, nuclear plants.

Nothing can go wrong, guys! The invisible hand of the market will force all those energy companies whose plants meltdown will die out and only those who have put in significantly into safety will be able to last long enough to be rich!

We'll still have tons of nuclear disasters on our hand until that self regulation, but the market can do no wrong, right?

Re:in other news, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915672)

Safety and Success aren't synonymous.

Re:in other news, (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915856)

Neither are "Ron Paul" and "sane".

Re:in other news, (1, Insightful)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915716)

Of course. I like how you put words in his mouth and then get mad about them. I think I found your hat. It has tea bags hanging around the sides and says something about Obama being a socialist.

Look, I'm not saying the man is a saint or the hero that Gotham deserves, but at least lets not just make up shit out of whole cloth, 'kay?

Re:in other news, (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915736)

Nice strawman!
*claps slowly*

Re:in other news, (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915896)

Money isn't an issue, just guarantee the loans and it should happen. Nuclear reactors are really cheap to operate virtually all of the expense involved comes from constructing the plant. After that, even with proper safety procedures the cost isn't that much.

I'm actually surprised that places like Montana and Nebraska aren't all over this, give that they can be built in the middle of nowhere and still be quite useful.

Re:in other news, (2)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915986)

just guarantee the loans and it should happen

Yep, and just don't forget to add the cost for one of them having a rare accident. In Japan, Fukushima is estimated to have added 5 (the local nuclear lobby) to 48 (independent Japanese university researchers of nuclear power) yen to every nuclear-power generated kilowatt, which allegedly used to cost 5 yen before the accident.

Re:in other news, (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915966)

I was about to ask where the money for this would come from, but seeing as it's Ron Paul, I'd imagine he's aiming at cutting the safety regulations behind nuclear power and letting the free market have a field day at creating shoddier, but significantly cheaper, nuclear plants.

Nothing can go wrong, guys! The invisible hand of the market will force all those energy companies whose plants meltdown will die out and only those who have put in significantly into safety will be able to last long enough to be rich!

We'll still have tons of nuclear disasters on our hand until that self regulation, but the market can do no wrong, right?

And also, a little bit of radiation never did anybody any harm. If anything, it speeds along evolution and gives us superpowers! :-P

Re:in other news, (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916046)

I'd imagine he's aiming at cutting the safety regulations behind nuclear power and letting the free market have a field day at creating shoddier, but significantly cheaper, nuclear plants.

Nuclear reactors were still incredibly expensive in the USSR, China, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia and North Korea. That should indicate that you really haven't been very well informed on this issue.
The above story is really putting a "green" spin on doing nothing. It's a major long term expense to build new nuclear capacity or to upgrade available capacity whether the benefits are worth it or not.

Re:in other news, (2)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916488)

Exactly. Hell, after he shuts down the Department of Energy it's not like there'll even be anyone to judge the safety of those new rectors.

Here Here! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915390)

Good for them! Finally, some common sense and rational planning, instead of letting the market get our power from anywhere without regard to the consequences!

Re:Here Here! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915408)

Since they currently get 55% of the power from nuclear generation, I'd say they're charting a course to the stone age.

Re:Here Here! (3, Interesting)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916168)

This, they're idiots. First they sold off our national energy company to the french, causing prices to skyrocket so we now pay the second highest price for our energy of all of europe (only Ireland beat us.) Now they're closing down the only reliable local source of energy we have which will force further imports and further price rises. They did pretty much the same with our banks too, selling to the french who then sucked them dry and left us with the bankruptcy and the costs. Oh and our national airline, ... Belgium's politicians are totally corrupt, or at best hopelessly incompetent. And people wonder why we haven't been able to form a new government for more than 500 days now.

Re:Here Here! (3, Interesting)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916310)

Take heart, Belgians! Once your country goes dark and cold, no worries! Take all your money and move south. I think there will be a great sale on Mediterranean real estate soon, and you won't need as much heat to keep warm in the winters. You will have to learn a new alphabet, but learning greek will be a piece of cake, compared to what your grand children will have to learn - Chinese!

Re:Here Here! (3, Interesting)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916324)

Not to mention the power companies (Electrabel ) :

We are still paying for the nuclear plants to be payed of earlier ( although they are already payed off for years now ).
Yet they barely investing that money in green energy.

On the contrary : they are charging their customers, for the loss of revenue due to people placing solar panels on their roofs ( because they have to pay them green certificates, because they themselves don't reach the required quota and would have to pay fines).

So the people who actually care about the environment and place solar panels, are getting a bad name, because the other people have to pay for it.
It's a form of 'divide and conquer' : have the people fight each other, and they won't be strong enough to fight the real culprits .

Re:Here Here! (3, Interesting)

lordholm (649770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916550)

Having seen a Belgian energy bill, I can't say I fully agree. The price per kWh is not that high, however Electrabel charges something like 10 times the normal price as network connection fees. Which means that the end bill is a LOT higher than for the average European. The end result for the consumer (some of the highest bills to the electrical companies) is the same, but the devil is in the detail.

Re:Here Here! (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916554)

That is why they added a disclaimer in the line of (don't remember the exact details): "if we find working alternatives".

Re:Here Here! (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915434)

Good for them! Finally, some common sense and rational planning, instead of letting the market get our power from anywhere without regard to the consequences!

I like your sarcasm. :)

Re:Here Here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915540)

Given the cost of alternatives like coal (and I don't just mean in terms of money), it's hard to tell if you're being serious or sarcastic. Poe's Law works for greenies too I guess.

Only France is not foolish in EU. (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915414)

What is bothersome is that proof is now showing up that droughts and climate issues are man-made. Now, they are looking to close their nuke plants. Foolish. Instead, it should remain part of their energy matrix until they get enough other energy and storage going.

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915662)

France also export a lot of electricity to their neighbors and have just about the lowest per-kWh prices in Europe. It's French power (plus new brown coal burning plants, yuck!) that will make up for the impending loss of nuclear plants in Germany. I bet the story of Belgium will be somewhat similar.

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (3, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915880)

It's French power (plus new brown coal burning plants, yuck!) that will make up for the impending loss of nuclear plants in Germany.

Why is that (aside from the brown coal plants) a bad thing that a country decides to buy cheap electricity from another? Especially when it's all in Europe where you can throw a stone across three countries?

From a political point of view, it is actually rather sensible. You drop the cost associated with maintaining aging nuclear facilities which offsets the price you buy it for from France who will no doubt be happy to sell it to you, your country doesn't get any worse in terms of emissions and in the terrible event that something goes wrong at the plant, you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916004)

Especially when it's all in Europe where you can throw a stone across three countries?
[...]
  you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

We may be safe from the political fallout; unfortunately not the other kind. ;)

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916226)

in the terrible event that something goes wrong at the plant, you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

You might want to take a look at this this map of french nuclear reactors [wikipedia.org] and notice along which border the top 3 are located. The (significant) costs of this will be borne by the people as usual and the politicians get another board position to retire to. What's wrong with this picture ?

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916196)

France also export a lot of electricity to their neighbors and have just about the lowest per-kWh prices in Europe. It's French power (plus new brown coal burning plants, yuck!) that will make up for the impending loss of nuclear plants in Germany. I bet the story of Belgium will be somewhat similar.

The belgian energy market is owned by Electrabel, which in turn is owned by the french GDF Suez. We will very soon by forced to import even more energy from France. Of course the two are completely unrelated (!)

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (1)

black6host (469985) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916314)

And as the ability to produce one's own energy decreases I would expect a rise in prices to export it from another country. Supply and demand and all that.

Re:Only France is not foolish in EU. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916660)

What is bothersome is that you seem to have some kind of "proof" droughts and climate issues being man-made. That the global scientific community can't seem to get their hands on such proof, and only have theories to rely on... Maybe you should make your proof and testing method available so it can be peer reviewed.

Not much new here... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915458)

They felt this way in 2003, they're confirming they still feel this way today, and those plants will probably be at the end of their design life by the time they are decommissioned anyway.

If they happen to change their minds anytime in the next 14 years, they can always start the construction of new plants then.

It's not as if they're so far from France that they're safe from nuclear power generation accidents or anything...

idiots. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915476)

man, I hate politicians.

nuclear power is seen as bad? lets close it to look like we are great.

belgium already gets tons of energy from france, pretty much all nuclear, why the fuck would we close our plants? what do we have to make up in loss of that power? admitted, these plants were getting older, so should be replaced, but not just closed.
france is just going to build a few more plants to sell more energy if necessary, and its not like we aren't just as fucked if a nuclear powerplant blows up in france or in belgium. at least if its in our country we keep it under control.

Re:idiots. (5, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915546)

"its not like we aren't just as fucked if a nuclear powerplant blows up in france or in belgium"

There being no reason a modern nuke plant should "blow up", it makes more sense to pay France for power and avoid the construction, maintenance, closure, and remediation expenses of having plants in Belgium.

You need electricity. You don't need to own what produces it, and a microscopic country such as Belgium risks nothing by outsourcing power production next door. OTOH it avoids all the pitfalls of new construction.

Re:idiots. (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915578)

Outsourcing is never risk free. Belgians are going to pay for the construction, maintenance, closure, and remediation expenses embedded in the power costs, plus profit plus be dependent on someone for energy who will definitely put their own needs first.

If we were looking at a future glut in energy you might be ok. But that isn't really what the predictions are.

Closing down old plants and building something better is a great idea. Why not do that instead?

Re:idiots. (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915650)

" 'There being no reason a modern nuke plant should "blow up",

Terrorism ?

Re:idiots. (5, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915670)

Pretty hard with old reactors. You require something catastrophic to happen. Pretty close to impossible for new designs that use passive cooling systems.

Re:idiots. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915750)

+1

Only older designs are vulnerable, where you need external power for several days to actively cool a shut down core until its cool enough that thermal runaway won't occur. Newer designs? I'd live on the farking property if I could. All the hot water and power I could ever want.

Re:idiots. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916158)

Try several months of active cooling for older plants.

Tell me, what failure modes of "new", "modern" plants are we currently unaware of? Those BWR reactors were new and modern at the time they went online.

"Those BWR reactors..." (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916452)

Those BWR reactors were new and modern at the time they went online.

At the time they went on line... by which you mean "approximately half a century ago, the first two of which went on line prior to the first moon landing, when Lyndon Johnson was president of the US". Right?

We went from horse drawn carriages to landing on the moon in about the same amount of time the Fukishima BWR designs have been around; are you seriously claiming we haven't been able to design better reactors in that amount of time?

-- Terry

Re:idiots. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916098)

Accurate. Part of designing nuclear plants is running the odds of accidents. Old designs have odds of around 1 accident with damage in every 10k years of operation. New designs have odds of 1 accident with damage in every 15 - 300 million years of operation.

Re:idiots. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915692)

" 'There being no reason a modern nuke plant should "blow up",

Terrorism ?

Let's see...

Terrorists might bring 500 tons of TNT into a nuclear plant and set it off. That would make a hell of a (non-nuclear) explosion. Might even break the containment vessel, if they knew what they were doing when they laid the charges. Most likely not, since it's pretty hard to synchronize that much boom.

But other than that, it's not going to happen.

Re:idiots. (2)

tftp (111690) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915898)

Terrorists might bring 500 tons of TNT into a nuclear plant and set it off.

What is more practical from the terrorist's POV?

1) Bring 500 tons of TNT into a guarded, monitored, secure territory that is in the middle of nowhere. Take your time to deploy these 500 tons by hand through narrow service corridors. Install charges near a meter-thick reactor vessel that is designed to survive just such explosions. Detonate the thing and scare all the nearby rabbits because the powerplant is so far from anything of value.

2) Divide 500 tons of TNT into 500 pieces, load onto 500 trucks, freely drive those trucks into unprotected cities and explode at will. Carnage and terror will ensue.

Re:idiots. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916172)

That depends on how stoned they were when "Night of the Lepus" came on.

Re:idiots. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915924)

That would be extraordinarily difficult to achieve. Those plants are built like bunkers, and the security clearance needed to get to work in one is extensive. I don't know about the checks they do in Belgium, but the ones they do in the US go on for a long time before they're granted.

And you would need more than just one individual to do it too, so, you'd have to sneak through several personnel into the same nuclear power plant without being detected. I'm sure it's hypothetically possible, but at that point, you'd probably be better of building you're own bomb and figuring out how to set it off in a major city.

Re:idiots. (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915734)

You don't need to own what produces it, but there are risks. There are many situations that could cause France to ration or cut off your electricity supply leaving you SOL.

Russia and France are loving this! (4, Insightful)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915500)

Both are already major energy providers to the rest of Europe. With Belgium and Germany shutting down their nuclear plants, both countries are going to make billions.

Sure, just like rare earths (1, Interesting)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915570)

Why make a mess at home, when you can just pay someone else to deal with the mess?

Re:Sure, just like rare earths (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915666)

That's fine as long as you are rich enough to over pay and enjoy having to bow to demands from your supplier since you don't have an alternative within your borders. No worries, I'm sure Russia will never, ever make an unreasonable demand that you'd prefer to deny. You run the risk of having no power if your supplier suddenly needs that power for himself. If you want to have your own base load power plants to replace at least some of your shortfall, you must also prefer dispersed pollution in your lungs from coal and oil more so than nuclear's tightly confined waste. To top it all off, if you are really that concerned about a nuclear power plant having a fatal accident you'll still be living in Europe so you can still be affected by the nuclear power plants in France and Russia. Sure is a panacea.

Re:Sure, just like rare earths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916080)

"You run the risk of having no power if your supplier suddenly needs that power for himself"
This is absurd. Nuclear is not the only source of power, and other sources of power do not take decades to design and build (unlike nuclear). I am sure the combined intelligence of Germany and Belgium is a bit greater than your lone, little mind gives credit. I am sure they plan better than your straw-man argument implies.

"tightly confined waste"
Yes, until something unexpected happens to disrupt cooling, and it vaporizes into a lovely plume. I respect the Japanese for knowing their shit way more than some little shill like yourself and look how fucked things are over there. 8 months latter after their accident, and they still cannot fucking even turn things "off" [nhk.or.jp] . Fukushima will become a monument with an eternal nuclear flame of the fucking risk of going that route.

"you must also prefer dispersed pollution in your lungs from coal and oil "
You see, that would actually be CHEAPER than nuclear. So your complaining that Russia will be able to demand high prices, and you will not have any recourse if Russia decides to cut you off, but you will have all the pollution from the CHEAPER sources. That is a clusterfuck of an argument you got there. Nuclear is just one option. There are alternatives. Some are more expensive, some are dirtier. The world is only using like 13% nuclear power, so don't fucking pretend that there are no alternatives or that nuclear is the undisputed best. The book is still out on that one, and the world is a much different place, post 311.

"still be living in Europe so you can still be affected"
Right, because living in Fukushima makes no difference from living in West Japan. Your arguments, though numerous, are not very well thought out. . . Better leave the shilling to the paid pro's . . .

Re:Sure, just like rare earths (1, Insightful)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915914)

The crux of the anti nuclear movement is it creates a more dangerous industry forcing the government to rely on using past their prime plants. If France and Russia are willing to stay at the edge of nuclear development more to them. They will be safer then Belgium and Germany maintaining their old plants.

Re:Sure, just like rare earths (3, Insightful)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916216)

The crux of the nuclear industry is that old plants are already paid for and depreciated. They are far more profitable than new plants. Also, safety measures cost money, so a profit maximizing business will try to minimize safety measures where possible (including building safer new plants). When things do go wrong, things are so bad that the government has to bail out the owners (just like the banks), so they face limited downside risk with the old plants.

I am afraid you give way too much credit to the anti-nuke movement, and way too little credit to corporate greed.

Re:Russia and France are loving this! (4, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915802)

Belgium has quite a bit of a renewables coming online:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Belgium#Renewable_energy [wikipedia.org]

I'll be the last person to bash nuclear. New designs are safe, efficient, and cost effective. But once you put enough solar and wind generation out there, and back it with proper storage/buffering facilities (large battery/flywheel banks, pumped storage, etc), the argument is moot.

The price of solar is dropping so fast, solar businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Their loss is our gain, and you'll continue to see the price per watt of solar plummet. Wind is only getting more efficient, as gearboxes are being replaced with more efficient magnetic bearings and transfer systems:

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/super-smooth-magnetic-bearings-glide-closer-to-the-mainstream.html [treehugger.com]

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/25188/page1/ [technologyreview.com]

If you read my second link, you'll see GE is building 4 MW direct drive turbine systems. Yeah, 4 megawatts. As efficiency continues to scale up, you'll see windfarm nameplate capacity rival the largest coal and nuclear plants. Yes, yes, you'll still have to deal with generation peaks and valleys, but the energy is there for the taking!

Re:Russia and France are loving this! (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916006)

From your Wikipedia link.
=============
In 2000, nuclear power contributed to 58.24% of the 78.85 TWh (total rate: 9 GWe) produced domestically.[7] ... and ...
In 2000, renewable energy was used for producing 0.71% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically.
=============
There was a rather optimistic projection of full exploitation of offshore wind at 17TWh, assuming this was possible.

If the two plants are producing over half of that 79TWh, looks like wind has a ways to go to come close to replacing what they are shutting down.

Sooo, yeah. More natural gas from Russia, more nuclear from France, more local coal.

Re:Russia and France are loving this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916234)

Flywheel? Battery? Pumped storage?

Basic maths: the state of Victoria (Australia) has baseload power production of around 6 GW. Let's say that we need just ten seconds' worth of power buffering. That's 6,000,000,000 * 10 = 60 GJ of energy that needs to be stored (at 100% efficiency, mind you.) That's the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of TNT, if it were to be catastrophically released.

Sure, you can distribute it across a reasonably large area, but that's still a hell of a lot of energy that needs to be contained if something goes wrong - say the flywheel fractures, for example.

Now, there's also the question of whether we actually need baseload power. I reckon we don't, not to the extent we think we do. But don't go thinking that energy storage on a large scale is the way to beat the variability in power output inherent (at least on the small scale) in solar and wind ...

Re:Russia and France are loving this! (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916260)

If you read my second link, you'll see GE is building 4 MW direct drive turbine systems. Yeah, 4 megawatts. As efficiency continues to scale up, you'll see windfarm nameplate capacity rival the largest coal and nuclear plants.

This is a common mistake - comparing peak (nameplate) capacity to peak capacity. For actual power generation rates throughout the year, you have to multiply by capacity factor.

For nuclear, capacity factor is about 0.9. That is if a nuclear reactor has a peak generating capacity of 1 GW, throughout the year it will on average generate 900 MW (after factoring downtime for maintenance, inspections, refueling, testing, etc).

For wind, capacity factor is about 0.2-0.25 for land-based wind farms. Certain high-wind areas of the earth can hit 0.3-0.4 (Scotland, coastal Spain, various offshore). But for most land-based wind, you're doing pretty good if you can hit 0.25. So a 4 MW turbine will on average generate 1 MW throughout the year, and you'd need 900 of them to replace the 1 GW nuclear reactor.

The rule of thumb for large wind turbines is about $1 million per MW, so your 900 4MW turbines will cost you a cool $3.6 billion to construct before loans, while the 1 GW nuclear reactor will be about $1-$2 billion. (I exclude the cost of batteries/energy storage for wind because nuclear and wind/solar/hydro complement each other. Nuclear is great for base load, but sucks for varying load. Wind/solar/hydro suck for base load, but are great for varying load. The best strategy involves building both nuclear and renewable electrical generation.)

Re:Russia and France are loving this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916560)

My local utility group in North America/Canada has about 18,000MW of wind installed across a number of utilities. Demand peaks at about 100,000MW. This is not 4MW, this is 100,000MW, mostly from coal, gas and hydroelectric and some nuclear. Typically, wind provides for about 40% of its installed capacity, or about 7-8MW, on average, so 7-8% of the mix. Those are not bad numbers.

Now, come forth the peak of the heatwave earlier this year. Temperatures rose to 38C-40C.. Energy demand shot up, a few percent, I think it was 108,000MW. Guess what happened to wind energy?? Wind production dropped 90% to 600MW as wind dried up. This is is across 1000s of sq. km, not a little country like Belgium!! Luckily, wind is just "extra" capacity on the grid. Hydro and gas picked up most of the slack, with hydro running at max tilt. Record sales that day for the hydro utility.

How, what would be the scenario if there was 200,000MW wind installed and wind accounted for 50% of grid capacity?? (yes, that double redundancy of expected 40% average load). Major blackouts. Even adding solar would do little to counter this lack of wind. The low on wind came in the evening, at sunset.

And if you think batteries, well, what is the capital cost of 1,000,000,000,000 Wh of batteries? That's enough backup for about 10h. Let's just say, you may as well build yourself 100 nuclear reactors and have 100,000MW load for 60 years as the numbers are about the same.

PS. My local utility also have to shut down wind power around here when temperatures drop a little, say below -25C. But then there doesn't seem to be much wind at those temperatures either. It's dark, cold, and still. My heating is geothermal by the way, 10kW heatpump, so without electricity, I'm cold.

Re:Russia and France are loving this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916602)

France energy provider (singular as only EDF have nuclear plants) might be loving this, but french people might not: there's already rumors of blackout this winter with the production capacity not being enough to both provide Germany and french needs. If Belgium does the same, then we're sure to have some real problems down the line.

Belgium is not really troublesome, though: 2 nuclear plants whould be quite easily replaced with alternative energy throughout the country. Germany won't have this choice, and the watching the politicians who took the decision explain to the Greens that it's better to have coal than nuclear is going to be fun.

Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915532)

Belgium is a very low-lying coastal country, like Louisiana for example. The US has plenty of sites not vulnerable to tsunamis and flooding.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915644)

You know, this has always made me wonder.

The U.S. surely has some areas that are free from natural disasters like tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. You always see the same few places getting socked by something horrible - and yet, a large amount of the Midwest is practically deserted.

Why hasn't the people who live there moved somewhere like that? More importantly, why hasn't the federal government encouraged people to move to such a place? Instead, we keep bailing these people out who repeatedly choose a poor location for a home. Being stubborn and saying "We'll rebuild" when your area is constantly damaged by natural disasters isn't brave - it's moronic. It might make sense in a smaller country, but one of the things we have a lot of in America is land.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915722)

Big picture:

People live where they do for a reason. Usually jobs.

The coasts have, well, oceans right there. Which means incredibly cheap bulk transport for the products of their industries as well as the raw materials they need to import (food, that sort of thing).

River valleys are much the same - that river makes shipping bulk goods cheap and easy.

Alas, the parts of the country that are away from the coasts and rivers don't have those advantages.

Alas, also, the parts of the country that are away from the coasts and rivers also have their own natural disasters. You don't hear about them because very few people are affected by a major storm in North Dakota, for instance. 2,000,000 people lose electricity, and you've got some real news. 130 people lose electricity, and you don't even have a good footnote to the news.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916424)

that river makes shipping bulk goods cheap and easy.

Is that before or after factoring in the cost of rebuilding from scratch every time a hurricane strolls through?

It seems to me a lot if not most people there claimed surprise at the disaster, despite there being no excuse for that, and wanted the government to pay for their short sightedness in planning for all the involved expenses of operating and living in such an area.

Perhaps rebuilding every decade give or take is still worth the expense of having such a large port near, which would be fine and likely no one complain about.
What we do complain about however are the ones that expect everyone else to pay for the cost of having to rebuild regularly.

Factor in ALL of the costs however, and I would guess it might be far less "easy and cheap" after all.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916648)

Rivers and Oceans also provide a heat sink, which needs to be rather significant for a heat engine that tosses away 2/3's of it's power.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915786)

Truth. I don't mind helping out people who get hit by natural disasters....the first time. Look at New Orleans. Much of it is below sea level. From the top of the dike there on the Mississippi River I looked down at the river then turned and looked at the town, this in 1980, and wondered how long it would be before that water found it's way into New Orleans. I told my friends with me that it was only a matter of time. When you looked at that mighty river where the water level was obviously above the buildings on the other side of the dike you knew it had to happen. It's nutty. That was before I knew about the canals. The canals are really crazy. They are concrete walls that are in the middle of housing areas that have water between them. You can see houses right next to these walls and water almost even with the roofs on the other side! Like I said, I didn't have a problem with helping people get new houses after Katrina......somewhere else! Rebuilding in a lake bed with the ocean and river that close by is insane.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916060)

It's the outflow of the biggest river in the continent and the ocean. It will be a major transportation and shipping hub. That means a lot of ports, and a lot of incoming boats. So lots of jobs. The people who work there will want to live nearby. They'll want to buy goods and services. Industry will want to exist nearby to take advantage of the shipping. This means more jobs, and more goods and services, requiring yet more people. This is the basis of damn near every major city in the world. There is no way that there isn't a major city in that spot until the Mississippi dries up.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915928)

I've been to those areas, and they're not uninhabited, they're occupied primarily by farms. So, yes people could move there, but then we'd have to find someplace to grow that food. Food production is vital to national security and our well being in general.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916076)

is vital to national security

Every time you use that phrase, an angel loses its nuts.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916186)

The U.S. surely has some areas that are free from natural disasters like tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.

No place on the planet is entirely free from natural disasters. Also, most of the reactors currently operating for commercial power here in the United States are of the boiling water variety which means that some sort of external liquid (usually water) heat sink is required. Perhaps you've noticed that commercial reactors are often built nearby bodies of relatively cooler water (rivers or the oceans). This way, cooler water can be taken in and exchange heat with the water in the closed cooling loop before being discharged back into the source water, albeit somewhat hotter than when it came in. Places out in the middle of nowhere are like that for a reason: they're hot and dry with very little water. Unless you're going to build a liquid metal reactor that can exchange heat with the air via a giant radiator system, which would probably be impractical anyway, those locations are unsuitable for building a nuclear generator plant.

Being stubborn and saying "We'll rebuild" when your area is constantly damaged by natural disasters isn't brave - it's moronic.

Politics very often doesn't make any sense or at least not any rational kind of sense. Here in the US it just so happens that some very disaster prone states, Florida is a prime example, are "battleground" or "swing" states which have swung back and forth in just about every recent Presidential election. I don't like federal flood and hurricane insurance either, It's my tax dollars subsidizing people who want to build in foolish places, but what can you do? Life's rarely fair, especially these days and the squeaky wheels always get the grease.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916300)

"The U.S. surely has some areas that are free from natural disasters like tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc."

No, it does not. As the rest of your post depends from this, it can be ignored.

Re:Not necessarily relevant to US debate (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916574)

I take a bit of that back - of course no place would be *entirely* free from natural disaster. "Mosty free" would be a better way to put things.

Take Arizona, for instance - the biggest natural disasters that I know of offhand (without Googling) are the occasional wildfire and the *very* rare hurricane/tropical storm that makes it that far inland from the Pacific Coast. The list is pretty damn short.

50 years ago (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915556)

1. the space industry was booming

2. the nuclear industry was booming

3. the computer industry was just a support system for the real heroic industries

now: the computer industry is the preeminent world industry (in terms of influence, company valuations, etc), and the space industry and nuclear industry are frail, aged, and dying

not exactly what people imagined 50 years ago, in policy making and the popular imagination

Re:50 years ago (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915800)

Maybe you can make a movie about heroic zombies. That would be great.

Re:50 years ago (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916306)

Actually, the space industry is beginning to burgeon. It's just move into private industry, which is a good thing.

Re:50 years ago (2)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916342)

Well, the problem was not with the popular imagination, but the poor policy making. The US would be fully energy independent today, and nuclear would be a brilliant, thriving industry, if only it had proceeded in a different direction. Indeed, the entire world would be a very different place, with the proliferation of cheap, safe energy, and reduced friction over fossil fuel resources. Maybe not too cheap to meter, but energy cheaper than from coal is quite possible with Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. So are synthetic fuels from nuclear heat cheaper than from oil. As an additional benefit over current reactors, water can be desalinated with the rejected heat. All of this, with unparalleled safety, while addressing all of the waste concerns of present reactors.

Instead of pursing the safer, cleaner, and immensely more efficient liquid thorium reactors. The government poured billions into funding the competing liquid metal fast breeder: a fundamentally inferior solid fueled design which requires an immensely greater amount of fissile material, as all fast reactors do. (Plutonium in this case). There are numerous other downsides, but it suffices to say that the molten salt reactor program was cancelled when Alvin Weinberg questioned the safety prospects of the prevailing light water reactors and the direction of the plutonium breeder program. (This is the very person who invented the prevailing reactor technology, so who is more qualified to make such judgements? Now that the politics have played out, and his fears have been realized, perhaps it is time to revisit the liquid thorium reactor.

Now we face energy scarcity, horrific pollution, and accelerating destruction of our environment on a global scale, not to mention the results of climate charge. Please take the time to increase awareness of this technology; it isn't merely some theoretical hope, they ran a reactor successfully for years. It was and still is a genuine solution to all of our energy ills, which requires nothing but the will to embrace it. Learn more at Energy From Thorium [energyfromthorium.com] , and please take the time to contact your representatives.

slashdot analogy: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915626)

it's like if you gave up vagina. But since you sit around in your mom's basement eating cheetos and jacking off to Kim Kardashian sex tapes, you aren't at risk of getting any pussy.

Re:slashdot analogy: (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915930)

I'm sorry, you're going to need to give us a troll car analogy.

The real reason why... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915628)

I'm from Belgium and this has been discussed since 2003... why now? Knowing that Electrabel until recently was the owner of these 2 power, the following may explain why the decision has been taken to decommission them:

From the Wikipedia page for Electrabel:

For a long time a majority stake in Electrabel was held by the French company Suez. In 2005, Suez increased its stake to 96.7% and a squeeze-out of the remaining shareholders was completed on 10 July 2007, when the company was delisted from the stock exchange. Following Suez's 2008 merger with Gaz de France, Electrabel is now a subsidiary of GDF Suez.

I won't speculate on the exact economic benefits it will bring to GDF, but lets be clear the decision wasn't made for climate or anti-nuclear reasons. This decision will certainly assure the energy monopoly of GDF in Belgium.

!Tautology (3, Insightful)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915690)

If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket, we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003

if (false && false) exit_nukes();

Re:!Tautology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915876)

I think it's more like "if (!q && !p) exit_nukes();"...

Re:!Tautology (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915892)

If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket, we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003

if (false && false) exit_nukes();

Beats by Dre Tour ControlTalk [headphones-forsale.com]

In-Ear Headphones White

        ykyuzhihua1102

Hope they don't choose coal (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915698)

Crunching the numbers, the health effects from a normally operating coal plant (+10% cancer rate within 20 km) is about the projected effect of Fukushima's fallout for inhabitants within 30 km. Long term effects of coal outside this range are also similar (same order of magnitude), regular functioning coal vs. major nuclear accident.
Furthermore, the majority of the long term Fukushima radiation effect (Cs) has a half-life of two years, were much of the cancer effect from coal is permanent due to chemical ground water and soil contamination.

Re:Hope they don't choose coal (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915808)

Not to mention all the negative effects that come from mining coal, both to the environment AND to the miners inside. Whereas a nuclear plant consumes a lot less fuel and thus the secondary effects from mining for nuclear fuel are much less significant. Long- and short-term primary and secondary effects that are the result of coal plants are way worse than from nuclear plants, it just so happens that no media seems to mention that in a way that the general public would understand.

Re:Hope they don't choose coal (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916212)

The deaths and ill-health caused by coal plants is consistent and expected. The deaths and ill-health caused by a nuclear meltdown is unexpected. The unfortunate but inevitable human psychological reaction is to assume that (despite all the statistics proving otherwise) nuclear power plants are less safe. It's no different than our reaction to 9/11 versus heart disease, where we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars reacting to the former while the latter kills several orders of magnitude more people when both are amortized over the last decade.

Re:Hope they don't choose coal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916538)

I can understand you love nuclear power, but Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years and you're a moron.

France will happily provide power from Givet (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915732)

France has a power plant near Givet [google.com] , which is situated in a "peninsula" of French territory going into Belgium. That's going to be pretty convenient when Belgium needs to buy massive amounts of power from abroad (hint: Belgium is very poorly endowed for hydro/solar/geothermal energy)

Re:France will happily provide power from Givet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915884)

Belgium's also broke monetarily and politically so I guess the Dutch and French are even closer to becoming just a little or a lot bigger.

Re:France will happily provide power from Givet (1)

rbrander (73222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915932)

You're half-way there. France already sells Italy a substantial fraction of Italy's power. Add in Germany and now Belgium, and one starts to see a nice national business for the French, exporting the results of decades of investment and mass-production of nuclear power plants and operators, and the whole fuel chain. It will keep getting cheaper by the unit, the more they do. France is undoubtedly the mainstay of the OECD analysis that nuclear is actually the most competitive investment, with the proviso you hold the initial construction costs down. But the move to green power, combined with these nations shutting down nuclear, gives France an opening to quickly bring down the costs of building "Generation III+" plants by building several one after another.

At this rate, the whole French border will be dotted with new plants, powering Germany, Belgium, Italy, maybe Spain next.

Reuters on the OECD report http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iH4t1XC8kr8 [youtube.com]

Just thinking... (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915780)

I've been reading foundation recently, and it's spot on. Nuclear power plants breaking down because they're old and in disrepair? Train new technicians and build new plants? Unthinkable! Restrict nuclear power! Nuclear power is one of the only viable mid-term energy sources until we can get ourselves on to decentralized green energy, and even then it's incredibly useful for base load, non-intermittent power generation. We're now trying to get off of it for what exactly? Solar's not that viable in Europe as opposed to, say, California. Chemical energy only lasts so long, and everything else besides geothermal is pretty intermittent.

more global warming! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915852)

More fossil fuel electric plants putting more carbon dioxide into the air, not to mention radioactive polonium. What? You didn't know that burning fossil fuels puts more radioactive waste into the air than a nuclear power plant?

Love those wild and crazy Europeans!!

Pussies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915874)

belgium has always been Germany's bitch (and sometimes france)

They are too tampon for nuclear power

Japans experience (1)

wolfheart111 (2496796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916008)

Belgium must have considered what happened to Japan during the quake. This alone is good enough reason to give up nukes.

Re:Japans experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916110)

No, Japan was stupid for building their plant where they built it and how they built it. Additionally they did a terrible job taking care of the situation. I'm not saying anything bad about Japan as a whole because I consider it my home away from home, but don't believe everything the liberal media tells you about nukes. They are incredibly safe, it causes almost no harm to humans and the environment, and it's typically secure enough to ward off terrorist threats. It's not every day that you get hit by a bunch of massive earthquakes, a tsunami, and so on in just a few days but when it does happen modern-day nuke setups are ready for situations such as those with a theoretical good chance at succeeding.

Re:Japans experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916144)

The fact you said "liberal media" means I see you as brainwashed Faux News viewer. If you believe the that media is "liberal", you'll take anything on faith and believe what you are told. That means I can't really take anything you say seriously. Sorry...

Irony (1)

tommy8 (2434564) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916042)

The nuclear reactors might outlive the country of Belgium. Flanders might break away before 2015.

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916454)

In your face, Flanders! Uh, wait...

Where Have We Come in 70 Years? (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916104)

It was seventy year ago that Roosevelt sign an executive order to begin nuclear development. Now, the two largest uses of fission energy are boiling water and fueling bombs that never explode (thank goodness). Is that progress?

Re:Where Have We Come in 70 Years? (2)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916184)

I'll agree on the bombs part, but "boiling water" seems a mite simplified for "powering whatever the hell we want with electricity". Or were you expecting us to have proton beams and fusion factories by now? Just what else can you do with decaying plutonium?

French nuke plants are good quality (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916670)

The French knows how to build good quality plants. They don't skimp on concrete and steel. Their plants very different from the junk that GE built in Japan.
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