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Mr. Gabriel is just completely out of touch them. No surprise there. All credible studies no nuclear life-cycle emissions puts it at a tiny fraction of coal plants, at about the same level as wind power and below solar power.

A quick googling gives:

And energy issues are not that complicated, really. It's just common sense and lots of little details. As it is fundamentally based on nature and material flows it's inherently more simple than some of the absurdly complex things things humans have invented, like the capitalist economy.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 03:58:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"more simple than some of the absurdly complex things things humans have invented, like the capitalist economy."
If you think of it in these terms, you're right. I just thought that it must be much, much easier to determine what kind of energy use had what effects at what costs (before I began reading about the issues).
Thanks for the graphs, I already thought that Gabriel must be wrong. The SPD is obviously still very fond of the idea that coal might still play an important role in the 21. century.
On the other hand, uranium is also slowly depleting. We really need to focus more on the demand side, IMHO.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 04:25:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coal will play a huge role in the 21st century, albeit a far smaller role than many people think as it seems we are approaching peak coal far faster than anyone thought just a few years ago.

The upside being that climate change will be a far smaller issue than for example the gentlemen at the IPCC thinks. I for one don't worry that much about it anymore.

I wouldn't worry much about uranium either. The new prospecting increased reserves by 50 % in 2003-2005. If we could do that with oil and coal no one would be talking about peak oil or peak coal.

But I definitely think we must look very closely at the demand side.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 06:15:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coal will play a huge role in the 21st century
I was thinking more of the German coal lobby's waning grip on the SPD than the global role of coal. If you consider China, it sure looks different.

On uranium, I found this graph:  
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But from what I read on wikipedia, it's really not so bad.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 12:54:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, peak uranium is not relevant for a number of reasons, the most obvious that new prospecting is massively increasing reserves.

Then we have lots of more or less working technologies to massively extend the resource base (increased enrichment, reprocessing, breeding, sea water extraction, thorium etc).

According to peak oil guru Kenneth Deffeyes ("World Uranium Resources", by Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Ian D. MacGregor, Scientific American, January, 1980), an increase in the price of uranium by ten times will increase the supply of uranium that can be economically mined by 300 times.

The nuclear industry can pretty easily afford such prices as fuel is such a small part of total costs. In 1980 the inflation-adjusted uranium price was about $40 current per pound (and I guess this is the price Deffeyes reers too) compared to $135 today after the recent massive run-up in prices, from about $6-7 per pound at the turn of the century. To realise the 300 times potential of Deffeyes, prices must triple from current levels. Not that we really need 300 times larger reserves of uranium.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 03:55:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but on the very short term (next two years), we now have a scarcity of uranium: during 1Q07, there has been catastrophic flooding in two separate U mines (cigar lake in canada, and one in australia). In my view, and at a time when a huge inventory of above-ground U is in the hands of hedge funds, this is not a coincidence. Basically, some new plant will delay start-up simply because they cannot secure the fuel, being auctioned out of the market (initial loading is the biggest ones, and new players don't have the long-term contracts already signed).

Pierre
by Pierre on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 04:01:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but in the long run...

Still, the extreme lack of price elasticity of uranium makes oil look like a joke.

The only short term (less than 5-10 years) substitute for uranium ore is more SWU's (more intense enrichment). But I think enrichment capacity is pretty much running full bore, which is why they are building Geroges Besse II, USEC's American Centrifuge and Urenco's US centrifuge (and either AREVA is part of that or planning it's own US enrichment facility).

On top of that, the old gasseous diffusion facilities are horribly energy inefficient. Tricastin use something like 2700 MW while the replacement is going to be about 5 % of that.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:37:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Something kcurie and I were wondering about: what is the price elasticity of oil, and (while we're at it) of uranium?

Defined as

(Price elasticity of demand) = (price / demand) * [(change in demand) / (change in price)]

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:39:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can't compare because the oil market is spot and liquid, whereas the U market is mostly legacy multi-decade contracts, the spot is new and marginal.

In both cases, the spot exhibits near zero elasticity. But in the case of oil, it tells much of the true story, where as in the case of U, it may not be significant on the long term.

Pierre

by Pierre on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 07:07:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think GBII will give a lot of room for tail reprocessing in Europe. But the market remains cornered: who owns basically all the tails in Europe, close to half the tails in the world ? Areva...

They are on the same side as the hedge funds and the U exploration company, to fuck the newcomers. And it puts Areva in a strong selling position in Europe: buy my EPR, my price, cos' if you buy Toshiba, I won't procure you rods, and I'm the only guy in town with rods. Screw you.

Pierre

by Pierre on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 07:04:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, are there any French legal obstacles to accepting foreign spent fuel? That would make nuclear power far more attractive from a political point of view for small nations who don't feel the political cost of a small nuclear program can be justified.

Buy Areva EPR= get fuel and we'll take your waste, either permanently or put in int the reprocessing backlog, effectively storing it at La Hague for decades.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 07:44:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is precisely forbidden. Reprocessed fuel (either into MOX or long term storage containers) must be sent back to its producer. There is even a treaty against it (I think its Basel).

Pierre
by Pierre on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 08:00:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's illegal here too, but I didn't know there was a treaty.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 08:40:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to peak oil guru Kenneth Deffeyes ("World Uranium Resources", by Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Ian D. MacGregor, Scientific American, January, 1980), an increase in the price of uranium by ten times will increase the supply of uranium that can be economically mined by 300 times.

Strange thing an oil guru says such blind things.

Think of peak oil, think of oil sands specifically. Even if the recoverable supply increases dramatically, what matters is the level of production -- and that can't be run up as fast for the lower-grade supplies. (Note that even today, recovery focuses on the very highest grades among what is characterised as recoverable.)

Another point is that once you go for lower grades, the amount of Easrth moved and the CO2 emissions associated will blow up, too.

Realistically, I think nuclear will continue stuck with modest growth, thus use the highest grades for a little longer, while industry advocates will continue to argue for their technology with the opposed claims of little environmental impact and potential expansion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 12:01:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those low figures for nuclear are debated by others, but even I haven't heard of any study claiming that nuclear would be anywhere near coal. I will check what Gabriel referred to.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 09:37:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After a first search, I think you mis-remember what you heard. I find Gabriel argued with higher CO2 emissions in the debate over Steinkohle vs. Braunkohle in the distribution of 2008-2012 emission certificates -- correctly saying that sub-bitumenous coal has higher CO2 emissions per electricity generated.

But I search further, maybe he did say it about nuclear, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 09:52:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure that it was nuclear vs. coal. He said it on some TV show, probably "Sabine Christiansen". Just a small sentence, but it stuck in my head.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 12:31:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Checking further, I found two different things.

On one hand, there really was an SPD politician who made that claim, but it was current party chairman Kurt Beck.

On the other hand, I find that the below referenced Öko-Institut numbers come from a study asked for by Gabriel's ministerium (the full study is here (pdf!)), which looked separately at CO2 per 1 kW electricity production and combined 2kW heat and 1kW electricity production. Only the latter comparison shows only block heating gas as better than German nuclear+oil heating, so I think Gabriel shouldn1t be the person arguing for coal beating nuclear.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 01:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I told Turambar that there are other numbers than those; I didn't have much time for searching, here is just one, which isn't that different -- the GEMIS numbers by the Öko-Institut:

Specific lifecycle CO2 emissions in g/kWh = t/GWh:

Subbituminous coal power plant: 1153
Bituminous coal power plant with imported coal: 949
Subbituminous coal heating plant: 729
Bituminous coal heating plant with imported coal: 622
Natural gas combined cycle power plant: 428
Natural gas combined cycle heating plant: 148
Nuclear power plant (uranium imported only from South Africa), without spent fuel storage: 126
Multicristalline solar cell (with current energy supply for manufacturing): 101
Natural gas block heating power plant: 49
Hydroelectric power: 40
Nuclear power plant (present resource use in Germany), without spent fuel storage: 32
Solar electricity import from Spain: 27
On-shore wind: 24
Off-shore wind: 23
Biogas block heating power plant: -409[Typo?]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 12:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
-409[Typo?]

No, not a typo.

That's an actual number coming out from a completely fucked-up model meant to give the desired numbers, in that case, extol the virtues of heat/power cogeneration, using an argument I just cannot understand. Makes no fucking sense. See the explanatory paper

When comparing electricity-only options like nuclear, wind etc. with combined heat and power (CHP) generation (i.e. cogeneration), one must deal with the additional non-electric - but still useful - heat output supplied by the cogeneration system. To do so, first the total CO2 emissions of the cogeneration system (i.e. the emissions from generating both electricity and heat) are determined. Then, the emissions of a heating system delivering the same amount of heat are subtracted ("credited"), because the cogeneration system not only generates electricity, but also replaces heat supply from another system - say, an oil heater - and, hence, replaces also its emissions.

For example, the production of 1 kWh of electricity in a gas-fired internal combustion engine (ICE) cogenerator substitutes about 2 kWh of heat which does not have to be produced separately. The CO2 emissions thus saved are credited to the cogeneration system.

How do they compute that credit for the heat? Compared to burning coal to generate the same heat?

If they want to compared on a CHP basis, they need to compare the total output of a biomass cogeneration to the output other sources would require in electricity to also generate that heat. It will probably make the biomass cogen look extra double plus good but, fuck, going negative on CO2 emission is an amazing "methodology". Nothing is CO2 negative unless it collects CO2 in the atmosphere and buries it in the ground. Nice way to spin numbers. This is gold-plated bullshit of the first order.

For what it's worth (no details either), a UK parliamentary report gives nuclear at parity with wind.

About the figure for nuclear power, as the Öko-Institut doesn't give the break-down in the explanatory paper, I would assume it's the same joke as the very entertaining Wise Uranium numbers which, for enrichment, assume both the most energy-expensive enrichment process (gaseous diffusion) and the worst way of supplying that energy (low efficiency coal plant).

The coal assumption has a veneer of validity for the USEC plant in Paducah, Ky as it's powered by TVA electricity which is in part, generated by coal, the rest coming from hydro (Hoover Dam, etc) and nuclear. But, an other example, the EURODIF gaseous plant uses off-peak electricity from the 4 Tricastin PWR reactors. That demonstrates that the enrichment phase can be CO2 free and that nothing specifically requires the use of fossil fuel for it, as opposed to, for instance, open pit mining where the trucks are fueled with diesel (yet shaft mining machines run mostly on electricity so ...).

And anyway, USEC and EURODIF are moving to centrifuge so those CO2 numbers are obsolete in any case and at least a 20x factor off not matter how the energy is produced.

As I'm cross-checking the Wise numbers, I note that the Wise slide has this comment:

The CO2 emissions increase considerably with decreasing ore grades, but are still by far lower than from electricity generation in fossil plants.

These figures cover only the operation of the fuel cycle facilities. The situation may change, if CO2 emissions from construction and decommissioning also are taken into account.

Emphasis mine. I love the ominous "caveat" about construction and decommissioning. "The situation may change..." Yeah, really? Can they show a credible scenario where building and destroying a nuclear plant would significantly alter the CO2 balance?

For reference, a 1,600 MW EPR reactor requires 250,000 m3 of concrete, about 200,000 t of cement if it's all high compressive strength concrete, that is 250,000 t CO2 (1.25 t CO2 for 1 t cement on bad days).

There are other sources for CO2 building a plant - transporting all the stuff on and off site, etc. - but, at least, that quick calculation gives an order of magnitude for the most obvious CO2 suspect - concrete in the plant. If the life cycle of an EPR plant emits more than 2 million ton of CO2 excluding the fuel cycle itself, someone needs to show me a detailed, fully sourced analysis.

And an EPR will produce 80 to 100 GWa_e over its lifetime, so reducing those hypothetical 2 million ton of CO2 to each GWa_e, that's a 25,000 t CO2 increment to the 300,000 t to 600,000 t CO2 per GWa_e numbers given by Wise for the front-end fuel cycle.

In other words, their little innuendo is 100% bullshit. They can't demonstrate their point so they punt to an unevaluated issue, knowing most will swallow it without asking questions.

For the rest of the slide, I don't know where their numbers are coming from but given what shows up when I look at the enrichment numbers, I'm entitled to have my doubts.

There's no direct URL for the slide I refer to. Watch the whole slide show for yourself. If you select all chapters, the slide in question is #67, next to last.

-

Dodo, that's the problem with all those "green" think tanks. They tweak and spin the numbers to match the goal. Everywhere you peek, you find enormous claims, gross obfuscation and numerical hierophancy at every corner and when you cross-check, the balloon pops invariably.

And compared to other offenders like Greenpeace, Wise is positively tame. Given the bull they pull on CHP, I suspect that Öko-Institut is more in the Greenpeace league.

by Francois in Paris on Sun Jul 15th, 2007 at 04:35:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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