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New Nuclear Power
June 5, 2013 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Georgia Power has updated their photo gallery to include photos showing the placement of the first part of the new Unit 3 containment vessel at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro, Georgia. No small task, as the component is almost 130 feet across, nearly 40 feet tall, and weighs 900 tons. Vogtle Units 3 & 4 are the first new nuclear reactors to be built in the US since Three Mile Island. They're based on the Westinghouse AP1000 two-loop pressurized water reactor design. The gallery includes some high resolution gems like this one showing the completed placement.
posted by disillusioned (105 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh good. Now we can retire that Fukushima-era plant the NRC won't let the State of New Hampshire de-license.
posted by surplus at 1:37 PM on June 5, 2013


With a little luck maybe photos are all this plant will release.
posted by hal9k at 1:48 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Considering the backlash we've been seeing against wind and solar, I'm glad to see that some non-CO2-emitting electricity can be sited in this country. This is one small step in our actually not-accelerating global climate change.
posted by ldthomps at 1:50 PM on June 5, 2013 [23 favorites]


Does anyone with more nuclear knowledge know why reactor's 1 & 2 (from 1987, 4-loop systems) have a higher net capacity and a lower gross capacity than the new 3 & 4 reactors? Just curious. (1150 net/1203 gross, vs. 1117 net, 1250 gross).

I'm always frustrated by people who refuse to consider nuclear as anything but a 1970s technology with no developments from that time. But I'll leave my earlier comment on that fact to speak for me.
posted by disillusioned at 1:54 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh god, and the baleful eye of Metafilter turns and focuses once again on the ridiculous region of the country it is my tremendous misfortunate to be stuck in. This thread is just going to be one long rueful sigh from me, I just know it.

Considering the backlash we've been seeing against wind and solar

Wait, what?
posted by JHarris at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2013


Considering the astroturfed backlash we've been seeing against wind and solar

FTFY.

It's been repeatedly demonstrated that the nuclear options (apart from all its other charms) is waaaaaaay too expensive and too slow to implement to serve as a useful escape from further global warming. Big-money investors moved on many years ago.
posted by Twang at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ah, astroturfing. Why would we want to fix our civilization's great sustainability problems in a reasonable safe way, so let's let the nuclear industry cook up a bunch of bullshit reasons not to do that so we can go after the method that puts lives at risk and could well turn a large portion of land into a stinking unlivable space.

God I want to punch something right now.
posted by JHarris at 2:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nice images. Anyone have an explanation for why the containment vessel is so much larger than the reactor vessel? Do they have to fit the crane/etc for refueling inside the steel containment vessel too?
posted by kiltedtaco at 2:07 PM on June 5, 2013


Not just astroturfed. In Ontario, the rush to subsidize Wind and Solar (by 200 to 1000%) has more than doubled our electricity bills, accelerated the decline of our manufacturing sector, and angered many voters.
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh god it looks like a huge blue bomb with the name of our electric company on it. THIS WILL END WELL
posted by JHarris at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2013


Big-money investors moved on many years ago.

But without the biggest 'investor", the Federal Government, and its Price-Anderson claimed backstop - private industry wouldn't be bothered with fission power because it is too damn dangerous.

Considering the backlash we've been seeing against wind and solar

Yes, solar backlash. With $1 a watt panel costs - such a nasty, nasty tech. So expensive.......

God I want to punch something right now.

I hear there is a new nuke plant coming on line.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The newspaper I work for did a series of articles back in 2010 about the funding of the construction, titled Nuclear Bailout (Part 1, 2, 3).

Long story short, the taypayers are 100% on the hook in terms of paying for the plant, not matter the cost overruns or problems, even if part of the reactor falls off a train.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


If I punch that, I'll end up with a tentacle.
posted by JHarris at 2:10 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the biggest trouble with nuclear is that the plants are so huge and expensive that we can't iterate on them fast enough to see the kind of improvements we need to see. A turbine is $100K versus a $100M+ nuclear plant. turbines and solar have gone through multiple generations of product improvements in the time nuclear plants have, well, just sat there.

So hopefully this newer design will be less of a bear than previous designs have been.
posted by GuyZero at 2:12 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Has Westinghouse dealt with the safety issues with this design, beyond shrugging them off? From the Wikipedia page, it sounds like they still advocate a wait-until-failure approach to a design that leads to serious corrosion issues — a seemingly common thread in reactor and feedline failures (Davis-Besse, Surry, Mihama, etc.) and one that still somehow seems to catch nuclear engineers by "surprise".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


it sounds like they still advocate a wait-until-failure approach to a design that leads to serious corrosion issues

What wikipedia page are you reading? It sounds like the anti-nuclear lobby cooked up an alarmist report, and this was the response: "Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for Westinghouse, has disputed Gundersen’s assessment, stating that the AP1000's steel containment vessel is three-and-a-half to five times thicker than the liners used in current designs, and that corrosion would be readily apparent during routine inspection."
posted by Dasein at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2013


In terms of industrialized nations, mainland France has the lowest carbon dioxide production per unit of GDP in the world.

France. The French. We're behind the French. A nation that was completely overrun by Germany within living memory. Behind them. Us.

You'd think this would, you know, motivate us 'Muricans. Guess we're too full on Freedom fries.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


With a little luck maybe photos are all this plant will release.

So we can continue to rely on coal power for the indefinite future?
posted by killdevil at 2:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


killdevil: "
So we can continue to rely on coal power for the indefinite future?
"
Coal and its byproduct, clean-burning mercury slurry!
posted by boo_radley at 2:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone have an explanation for why the containment vessel is so much larger than the reactor vessel?

Some failure scenarios involve the production of large quantities of gasses; the larger volume for the containment vessel means lower a pressure to contain.
posted by peeedro at 2:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You'd think this would, you know, motivate us 'Muricans. Guess we're too full on Freedom fries.

A freedom fries joke well into Obama's second term? Ooh, radioactive.
posted by JHarris at 2:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


France. The French. We're behind the French. A nation that was completely overrun by Germany within living memory. Behind them. Us.

They only built all those reactors so that the health-conscious Germans would never again want to invade.
posted by jamjam at 2:25 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


kiltedtaco Anyone have an explanation for why the containment vessel is so much larger than the reactor vessel? Do they have to fit the crane/etc for refueling inside the steel containment vessel too?

If the pressure vessel were to leak, the escaping steam would need a large volume in which to expand without avoid creating enough pressure to burst the containment vessel as well. This was a deficiency with the Fukushima containment vessels (and those of certain other plants): they were not much bigger than the reactor vessel, and so had to be actively quenched with water to be kept at low pressure - Difficult to do without backup power.

Blazecock Pileon: Westinghouse's design for a concrete shielded steel containment vessel went through extensive rounds of regulatory review FWIW. The Wikipedia article section on rusting conerns cites Arnold Gunderson, a man with a piss poor history of deceipt when it comes to these things.
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:27 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


corrosion would be readily apparent during routine inspection

I'm sure the other reactors that failed due to corrosion damage also had "routine inspections", which never caught these problems until the failure event occurred and people were put in harm's way, sickened, or killed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:28 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure the other reactors that failed due to corrosion damage...

Which reactors were those?
posted by Aizkolari at 2:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I mentioned three that I know of off the top of my head, which had reactor or feedline failures due to serious corrosion problems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2013


I'm sure the other reactors that failed due to corrosion damage also had "routine inspections", which never caught these problems until the failure event occurred and people were put in harm's way, sickened, or killed.

And which reactors were these? I can offer many critiques of the industry and technology, but Nuclear Power has had a commendably low injury rate.
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:34 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway, it sounds like those safety issues were ignored and the NRC went ahead with approval, which is of little surprise, given Vermont's difficulties with shutting down yet another reactor with corrosion and leakage problems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ontario's rising power prices aren't because of renewables.

It's true that renewable Feed-In-Tariff subsidies are paid for out of the 'Global Adjustment', a flat-rate cost per unit of electricity. But break down the Global Adjustment costs, and you get:

•45% of used to subsidize nuclear generation (mostly the Bruce Power refurbishment)
•34% to natural gas-fired generation
•7% to subsidize coal-fired power
•8% for old OPG hydro dams and efficiency programs
•6% for wind and solar subsidies.

Wonder why the average person on the street thinks renewables are to blame?
posted by anthill at 2:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


the ridiculous region of the country it is my tremendous misfortunate to be stuck in

Makes for a helluva nice exclusion zone, though.
posted by No Robots at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the biggest trouble with nuclear is that the plants are so huge and expensive that we can't iterate on them fast enough

If they were everywhere, then narcoleptic security guards* would have jobs to pay for the unemployment of the whistle-blowers that turn 'em in.

Nuclear Power has had a commendably low injury rate.

That is because we all know from Fukushima that "Effects of radiation do not come to people that are happy… They come to people that are weak-spirited”.* And with electricity too cheap to meter, everyone served by fission power are happy at their low rates.

*links to the above not included because the last time I bothered with links few read 'em anyway.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:50 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coal and its byproduct, clean-burning mercury slurry!

You forgot the radioactive Uranium that goes up and out a stack of a coal plant.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:53 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


BP: I mentioned three that I know of off the top of my head. Sorry, missed those. They're good examples for sure (although the latter two had nothing to do with nuclear safety, just plain old condensate line corrosion - the same you risk in any steam plant).

The Davis Besse reactor head corrosion incident certainly worried me. If nothing else, it demonstrated the need for more extensive inspections, even when you don't expect you'll need them. I hope and expect the AP1000 containment vessel will be subject to regular inspections.
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:54 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I punch that, I'll end up with a tentacle.

Hardly worth it then for only one tentacle.

If you got a few of 'em then you could have a job in the Japanese tentacle video market.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You forgot the radioactive Uranium that goes up and out a stack of a coal plant.

So I have this thing where I tend to assume sarcasm where it probably isn't actually present, but in case, like me, you think he's joking, he's not.
posted by GuyZero at 2:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


the ridiculous region of the country it is my tremendous misfortunate to be stuck in

Are you kidding? At least you live near the beach; I can actually see Plant Vogtle's cooling towers from the top floor of the hospital where I work. A few years ago I was invited to a party on the Savannah River very close to Plant Vogtle. It was at a nice house on the river; people were boating and fishing, all in all a nice day in the country. But if you looked up, the two cooling towers were looming ominously over the whole area; very surreal.

Around here there is very little opposition to nuclear power; it has been a big boost to our economy ever since the Savannah River Site was built in the 1950's. I was here when Vogtle was built in the 1980s and for a while worked at a truck stop where busloads of workers would stop and buy drinks and snacks at 6:00 AM on their way to Burke County where the reactor is located. The current construction is injecting billions of dollars into the local economy, and even though politics here is dominated by small-government/anti-tax/Tea-Party types, they are more than happy to accept that little bit of corporate welfare.
posted by TedW at 2:58 PM on June 5, 2013


Nice images. Anyone have an explanation for why the containment vessel is so much larger than the reactor vessel? Do they have to fit the crane/etc for refueling inside the steel containment vessel too?

The passive emergency cooling system uses convection, the hot steam rises from the reactor vessel and condenses on the top surface of the containment vessel which is cooled using a gravity drained water tank. That'll get you 72 hours of cooling if you lose all on and off-site power (after which you need to refill the tank).
posted by atrazine at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope and expect the AP1000 containment vessel will be subject to regular inspections.

I sure hope so, too — though, if history is any guide, this is probably not a given. The cost-cutting-fueled corruption of the nuclear industry is perhaps only barely matched by the only regulatory agency the public has charged with overseeing it. I only wish Georgia's citizens good luck.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:02 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


rough ashlar: "Coal and its byproduct, clean-burning mercury slurry!

You forgot the radioactive Uranium that goes up and out a stack of a coal plant.
"

I would have started with arsenic and worked my way up to uranium.
posted by boo_radley at 3:15 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw a tweet go by today citing a WHO report about -0- deaths, -0- illnesses, and 6% increased cancer risks in a limited area over a lifetime as a result of Fukushima. Can't find it now, anyone else see it?
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:18 PM on June 5, 2013


anthill: But break down the Global Adjustment costs, and you get...

Sigh, we went through this last time. The numbers in your link are highly misleading. Nuclear power in Ontario generated 56% of the province's electricity received 45% of the GA. Comparatively wind and other (solar is not big enough to warrant its own category) generated 5.9% of the GA but received 6% of the GA.

(There are all kinds of other problems with the intermittent nature of wind power, and guaranteed FIT contracts. When the demand is low but the wind is blowing, we have to pay the US to take our power or else send water over the sluices at hydro dams or steam through the condensors at the nuclear plants, causing damage in both cases. When demand is high and the wind doesn't blow, we have to ramp up the gas-fired plants we've been building by the dozens. The capital costs of 1MW of wind should include the cost of 1MW of backup gas).

We would have a much greener grid, *and* cheaper electricity if we got rid of the arbitrary FIT bonuses and just put a price on carbon & other pollutants.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:21 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm glad that the nuclear power industry has finally recovered from the WPPS fiasco, after which all financing dried up for 30 years.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:22 PM on June 5, 2013


I saw a tweet go by today citing a WHO report about -0- deaths, -0- illnesses, and 6% increased cancer risks in a limited area over a lifetime as a result of Fukushima. Can't find it now, anyone else see it?

It's actually the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation's "assessment of levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 great east-Japan earthquake and tsunami." Here's the summary press release, which came out May 31st.
posted by jedicus at 3:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I have this thing where I tend to assume sarcasm where it probably isn't actually present, but in case, like me, you think he's joking, he's not.

The best sarcasm is when its true. Hopefully a few of the more inquisitive Blueians will opt to do their own reading on the topic.

Few have issues with properly functioning fission plants - its when they fail in some way that people have issues.

I would have started with arsenic and worked my way up to uranium.

Meh Arsenic just doesn't have the same 1:1 love a radioactive Uranium in a topic about fission power. Plenty wrong with coal based power, but da topic isn't coal,nor how a properly functioning coal spoke stack scrubber should keep things OK-DO-Key.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:31 PM on June 5, 2013


he capital costs of 1MW of wind should include the cost of 1MW of backup gas

Or perhaps humans could just learn to adapt to actual energy flows and not demand 24x7 electrical power.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:35 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or perhaps humans could just learn to adapt to actual energy flows and not demand 24x7 electrical power.

All great ideas, each more implementable than the last!
posted by Jezztek at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


According to the U.N. report, "actions taken to protect the public (evacuation and sheltering) significantly reduced the radiation exposures that would have otherwise been received." So, remember, kids: duck and cover!
posted by No Robots at 3:52 PM on June 5, 2013


All great ideas, each more implementable than the last!

Yeah, it's not like the government could make people do stuff, like give up CFCs.
posted by No Robots at 3:55 PM on June 5, 2013


The political feasibility of forcing people to give up CFCs (for mostly-easily-substituted alternatives) isn't even in the same universe as that of a plan including parts of the day where people can't have electrical power.
posted by glhaynes at 3:58 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by cthuljew at 4:02 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The deaths per MW of the solar panels being installed on my roof today, will be less than nuclear power...
posted by Windopaene at 4:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why are people looking so hard for a reason to hate nuclear?

I remember even seeing a TED talk where someone was comparing the net carbon output of various sorts of power generation. Nuclear came out as one of the best. But the speaker only let that hang for a few seconds before adding "but if we factor in the carbon dioxide generated by our burning cities after nuclear war inevitably destroys us all, it does far worse!" The audience gave a standing ovation.
posted by aw_yiss at 4:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The conflation of nuclear war with nuclear power is silly and disingenuous.
posted by GuyZero at 4:43 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or perhaps humans could just learn to adapt to actual energy flows and not demand 24x7 electrical power.

"I beg to differ," says the guy on life support.

Well, he doesn't actually say anything because he's, you know, on life support and whatnot and requires the help of a technological advanced society that offers 24X7 electrical power and doesn't act like it's the 1890s because fuck modernity.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Or perhaps humans could just learn to adapt to actual energy flows and not demand 24x7 electrical power.

That would seem to run counter to Silicon Valley's collective business plan.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 PM on June 5, 2013


The isn't Soviet Russia. Electrical company workers don't decide how much power people are going to get. They measure actual demand and build infrastructure to supply it. Power companies run conservation campaigns because it's economically rational - it's often cheaper to spend money on reducing consumption that it is to build new generating capacity.

Is someone really against 24x7 electricity? That's so reactionary I'm a little stumped what to call you ignorant cavepeople.
posted by GuyZero at 4:48 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless we made some massive advancements in battery technology last night the idea that we would willingly go to a non 24/7/365 power grid seems kinda wishful thinking.

Solar/Wind are all awesome but until the power grid is more efficient and battery technology is better you are still going to need some sort of on demand power generation to handle the periods when renewables aren't available.

Hydroelectric has it's issues and geothermal/microwave satellites just doesn't seem to be developing fast enough.

Of course if the scientists would just solve Fusion we could all be happy but they seem be failing to catch up with the dreams of science fiction writers.
posted by vuron at 5:05 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a little stumped what to call you ignorant cavepeople.

Probably not the thing you just did.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:29 PM on June 5, 2013


> We would have a much greener grid, *and* cheaper electricity if we got rid of the arbitrary FIT bonuses and just put a price on carbon & other pollutants.

Yup. Putting a price on carbon-burning enough to cover estimated future costs of climate change would obsolete a lot of cumbersome policy. However, unlike tough collective-action problems, though, FIT is more straightforward for a province of a pipsqueak country to implement.

It would raise the price of electricity, though, which as you show is politically dangerous. If "the rush to subsidize Wind and Solar has added about 5% to our electricity bills" is an outrage, how will the hike associated with a **proper** carbon tax go over?
posted by anthill at 5:42 PM on June 5, 2013


For those who wish that the power that this plant will generate was instead generated by wind power, I give you this infographic (large pdf). See also this video.

Also, compare what France and Denmark chose in the 70s.

I'm certainly not against wind power, but it is pretty obvious that we need a comprehensive solution to electricity genertion that includes safe nuclear power (as has been demonstrated time and time and time again, with masses of evidence), concentrating solar thermal where possible, wind power, geothermal, the lot.

But nukes, which are incredibly safe, as cannot be argued against based on evidence, have to be part of the solution. And the new AP-1000 is the safest of an already safe technology, and over the life of the plant, and if you include carbon prices, not that expensive.
posted by wilful at 6:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


For those who wish that the power that this plant will generate was instead generated by wind power, I give you this infographic (large pdf). See also this video .

Why does that infographic ignore waste storage and fuel mining?

I'd also love to see an infographic that shows the amount of land lost to the fukushima exclusion zone, versus the equivalent in wind turbines.
posted by fruit sandwich at 6:25 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you think wind turbines are made from pixie dust?

Have a look at the inputs for Andasol CST at a scale similar to a nuclear power plant.

3.61 million tonnes of concrete, 1.12 million tonnes of steel, and 0.34 million tonnes of glass, with the total plant covering ~101 km2 of desert. By comparison, the reactor would require 0.24 million tonnes of concrete and 0.015 million tonnes of steel, and occupy 0.04 km2 of land.

Rations - Concrete = 15 : 1; Steel = 75 : 1; Land = 2,530 : 1
posted by wilful at 6:37 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


As for waste, this is 30 years of waste from a medium sized plant, stored in dry storage above ground. The AP-1000 can store all its waste in the reactor pool for its life. I haven't even started with gen-IV reactors, which eat waste.

For mining, this is Beverley uranium mine. Olympic dam's uranium footprint is zero, since it is primarily a copper mine, the net hole size for the U is nothing.

For the Fukishima exclusion zone, the deaths from the evacuation were larger than the additional cancer deaths ever will be. The deaths from increased red meat consumtion in the local area are far far far larger than the deaths from radiation. The deaths from the unprecedentedly massive tsunami were far larger. The deaths from stress and worry over a basically nonexistent threat are probably much larger too. The deaths from actual radiation are not going to be statistically detactable. In actuarial terms, they will be zero.
posted by wilful at 6:47 PM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Good thing we're not running out of steel, concrete, or desert. 101km2 is a 6-mile square. That's not a ton of space.
posted by schmod at 6:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the Fukishima exclusion zone, the deaths from the evacuation were larger than the additional cancer deaths ever will be.

That totally avoids the amount of land lost. What do you think the comparison of deaths and cancers would be if no one had been evacuated?

Do you think wind turbines are made from pixie dust?

That's pretty ungenerous. I'm just hoping for factual data that includes a full life cycle.
posted by fruit sandwich at 7:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know about your funny imperial measurements, but that's ten kilometres by ten kilometres, for one nuclear scale plant. I guess there's plenty of desert, but is there really that much? And the new transmission lines to get them to where the people live. It's not a pretty big ask, it's a freaking enormous one.

For more in this vein, have a read of David Mckay's book/site, "Sustainable energy - without the hot air".
posted by wilful at 7:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's pretty ungenerous. I'm just hoping for factual data that includes a full life cycle.

Cool, so you read my links then.
posted by wilful at 7:05 PM on June 5, 2013


Yes, that infographic is way off on the wind side. 25% NCF? Haven't touched that in years; 35% more like for anything built in the last five years, and I'm due-diligencing plants well into the 40%s. The 20 year life is nonsense, too; that's typically a contract length. 40 years is being thrown around by many manufacturers now — only reason not to keep them so long is that wind turbines are still growing, and taller turbines are so much more economical.

It's futile to compare the size of a wind plant and a thermal plant. I might as well say that a 2MW wind turbine is about the size of a filing cabinet, because that's the size of the generator, stripped of all the infrastructure for gathering the fuel. The actual thermal plant is tiny: but what size the fuel mines, refineries, delivery system; or more critically, the huge amounts of cooling water used by thermal power as a heatsink? Wind power doesn't throw away ⅔ of the power we generate as heat, unlike certain people I could name…

And wilful, no-one's building new CSP these days; it has been crushed utterly by cheap PV. Its material intensity was always a strike against it, so no-one will scale up a plant to nuclear size. We don't have to, with renewables; distributed plants suited to the appropriate local resource is how it works.

And yeah, so what if Ontario renewables take their chunk of the global adjustment subsidy? Wind and solar are new technologies, and new technologies need support to mature in the market. The oldest (commercial) wind farm in Ontario is just 7 years old, and is more than ⅓ through its supported contract life. The youngest nuclear plant in Ontario is 20 years old, and it's still sucking on that subsidy teat, and it will do until it croaks. And if Darlington needs new tubes, it's Doug & Kathy Taxpayer on the hook. Not so for wind; if we have a failure, the owner has to wear it.
posted by scruss at 7:05 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Since the topic of nuclear war has already been breached, does anyone know if the AP1000 will produce weapons grade byproducts, or has that feature been abandoned in order to adopt a safer design? In other words, is this going to be another one of the "well, we could have made a safer plant, but then we wouldn't be able to make as many warheads" power plants the US is famous for?
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:07 PM on June 5, 2013


scruss, could you provide some evidence that wind farms can achieve capacity factors "well into the 40%s". From my understanding, this can't be a technology barrier, it is a simple matter of how much and how consistently the wind blows, so I remain sceptical. Actually I'm sceptical about 35%, since Australian wind farms, well sited and with latest technology aren't achieving or forecasting that.

And you're the first person to disavow CST. It does one thing that PV cannot affordably do, which is store and generate energy over a 24 hour period.

Wind in Australia is heavily subsidised by consumers (not that I have a problem with that). We are all being subsidised by the future through our emissions. Which is my end game.

For me, it's as simple as ABC - Anything But Coal.
posted by wilful at 7:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah. This is good. Very good.

If we ever want to generate power in a non-shitty way we pretty much have to go nuclear. Yes, Fukushima happened. But our alternatives are pretty much burning stuff which shoots noxious chemicals into the atmosphere.

As far as solar energy and wind power is concerned its so highly dispersed that its just sort of impossible to efficiently capture it. Even if we could capture 100% of the sunlight in a square foot of area we wouldn't get all that much. Same with wind.

There's a couple people on here who say we should give up energy in order to have fewer power plants, but I'd like to know what they'd like to give up or how much they'd like their power bill to go up by personally.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 7:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll take back that comment about wind farm capacity of 35% being high, since I just checked the data and 30-35% is the 2012 average. Still, the bigger point is that wind farms do take a very large area (though you can farm underneath them) and the premium sites are starting to be taken up, and I don't mind some visual intrusion but I'm hardly alone in thinking they shouldn't be on every single coastline and ridgeline.
posted by wilful at 7:27 PM on June 5, 2013


The deaths per MW of the solar panels being installed on my roof today, will be less than nuclear power...

I doubt it. Roofing is consistently listed as one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the US.
posted by tychotesla at 7:38 PM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Not just astroturfed. In Ontario, the rush to subsidize Wind and Solar (by 200 to 1000%) has more than doubled our electricity bills, accelerated the decline of our manufacturing sector, and angered many voters.

Note that the last link to that National Post article is a virtual press-release for Ontario Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak, who would probably be fairly comfortable with traditional fossil fuel energy providers running the provincial government, just like they run the national government in Ottawa...

(I personally think that diversifying our grid to more green power is a good thing. I am concerned that the former premier of Ontario began to bring in these innovations in such a way as to annoy people.)
posted by ovvl at 8:07 PM on June 5, 2013


I'm kind of disappointed that the tone of this discussion is some kind of wind/solar vs. nuclear. We need both, to get off goal / gas as fast as possible, and both won't suffice, since neither can ramp up/down to track minute-by-minute electricity demand.

The response should be both/and, followed by "how do we store lots of energy in water/compressed air/car batteries/chemical tanks", or "how do we level our demand by adaptively controlling large electrical loads"?
posted by anthill at 8:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Scruss: I'm on board for wind power in general, but I really wish we could talk about it honestly without optimistic projections or handwavy talk about "technology maturation". The IESO is projecting only a 30% Capacity Factor from it's state of the art fleet of wind turbines to be built in 2013.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:40 PM on June 5, 2013


What? We don't need both at all. As has been previously mentioned in the thread wind and solar are highly inefficient compared to nuclear. They require tons of materials per kw hour and a highly dispersed transmission betwork. Building and investing in solar and wind is a huge opportunity cost. The only reason nuclear plants take ten plus years to build is because of all the beuracratic red tape stemming from a bovine publics irrational fear and rampant nimbyism. There's no reason we can't approve a highly safe standard design every decade and then say "this is safe no more dicking around" at the federal level and then throw up a plant or two every year while working on the next decades plan.

Or we could just throw up a ton of metal and concrete at inefficient solar/wind and feel good about ourselves while we continue to choke on coal dust.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 8:41 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


“but if we factor in the carbon dioxide generated by our burning cities after nuclear war inevitably destroys us all, it does far worse!”

I think there's a pretty good chance that if we have a nuclear war during my lifetime, it will be a war fought for oil.
posted by hattifattener at 8:53 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


And if not, it will be a war over water and arable land, because of widespread climate change, because of oil. Really this whole fossil-fuel thing is kind of a bad idea at this point.
posted by hattifattener at 9:11 PM on June 5, 2013


And you're the first person to disavow CST. It does one thing that PV cannot affordably do, which is store and generate energy over a 24 hour period.

No, this is a thing, CST is losing to PV. Here's a note on Brightsource cancelling 2 planned CST plants that also talks generally about the trend.

Though storage is definitely a huge advantage for CST, it's just not quite there yet and many planned projects didn't have it designed in.
posted by Long Way To Go at 9:30 PM on June 5, 2013


I'm a convert on this one. I used to be rabidly anti-nuclear, but I've seen the environmentalist movement push us toward coal -- and coal is a far worse choice. If you built 30 Fukushima-sized facilities in the US (admittedly a very expensive proposition, but cheaper than a couple of years of Iraq war), you could completely eliminate coal power plants. Obviously they would have to be extremely carefully managed and regulated, but it's a known technology with known risks that can be managed. There's no other technolgy that's as good that can come online as quickly.
posted by miyabo at 9:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not thrilled they're building an AP1000, but I guess only PWR designs are currently approved by the NRC. I hope that the Transatomic or LFTR designs start the approval process soon. I much prefer their safety features to the "passive" design of the AP1000 where you'd better have it back together enough inside three days to start putting water into the coolant tanks.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:32 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's been repeatedly demonstrated that the nuclear options (apart from all its other charms) is waaaaaaay too expensive and too slow to implement to serve as a useful escape from further global warming. Big-money investors moved on many years ago.
What about Montgomery Burns?
posted by deathpanels at 9:54 PM on June 5, 2013


Cool, so you read my links then.

Yes, but I didn't see anything in them talking about waste, and barely a mention of fuel. So basically same problem as the infographic.

As for waste, this is 30 years of waste from a medium sized plant, stored in dry storage above ground. The AP-1000 can store all its waste in the reactor pool for its life. I haven't even started with gen-IV reactors, which eat waste.

That's not long term storage. The impact of facilities to store the stuff for 100,000 years or so until it is safe, needs to be included.

My understanding is that gen-IV reactors are theoretical...

I'm not being facetious about the exclusion zone either. Chernobyl's is 2600km^2, Fukushima's is a bit hard to find, so I took half the area of a 20km circle. Divide by the number of plants (437, is what I got searching) in the world, and you get 7.4km^2, on average per plant lost. Not quite a 101, I grant, but also not a rounding error we can just ignore.
posted by fruit sandwich at 12:43 AM on June 6, 2013


so I took half the area of a 20km circle

Sorry, to be clear, the radius is 20km.
posted by fruit sandwich at 12:51 AM on June 6, 2013


When considering the inputs necessary to construct different kinds of power plants, it is wise to consider not only the amount of material required, but also the energy, and more importantly, carbon dioxide released in its production.

Making concrete requires cement, the production of which releases a rather large amount of carbon dioxide and must by nature. Using less building material per watt is an important consideration.

So is a functioning regulatory state, though, and we're not really where I'd like to be on that front here in the US. I think it is sufficient for what we've got and what we have planned, but much improvement is needed.
posted by wierdo at 4:56 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The impact of facilities to store the stuff for 100,000 years or so until it is safe, needs to be included.

This is a made-up requirement whose purpose is only to make nuclear power scary and costly; nobody seriously believes that industrial processes must sequester their waste until it is safe. Especially because lots of industrial processes produce waste products that will never, ever be safe and so would have to be stored for billions of years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:03 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Has anyone chased the money funding the anti-nuke organisations?
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:30 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since the topic of nuclear war has already been breached, does anyone know if the AP1000 will produce weapons grade byproducts, or has that feature been abandoned in order to adopt a safer design?

No. Natural water PWRs are not breeders and are not got at weapons grade plutonium generation. They do require enriched, but not nearly weapons grade, uranium.

Heavy water moderated reactors can run with natural uranium, but can also be used for plutonium generation. They aren't very good at it.
posted by eriko at 6:20 AM on June 6, 2013


What's the status of all the Thorium stuff? A passively-safe nuke plant is going to be a lot cheaper to build and operate.

fruit sandwich: "I'm not being facetious about the exclusion zone either. Chernobyl's is 2600km^2, Fukushima's is a bit hard to find, so I took half the area of a 20km circle. Divide by the number of plants (437, is what I got searching) in the world, and you get 7.4km^2, on average per plant lost. Not quite a 101, I grant, but also not a rounding error we can just ignore."

Chernobyl's exclusion zone is huge because of the plant's shockingly terrible design -- the fuel essentially caught fire, and the smoke plume dispersed radioactive debris over a huge area. Everything went wrong at Fukushima that could have possibly gone wrong, and the exclusion zone there is still fairly small. This isn't a ringing endorsement of Nuclear power, but one must consider the amount of land that has been rendered unusable by coal mining, as well as the significant death toll that the coal industry incurs every year.

I'm not really convinced that AP1000 is the best design that we could have come up with, but I do think that we need to consider new nuclear technologies as we move forward. We need, need, need to stop burning coal as soon as humanly possible.
posted by schmod at 6:47 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the shorter term I'd be happier if we just contracted with Electricite de France to build and run everything.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:20 AM on June 6, 2013


The response should be both/and, followed by "how do we store lots of energy in water/compressed air/car batteries/chemical tanks", or "how do we level our demand by adaptively controlling large electrical loads"?
Close, but I think everybody is still missing a huge factor in this: Building Design. The problem is not how do we create electricity, that's the straw argument that the regulators and power co's have suckered everybody into. But rather, how do we make the electricity we already have create harness more useful.

I'm sure there's a dozen previously links that I'm too lazy to search fo that go on about geothermal HVAC systems, how local architecture of the 1800's varies across the different climate regions, how roof lines affect interior temperature, etc.

The gist of it is that we now build most residence buildings in a manner that is in spite of local conditions, not complimentary to them. I live an older house in the South that has 12 foot ceilings instead of 8, openable windows over the interior doors, and the previous owners installed geothermal pipes that circulate air through tubes that go 40-50 feet underground where the ambient temperature all year long is roughly 72 degrees. These three things combined mean that I almost NEVER have to run the AC, even to combat the insane humidity we get around here.

Throw a solar panel on the roof and you've got the ceiling fans and fridge covered.

This, despite living within a fallout zone of THREE nuclear reactors, and an hour's drive to the second largest oil storage facility on the east coast.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:51 AM on June 6, 2013


schmod: Everything went wrong at Fukushima that could have possibly gone wrong, and the exclusion zone there is still fairly small

Yeah, careful about how you rave about Fukushima. "Everything that could have possibly gone wrong" did not. The reactors all shut down properly after the earthquake, which is a testimony to good seismic design, and a long way away from "as bad as it could get" (if nothing else, because it gave the government time to evacuate the exclusion zone). Whether you think that is a pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear argument depends on what you're looking for.

Blue_Villain: There is certainly lots that could be done to reduce energy use by new buildings (see LEED). However your enthusiasm should be tempered by at least two things: 1) The vast majority of buildings are already built, and the kind of design changes you advocate could never be retrofitted without a costly (and energy intensive) demo. 2) New ways to build houses are inherently risky. For instance, the underground air tubes you mention have been implicated in dangerously poor indoor air quality.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:17 AM on June 6, 2013


Counter:
1) The vast majority of buildings are already built. So have the vast majority of power plants. We're talking about NEW plants, which would also imply the need for large quantities of time to pass, which would then allow for new buildings to be built.

2) New ways to build houses are inherently risky. These are not NEW ways to build... these are ways that buildings were built 100 years ago. It's the "new" ways that don't work as well. Even geothermal temperature control is not a new thing.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:27 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those wondering about the backlash against wind and solar, it's pretty heated here in Massachusetts right now. Several solar projects have been scuttled due to community fears about EMFs, aesthetics, etc.

Wind turbines are being fought and shut down all over the state, including a recent close vote not to spend millions to tear down and repay the costs of turbines. The MassDEP is now working on studies and better sound regulations in response to organized uproar.
posted by ldthomps at 10:11 AM on June 6, 2013


I'm a convert on this one. I used to be rabidly anti-nuclear, but I've seen the environmentalist movement push us toward coal -- and coal is a far worse choice. If you built 30 Fukushima-sized facilities in the US (admittedly a very expensive proposition, but cheaper than a couple of years of Iraq war), you could completely eliminate coal power plants. Obviously they would have to be extremely carefully managed and regulated, but it's a known technology with known risks that can be managed. There's no other technolgy that's as good that can come online as quickly.

You wouldn't need to completely eliminate the coal plants, just the coal boilers. You could reuse all the generating system since the steam turbines used to run the generators don't really care if the water is boiled by coal, gas, nuclear or pixie dust. those site already have the infrastructure in place for transmission, the locals are used to being next to a power plant and you could put the reactors on the other side of the generators and redo some plumbing and off you go.

It has been stated before, but comparing modern reactors to Fukushima is like saying everything build by Chevrolet is an unsafe as the Corvair (about the same amount of time has passed since the design of both to modern times). A huge problem with all the existing nuclear plants that need to be shut down is that the enviromental groups won't let them be replaced with modern safe designs. San Onofre is a real good example of trying to limp along a bad design because power company really, really needs that generating capacity for California but all the people in California who use that electricity thing you get it from Pixie dust apparently. I bet edison would love to rebuild/build a new modern reactor that is cheaper to run if they could.

If we took all the fuel waste made by all the reactors in the US since nuclear power was introduced and put it together in one spot it would fit (easily) inside a modern stadium. Considerably less if the containment is done more efficiently than the current dry cask method. So build a nice concrete dome in the middle of Edwards AFB, put it all there and wait for it to cool off. BTW it will cool off (become less radioactive) to background levels in about 600 years. You still have a heavy metal toxicity problem after that, but no radiation danger.
posted by bartonlong at 10:27 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chernobyl's exclusion zone is huge because of the plant's shockingly terrible design -- the fuel essentially caught fire, and the smoke plume dispersed radioactive debris over a huge area. Everything went wrong at Fukushima that could have possibly gone wrong, and the exclusion zone there is still fairly small. This isn't a ringing endorsement of Nuclear power, but one must consider the amount of land that has been rendered unusable by coal mining, as well as the significant death toll that the coal industry incurs every year.


Coal mining is not considered in the the to wind turbine to nuclear plant land use comparison.

Also, not everything that could have gone wrong, did at Fukushima. The luckiest thing for the Japanese in that whole disaster was that the wind was blowing out to sea during the worst of it. If the plume had been blowing inland, the exclusion zone would have been much, much bigger.
posted by fruit sandwich at 10:30 AM on June 6, 2013


State of the Art:
Jan. 31, 2012 - the 1.2GW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Unit 3 near San Clemente, CA is -scrammed- as the result of a leaking steam generator tube; Unit 2, just 'overhauled' at a cost of $670 million, shows similar signs.

Blazecock could list leaks all day long and never diminish the glowing hopes of the faithful and their highly-paid astroturfers. Considering that most of them are vigorously covered-up, there's little doubt that the real numbers are 10 times larger.

Doesn't matter. This little installation will cost $20B when the shouting's over, and there still won't be anywhere to hide that waste either. Lemmings.
posted by Twang at 11:51 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


> ... wind farms can achieve capacity factors "well into the 40%s"

Sure, and it's a function of taller towers and longer rotors allowing development of less windy sites. Take, for instance GE's 1.6/1.7-100 models, or Vestas's V110-2.0. Both of these manufacturers are quoting capacity factors in the 50%s for a hub height wind speed of 7.5 m/s. On 100m towers, 7.5 m/s happens in many more places than you'd think.

(This march in capacity factors for new equipment caused the anti-wind REF to shoot themselves hilariously in the foot by claiming a huge drop in capacity factor as wind turbines age, when in fact their analysis just shows that new turbines are more awesome than ever. I wrote some less-funny-than-I-thought-it-was-at-the-time analysis of their faux pas here. <self_link />)

Regarding CSP, overnight storage is seldom worth it. Evening and night time power demand is so low that you can barely give the stuff away.

> The IESO is projecting only a 30% Capacity Factor from its state of the art fleet of wind turbines

Are you sure? The 29% mentioned on p.10 includes all of the existing assets in Table 4.1, operational as at April 2013. That includes a lot of 77m ⌀, 80m tower height GE-1.5sl machines which were quite spiffy when they went in in 2006-2007. What's mostly going in now in Ontario is 101m ⌀, 100m tower Siemens 2.3MW machines. Some of these projects will be operational this year, some in 2014, and I know of one that's expected to be in the low 40%s NCF.

> We don't need both at all

No, we do, and I don't think I have any colleagues in the nuclear industry who would say that we could get by on 100% nuclear. Nuclear energy is almost a 100% capacity source; that is, it provides its response to demand by being on all the time at or near full power. If demand in a system drops below the baseload generation, a SBG situation occurs (and are mentioned in Popular Ethics' link). This forces reactors into a shutdown, curtailment (where already paid-for heat is used to warm up a nearby waterbody) or negative pricing situation; all situations nobody wants. Most nuclear technology doesn't vary power very well, and it can sometimes be worthwhile for a nuclear operator to pay to deliver power for a short while rather than curtail.

[Power generation is weird: available technology is only one leg of the stool, the other two being "political will" and "financial risk". That's why Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air is technically correct but immensely unhelpful in almost all situations. It only addresses technology, which doesn't stand on its own.]
posted by scruss at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our model evaluated over 28 billion combinations of renewables and storage, each tested over 35,040 h (four years) of load and weather data. We find that the least cost solutions yield seemingly-excessive generation capacity—at times, almost three times the electricity needed to meet electrical load. This is because diverse renewable generation and the excess capacity together meet electric load with less storage, lowering total system cost. At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90%–99.9% of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs comparable to today's—but only if we optimize the mix of generation and storage technologies.--"Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time." Journal of Power Sources, 1 March 2013.
It is nuclear energy that is unnecessary.
posted by No Robots at 2:40 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Jan. 31, 2012 - the 1.2GW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Unit 3 near San Clemente, CA is -scrammed- as the result of a leaking steam generator tube

And today: Southern California Edison announced Friday it would shut down the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant.

It's the circle of life, I suppose: one gets built, another closes.
posted by scruss at 9:21 AM on June 7, 2013


More links about San Onofre.
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on June 8, 2013


We would have a much greener grid, *and* cheaper electricity if we got rid of the arbitrary FIT bonuses and just put a price on carbon & other pollutants.

There are a number of problems with assuming this. Firstly as others have pointed out the political will to adopt a wide ranging carbon tax is not there in many places. Secondly, you have to be able tomake it work. The EU version has once again gone tits up, with the price of carbon dropping through the floor.

Even if you can get the carbon tax to work the problem then becomes that to invest in these technologies investors want to see some stability of demand. The potential for the value of carbon free energy to drop if the market goes into shock (e.g. because someone gives out too many permits or the economy has a downturn so emissions drop) tends to push up the risk for RE and thus the cost of capital, and since RE is very capital intensive this tends to mean hgher unit costs for RE. Now since no-one has really had an effective carbon tax in place there is a certain degree of conjecture here. However, this argument is strongly rooted in the argument which has been going on in RE circles for the last decade as to whether market mechanisms are more effective than FITs. It is pretty well established that well managed FITs actually do cost less per unit of RE generated than an RPS or similar market type mechanism since they significantly reduce risk. This advantage is greater at lower scale applicaitons of the technology since admin and transactional costs of RPS mechanisms tend to grow substantially as a proportion of total costs as the size of installations reduces.

The problem, as scruss mentions, is that you can't just stick a wind turbine up the year the carbon price is good and hope forthe best, you need to create stable market conditions in order that the technology continues to be developed and prices continue to come down. Eventually the cost may be lower than that for traditional energy sources.
posted by biffa at 5:12 PM on June 9, 2013


biffa you are conflating two very different carbon pricing mechanisms - cap and trade (Used in Europe's carbon offset market, and has all of the problems you mention) and a carbon-tax. A tax is a government-set that won't change with market fluctuations. Furthermore, FITs may be very effective at guaranteeing return for wind turbine operators, but that is no measure of success. Instead of picking winners, set a price on pollution and let the market decide which technology is the best to use and when.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:49 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're right, I was being very sloppy there.
posted by biffa at 2:34 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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