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I don't take that nuke-noise very seriously. Nobody can seriously expect a revival of nuclear power, seeing that it is the most dangerous, most expensive way of producing energy and problems for the next few thousand years.

I take it as lobbyism for last century's big power stations instead of renewables. Like the tactics kids use (at least in jokes): "if you want a dog and your parents refuse, say that you want a sibling or two. Then they will buy a dog to make the kid shut up."

The Greens in government will inevitably push for wind and solar (because it makes sense, and because that is where their donors sit anyway). Nuclear power is absolutely unacceptable to them (and to the vast majority of the population). Everything else would kill them in the next elections (and that is not only federal elections). The only question is, if they will agree to long phase-outs for coal and for gas-driven traffic, and cardom in general.

Then, of course, what will they do for social rights in a government with FDP and whichever of the large parties. I should rather say "what will they do against social rights", I think.

The future with a Green party that is as right-wing as the German Greens does not look well. A future without them doesn't either, though. They may agree to a policy of pushing for renewables and some more railways while not overly disturbing the car industry, combined with throwing the poorer third of the population under the bus. That would disappoint large numbers of their voters, but there is no party in sight that would do better.

Sorry that I can't contribute some optimistic content.

by Katrin on Sun Oct 3rd, 2021 at 07:38:02 PM EST
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One real advantage of nukes is that they can directly replace a coal-fired plant. Both use steam generators with similar characteristics, both support the fake "base load" concept built into the current rate structures, both connect into the existing centralized power station grid infrastructure. Also it is a "known" technology (with both pros and cons), so can be installed with using an existing, predictable regulatory process.

Changing from coal to wind or solar is complicated. You have to deal with the variability, with the lack of inertial supply, with the rate structure, and you have to run a bunch of new power lines.

I am not defending nuclear power because I think it is the wrong way to go. Also I think that the anti-nuke community would make that "existing, predictable regulatory process" a lot less predictable. But if you want to implement an immediate crash program to get off coal and onto a carbon-free (not accounting for the massive carbon emissions associated with construction) power system, nukes do have some advantages over distributed sources.

by asdf on Sun Oct 3rd, 2021 at 10:10:35 PM EST
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I think a main problem for nuclear power now is economics. Within the electricity market as it is constructed today, nuclear has a problem.

Gas or hydro or whatever is used as topload, is turned on when prices are high and of when prices are low, so they get the high rates. Nuclear and wind and solar are price takers, they run normally as much as they can (which for nuclear is static (or down for maintenance) and for wind and solar is variable).

So nuclear competes within the same market segment as wind and solar which has extremely low marginal costs in operation, and is cheaper to install. Absent massive subsidies or a re-worked market structure new nuclear isn't economically viable.

Of Sweden's twelve reactors, two were closed by political decisions - Barsebäck in 2005 - and of the remaining ten, four is either closed or are shutting down because they are not commercially viable and the cost of getting them up to date was prohibitive. The last six - the newest ones - have undergone extensive renovation.  The closed ones couldn't compete with wind power as investment, and this was already existing plants were, although a lot would be replaced, the site and the plant itself already existed, and the company was renovating other plants.

by fjallstrom on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 08:45:29 AM EST
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In the US, at least, nukes are considered part of the "base load" supply. It is not the reactor that is the problem, it is the boiler and the piping and the turbines that do not like to be thermally cycled. And those parts are pretty much the same in a coal or nuclear plant.

Solar and wind can be curtailed, but are not counted as "dispatchable" power because they cannot be turned on at any time (solar, only in the day; wind, only if it is windy). A gas-turbine can be started from cold in a few minutes.

I think there are some terminology problems, but that is how they are categorized in the US industry.

by asdf on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 06:24:10 PM EST
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The terminology is fine - topload, baseload, intermittent.

As a note: The technologies used as topload can for practical purposes also be used as baseload, and if overbuilt, technologies normally placed in the baseload bin or the intermittent bin can be used to load balance if you set up the system to spill power. And a large enough intermittent grid would go towards a pretty stable average. But let's stick with the conventional terms for now.

Even though the grid is built for baseload plus topload the market, at least in EU, is built around getting paid (and paying) per kWh, with the price set by demand and supply at each moment. And in such a market baseload has no advantage on intermittent, they both simply get the average price over time, so the difference is on the cost side where wind now has the advantage.

The external costs of adapting the grid is laid at the feet of the entity responsible for the grid, but then again they tend to have monopolies, so they manage.

At least in Sweden, we have had this market system since the early 90ies, so my guess is neoliberalism + EU. Other markets are possible, we had a very different energy market before the 90ies, but I don't think a fundamental reform is likely.

by fjallstrom on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 08:57:45 PM EST
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"One real advantage of nukes is that they can directly replace a coal-fired plant."

Define "directly". Re-activate old nuclear power stations that have been shut? They would still go through a process of applying for permits, trying to get staff etc. And that for stations that are old and mostly beyond their scheduled life. It doesn't sound very realistic, and would take longer than installing the same capacity in wind and solar.

And that's not even talking of new nukes. Planning periosds of 30 years and longer, I guess, and we are not even talking of costs and political costs.

Nuclear power in Germany is dead, and that is a good thing. I doubt that it can be re-vived elsewhere, too.

by Katrin on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 09:27:57 AM EST
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I used to be pro-nuclear in 80s, turn anti-nuclear in the 90s and finally turned nuclear-apathetic while watching the slow unfolding of the satire know as Olkiluoto number 3.

Currently 13 years behind schedule, they hope to finally produce power to grid next year. But there has already been 17 delays, so nobody's holding their breath.

The other new Finnish nuclear power plant, Hanhikivi, is currently 5 years behind schedule, and they haven't even started the construction yet.

To me it looks like nuclear power is it's own worst enemy.

by pelgus on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 10:41:38 AM EST
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Its own worst enemy indeed: you can add Flamanville 3 in France (10 years delay and over €10B overrun) and Hinley Point in the UK to the list.

The nuclear advocates are no longer arguing that nuclear electricity is cheaper, but that it is the only way to achieve our transition to carbon neutral energy, no matter the costs: there are entire careers and positions that depend on that.

by Bernard on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 02:15:06 PM EST
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What do you know: just found this in Politico.eu:
FRENCH PUSH NUCLEAR OPTION: Some countries believe that the current squeeze offers an opportunity for more long-term structural change. A letter by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire circulated to ministers ahead of this afternoon's meeting and seen by Playbook, says that "more structural changes could be explored." In particular, he argues that "in the longer term, the European Union should focus on achieving energy independence by investing in all decarbonized means of energy production."

Cuts to the case: Le Maire also makes the argument that nuclear energy should be classified as green by the Commission. "It is important that the European Commission also enables the development of nuclear energy. In this regard, the rapid inclusion of nuclear energy within the European taxonomy framework and in state aid regulations is absolutely necessary."

by Bernard on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 06:36:11 PM EST
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by Oui on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 10:56:42 AM EST
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According to your link, VVD is gearing up for massive subsidies.

IIRC, Hinkley's state aid got approved in the end, that is in the court. So maybe Netherlands state aid would also get approval from the Commission. Funny how the right is very flexible about the holy market when it comes to nuclear power.

by fjallstrom on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 09:12:06 PM EST
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Hinkley Point C: ECJ Confirms Commission's Approval of Aid to Nuclear Energy Plant

No "nuclear exception" from State aid law

Aid in the nuclear sector is at the unique cross-section of two Treaties: The Euratom Treaty and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. If, where and how the Euratom supersedes the TFEU is thus a crucial question for aid in the nuclear energy sector.

The General Court accorded a broad scope of application to the Euratom Treaty, in particular Article 106a (3) Euratom Treaty. This provision states that the provisions of the Treaty on European Union and of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union shall not derogate from the provisions of the Euratom Treaty. The General Court held that Article 106a (3) of the Euratom Treaty prevented principles of EU environmental law from leading to a negative State aid assessment.

The ECJ departed from this part of the ruling, holding that aid that violated EU environmental law could not be deemed to be compatible with the internal market and could thus not be authorized.

by Oui on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 10:11:32 PM EST
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What I meant by "nukes directly replacing coal plants" was not the plant itself, which obviously has to get over all sort of regulatory and political hurdles. And cost hurdles, where "too cheap to meter" meets "OMG it is really expensive!"

Instead, I was looking at the grid connection aspect. Large centralized plants, whether fired by coal or oil or atoms, feed into the grid from that centralized location, and the distribution to customers is configured with mostly radial power lines leading to neighborhoods. Distributed supplies, like solar and wind, tend to have their own site grid that collects the power and then feeds it into the distribution grid. But that connection point is not where the old coal plant was, it is out in the boonies somewhere.

So if you have a coal plant and want to replace it with solar and wind, one of the things you need to do is a substantial reconfiguration of the grid. If you drop in a nuke where the coal plant was, the grid wiring is already in place.

Colorado Springs is doing something similar as it replaces its old downtown coal plant. They have shut it off, and are pulling out the coal boilers--but replacing them with gas turbine generators. The gas turbines are meant to be temporary (we'll see!), but the underlying reason for this approach is that the grid as currently configured needs to be fed from that existing location.

An open question is whether they will retain the old generators from the coal system to be used as synchronous condensers, to provide reactive power and freqency inertia.

by asdf on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 06:38:32 PM EST
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Yes, you can "directly" convert a coal power station by gas, and you have made perfectly clear why this makes sense, temporarily. The same is not true for nuclear, though.

I am a bit baffled how this thread on the end of the Merkel era became focused on nuclear power. It was the red-green government which had decided the (eventual) end of nuclear power in Germany. Merkel revised that when she came into power. The anti-nuke movement immediately re-organised and became a lot stronger. We were furious, and if Merkel wanted a fight, well... We made sure we would be ready for that. Then Fukushima "happened", support for the anti-nuclear movement exploded, and Merkel back-pedalled, because there was no chance for her to win. All our fury and our ideas for activism, and the efforts of organising suddenly were left without an opponent.

I wonder where we would have landed if she hadn't. What impact would the fight against her revival of nuclear power have had on society in general, and the environmentalist movement? Would this fight have moved people to the left, who now had got a chance to remain quiet again?

by Katrin on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 08:23:12 PM EST
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If there is a particularly bad winter and widespread blackouts, or a particularly hot summer, or unusually big snowstorms or floods, the "let's just build some nukes" mindset is not far from the surface. That probably applies everywhere.
by asdf on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 02:06:01 AM EST
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