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Phoronix 2011 Chernobyl Nuclear Tour

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  • #81
    Originally posted by Cyberax
    Nope. This report is simply misleading. EVERY (yes, every) power generation method receives subsidies from the government. For the alternative generation methods (wind and solar) these subsudies so far exceed the commercial cost of generated power several times. For the coal, the figure is about 0.5 times and for the natural gas about 0.3 times.
    I don't think you have bothered reading the document [1]. At no point it is claimed that nuclear power is the only energy source being subsidised. Perhaps you felt that my comment citing this report could be misleading in the sense that an uninformed reader would not realise the existence of subsidies across the board. However, my post was in response to an observation made by Fenrin, who expressed doubts about wheter nuclear cost "calculations include risk from severe catastrophes like from Tschernobyl or Fukushima" and/or "waste management/recycling costs". In this context, there is absolutely nothing misleading, and actually it turns out that under the light of this report Fernrin's concerns are not only valid, but fully spot on.

    I can't read the whole document for you or anyone else, but I can cite some excerpts so that you get an idea of its contents and maybe you feel the curiosity to go through it at some point, instead of dismissing it a priori and making incorrect claims about it.

    - Regarding subsidies to nuclear security and risk management, "nuclear power is not the only energy source receiving protection from accident risk through federal subsidies. Other examples include risk reduction from catastrophic dam failures, coal-mining accidents, and oil spills.[...] However, the issue is particularly important for nuclear power; the industry itself acknowledges that commercial reactor development probably would have not occurred without the Price-Anderson Act's caps on privaty liability". Subsidies falling in this category include "caps on private liability for nuclear accidents; funding of industry oversigth functions provided by the NRC; inadequate requirements for plant security; and nuclear weapons proliferation via expansion of the civilian nuclear sector". Suffice to say that "the $20 billion trust BP has established to cover its expected damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, is nearly 2.5 times the nuclear industry's liability coverage for all off-site damage on a present-value basis".

    - Concerning decommissioning and waste management, again, "nuclear power is not the only energy source to be so challenged. Many dams, for example, have virtually no finalncial provisions for decommissioning". However, "what puts nuclear in a separate category is the presence of a great deal of radioactivity within the reactor core and related components, a higher anticipated cost than these other resources, and the very long time frame during which nonoperating reactors may require site security and monitoring". These category includes subsidies to nuclear reactor decommissioning and the nationalization of waste management responsibilities.

    - All in all, for existing reactors, from 1960 to 2008, legacy subsidies amounted to about 140% of the value of the power produced. For ongoing subsidies, "the low-end estimate for [privately owned reactors] amounts to 13% of the current value of power produced", which "is more than 35% of nuclear production costs". "In fact, including even the lowest estimate for ongoing subsidies in today's power prices would erod nearly 80% of the production cost advantage of nuclear relative to coal". For publicy-owned reactors, the lowest estimate for subsidies is double this amount, or 75% production costs, which renders them higher than coal. For high-end estimates the authors found subsidies ranging from 70-100% of the value of power produced.

    - The situation for new reactors is not much different. "Legacy and ongoing subsidies to existing reactors [...] are not sufficient to attract new investments in nuclear infrastructure. Thus a growing array of new subsidies has been rolled out in the past decade. The objectives of these polices are identical to those of of the largest subsidies of the 70s and 80s: to reduce the private cost of capital for new nuclear reactors and shift "long-tail" risks of the nuclear fuel cycle away from investors". In terms of percentage of the value of the power produced, subsidies to new reactors range from 88% to 200%, touching everything from initial financial investments to uranium mining, plant operation costs and safety, decommissioning and waste management subsidies.

    Now, all this is important for two reasons. The first is that the much touted economic advantage of nuclear power over other energy sources rests largely on public subsides. Secondly, a number of these subsidies have the effect of distorting the risks faced by the industry, which results in the socialisation of costs.

    Another often heard myth--actually more of a disingenous observation--is the comparison of power output from nuclear power and renewable sources, or colourful variations of this theme such as comparing production costs or subsidy levels normalised to power output. The underlying assumption here is that nuclear power and renewable technologies are at the same stage of development, i.e. that they are similarly mature technologies, which is patently false. As a consequence, figures based on this assumption seem to indicate that there actually is a physical reason why nuclear power appears superior to renewables, and suggest that pursuing further development of the latter is a futile and wasteful environmentalists' dream. But what is the reality of the situation? How can it be that one of the oldest and simplest energy sources known to humans--wind--is underdeveloped when compared to the extraordinarily complex technology needed to tame the atom? No technical reasons, but political ones. Data downloaded from the International Energy Agency website provides part of the answer [2]:

    The accumulated R&D budgets that each technology received during the last 35 years in IEA countries speaks for itself [2]:

    So nuclear alone received 6+ times more support than all renewables together in the context of IEA countries. But things are actually worse. By definition, novel technologies are expected to receive higher levels of support in R&D than already consolidated ones. For instance, late 70s is roundabout the date when modern wind power generation started. Thus, the data reflected in the two previous plots is not ideal to compare the extent to which nuclear and wind power were pursued by governments throughout the world. Historical data from the situation in the US indicates that "nuclear industry received about 30 times more support per KWh output than wind power in the first 15 years of the industry's development" [3]:

    "[...]the support for technological development for nuclear power, when compared to renewable sources for a period of 15-25 years, allowed the creation of economics of scale in the industrial infrastructure, from which the industry has obtained a competitive advantage" [3]. The reasons why nuclear power appears to have an edge over other technologies are far from being fundamental, physical or technical as nuclear advocates, out of ignorance or malice, would have you believe.

    To finish, I'll point out that despite all the missinformation about renewables spread by the pro-nuclear lobby, these power sources are here not only to stay, but to get an increasing share of the global energy production mix. From the IEA's World Energy Outlook 2010 [4]:

    Renewable energy sources will have to play a central role in moving the world onto a more secure, reliable and sustainable energy path. The potential is unquestionably large, but how quick their contribution to meeting world's energy needs hinges critically on the strength of government support to make renewables cost-competitive with other energy sources and technologies, and to stimulate technological advancements.

    The greatest scope for increasing the use of renewables in absolute terms lies in the power sector. In the New Policies Scenario [hypothetical scenario based on current and announced policies worldwide], renewables-based generation triples between 2008 and 2035 and the share of renewables in global electricity generation increases from 18% in 2008 to almost one-third (catching up with coal).



    • #82
      Originally posted by Cyberax View Post
      We should reprocess the fuel and bury the remaining amount of high-activity waste in the Yucca Mountain.
      Yucca Mountain, if it ever clears the legal and regulatory hurdles to opening, is already full. What's your plan B?


      • #83
        When I read this thread I remembered the nuclear waste treatment facility in the south of France that was shaken by a blast Monday afternoon. The explosion in French nuclear facility kills one, injures four. French authorities say that no radiation was leaked in the incident. It all got resolved without major damage (except someone died).