• PaulScott

    Possibly, but at what cost? Nukes are very expensive. You can’t build one anywhere for less than about $6,000 per kW of capacity. You would have to wholesale the energy at about 16 cents/kWh to break even. Wind, while intermittent, can be generated for about 7 cents kWh in moderately good wind corridors.

    What India needs is to get its act together with their grid. They are losing massive amounts of power to inefficiency and theft. I’m sure you’ve seen the picture of the power pole in some Indian city with about 200 wires coming off of it. This is typical there. The system operators have no clue how much energy they’ll need day to day, and no way to ramp up to meet huge increases in demand when the current drought conditions cause farmers to start using powerful pumps to pull water from wells to replace the rain water they aren’t getting.

    Rebuilding their grid and diligently removing all theft from the grid is much cheaper than building nukes. Quicker, too. 

  • http://phillips.blog.com phillips1938

    Don what planet are you on?  We have abundant natural gas.  Enough for a century.  No capital cost as you have with nuclear.

  • http://khemenu.blogspot.com Ari Tai

    It’s only regulation (and cronyism) that sustains these costs.  To compete with fossil fuels, whatever displaces them will have to compete at the marginal cost of production of the incumbents.  $2 a barrel pumped onto a ship and less than a penny for a coal-fired kilowatt-hour at the street pole.  Neutron burners (new nuclear, either waste consuming or Thorium) might match it if regulated at the level of, say, 747 production (or better yet, as long as the owners and managers fly in it, it’s ok to use).   Maybe $400M each.  Which is also the rate of production that they are needed (a 1gwatt coal plant is turned on somewhere in the world every 2 weeks or less).  

    But we’re still spooked by radiation fears – granted, it took us a generation to allow people to park vehicles with gasoline in structures that were part of homes – because refining quality varied, and towns would occasionally discover that petrol had twice the energy, gram-for-gram than our best (chemical) high-explosive.   Someday we’ll get over being scared of this tame-able monster, and remember that quality of life (and safety) is inversely proportional to the cost of energy (the more it costs, the more you sweat), and the raw amount you have under your personal control (consider yellow school buses under-water in Katrina – and the foolishness waiting for someone far away to save you, your family, your neighbors).

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Natural gas is cheap now, but the balance of supply and demand is going to change. In addition to the power-generation demand from new gas-fired plants…built both to supply incremental capacity and to replace the capacity of the coal-fired plants that are being shut down…there is going to be significant incremental demand for nat gas as an industrial feedstock. And people who can switch the home heating from oil to nat gas are going to do so. Plus, there is going to be significant export of nat gas via LNG ships, given the anti-coal / anti-nuclear policies in Europe and the growing demand for energy in the Far East. All of this means that an electrical infrastructure based almost exclusively on nat gas is going to at some point be exposed to sharply rising prices, which have an impact on manufacturing competitiveness as well as on household expenditures.

    See my post Natural Gas: Past, Present, and Future 

  • Mike Devx

    We are unserious about expanding the energy grid in the USA.  As a result, in many parts of the country, we have a just-in-time, just-barely-enough system of energy delivery.  As this summer’s Midwest heat wave showed with the resulting brownouts and blackouts, that’s not good enough.  We’re supposed to be a civilized country.  Civilization runs on energy, and we’re deliberately starving whole regions of our country of energy.  A truly civilized country would not STAND, not for one moment, what happened this summer in the Midwest.  We’d be hard and fast at work solving this problem right now.  But we’re not.

    I’ve heard we have engineers monitoring the grid 24/7 and constantly making minor adjustments, and if they weren’t making constant minor adjustments, we’d have frequent regional collapses, because the grid is only just barely operational.  Put it under any further significant stress – as with the Midwest heat wave – and there is, simply, no way to cope.  Brownouts and blackouts become inevitable.  I can’t believe we’ve fallen to such a low standard.

    I know we do need a regulations overhaul.  I believe we need regulations, but they must be tightly, carefully crafted.  National regulations must set the correct minimal standards, leaving states to build on top of those cautious, minimalist national standards.  If the states were smart, they’d then huddle up and agree amongst themselves.  But the regulatory framework in place right now is byzantine and HUGE and full of all kinds of amorphous and vague wordings.  Have you seen regulations granting bureaucrats near limitless power because of insertion of wordage such as “and in any manner as seen fitting”, or after listing a number of specific powers granted to an agency, there is then inserted language such as “or any other requirement deemed necessary”, etc.  Essentially granting limitless power via the vague language.  Such vagueness must be ruthlessly stripped out of ALL such regulatory law.


  • Danny Lemieux

    Given the Obama administration shutting down all these coal-fired plants around the country, we are planning against power shortages in the middle of winter. Will you be ready?

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    Those who oppose nuclear power have, very effectively, taken the same approach as those who oppose capital punishment.  Make it so expensive to do, that those who advocate it will give up and go home.  I actually am suggesting nuclear power as an example of one alternative.  There are, of course, others.  For example, when was the last time you heard of a significant dam being built.  In fact, here in California (and elsewhere for all I know) there was a commercial a year or so ago championing as a great accomplishment the tearing down of a dam. 

    Also, it seems that the Midwest isn’t the only part of the country living on the edge.  Here in California, PG&E has a program under which your overall rate goes down if you agree to have your rate go up on especially hot days.  The point is to reduce, however marginally, the load on the system on hot days.  Such a program would not be necessary if the grid here were sufficient.  

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    It’s kind of hard for hybrid car salesmen that post on blogs to make any cash off their government paychecks when people can privately invest in nuclear power. It’s just a matter of profits and monopolies. Green corporations want the profits, and don’t want to lose their monopoly on power: both political and electrical.

  • jj

    I don’t, know, there are a lot of sides to most energy issues.  The short answer to your question – will we be next? – is yes, of course we will.  We have invested nothing in infrastructure.

    Dams are interesting.  The problem with them is that, like everything else, they have a life.  People think they go on forever, but they don’t.  Impoundment dams, the most common kind, build up silt behind them.  As the floor of the impoundment lake behind the dam rises over time (as it silts up), the dam grows progressively less efficient.  The Hoover Dam is producing about 70% of the power it did when new, and that power production number will only drop as time passes.  This is true, to a greater or lesser extent, of all the major dams, most of them having been built about the same time during the dam building orgy of last century.  Dams don’t last forever: they get old, they silt up, they don’t work as well.  Eventually they don’t work at all.

    So what we have is a number of them all getting old more or less at once these days, so thoughts turn to getting rid of some of them as threy approach the end of the line.  For the last two years we’ve been crawling with representatives of various federal agencies, and representatives of various different state agencies out here, trying to learn what there is to be gleaned from the disassembly of the two biggest dams in the country to so far hit the wall: the dams on the Elwha River.  The government is interested because these two dams were both sizable, both useless, and both had to go.  (Lots of dynamite.  Straightening all the pictures in the house five times a day.  Fun!)  They’ve been the test case, thus all the federales swarming around as it’s dawned on them that there’s going to have to be more of this in future.

    Dams are also intrinsically bad for the landscape and natural processes around them.  With unerring accuracy a century ago, they chose the Elwha to dam.  Well, there were only about ten rivers in the country in which every single species of salmon, plus the anadromous cousins – sea-going Steelhead, etc. – spawned.  The Elwha was one of the biggest.  So naturally, as I say: with unerring accuracy, they chose to f**k that one up for all time with teo dams.  (Of all the rivers in the world to choose, what the hell, let’s end the most productive anadromous fish runs humanity’s ever seen.  There used to be a literal million fish returning to spawn in the Elwha.  We sure put a stop to that!  Slimy bastards, take that!)

    So I have no problem with these two dams going down.  Though if the salmon, etc. ever do come back as they were, it’ll be long after I’m gone.  They think maybe by 2040 or so, if all goes well.  And of course we’re in the experimental process of trying to determine what “all going well” even means: it’s never been done before.

    Everybody knows the problems with nuclear power.  It works great until it doesn’t, and then maybe you’ll glow in the dark for a brief, pain-filled while before you die miserably.  But the technology improves steadily.  It’s certainly worth a look, though it is, regulations or not, frightfully expensive.  Even without the regulations it’s never going to be cheap.

    Natural gas is just oil in a different form, and is just as finite.  In a hundred years we’ll be wondering where it all went, and why it’s so expensive just like we’re beginning to wonder with oil.  It would be nice if Californians didn’t piss it away to have pretty fake fireplaces, but what can you do?  Once it’s gone it’s gone, and as a long-term solution it’s not one: just a temporary fix.

    The innovation has been made: John Kanzius figured out how make salt water burn to produce steam and keep the lights on, but all talk of this seems to have disappeared (you can still find him on youtube), so I presume the oil companies bought the patent and wil keep it sequestered for a century or so.

    We’re in the gap right now.  Grids are expensive to build and maintain, and everybody’s broke.  Interesting times ahead.  Are we better than India?  No, we aren’t.  We may in fact be worse.  Not having electricity is a much more recent memory there than here, they still have a lot of folks from previous generations who remember how survival without it is done.             

  • PaulScott

    JJ – excellent post! One thing I can add is that we, as a society, are horribly inefficient and wasteful. The energy we waste, of all kinds, is deplorable. This is also a silver lining in a way.

    The utilities need to rebuild the grid to make it more efficient. To do so they need more money. Here in CA, we have three large IOUs (investor owned utilities) that are regulated by the PUC. They can apply for higher rates as long as they can make a case for the increase. Since all the IOUs, and most of the municipal utilities, use tiered rates, they can apply the increases primarily to the highest tiers. This acts naturally as an incentive to conserve. Since most people waste at least 20% of the electricity they use, cutting back to reduce the increase in their bills will be easy to do.

    Reducing the waste is mandatory for our country to be competitive again. That should be a non-partisan issue, but it’s not on either agenda as far as I can see. At least not much. 

  • PaulScott

    July 30, 2012 5:00 am

    Nuclear ‘hard to justify’, says GE chief

    By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent

    Nuclear power is so expensive compared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify, according to the chief…

    The full article can be found at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/60189878-d982-11e1-8529-00144feab49a.html

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Here in California, the cost of energy is largely the result of the political process, rather than anything approaching a true market price.
    Weird blends of gasoline (varying by region) that change through the year; mandates on the utilities for “green” energy; “safety” regulations on the building (or recommissioning) of nuclear plants; etc. etc. etc.
    As has been pointed out above, we are only barely making it work with an enormous amount of input from the technically inclined.  It won’t take much to tip us over the edge and we WILL look like India.  It’s going to get ugly. 
    So, watch California and see your future:  figure your electric bill if you paid 13 cents/kwh for the first 460, then 15 cents for the next 138, then 30 cents for the next 320, and 34 cents for the next 66.  That was my bill for May – $197.67 for 984 kwh of electricity.  And it wasn’t even hot yet.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Nothing has changed. The power mad megalomaniacs in the capital grow fat and happy, while the frontiers starve and die. People lack the guts and the IQ to even figure out what is necessary to cleanse the world of corruption. They can’t even fix their own home towns.