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Nuclear Power Is No Solution For the World’s Energy Problems

Nuclear power is no solution to the world’s energy problems. Not even close.

It’s important for electric power but electric power is not even 40% of the world’s energy supply—nor is it expected to increase much over the next 30 years.

IEA projects that nuclear power will account for only 5.5% of world energy supply in 2050 (Figure 1). That’s an increase of only 0.5% from 2020.

Figure 1. IEA most-likely scenario is for nuclear to account for 5.5% of world energy supply in 2050—an increase of 0.5% from 2020. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Nuclear power has limited application beyond electric power generation and some heating capability. Yet the outlook is not much better for nuclear to increase as a major source of electric power either. IEA’s most-likely scenario is for nuclear to account for only 12.5% of electric power supply in 2050 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. IEA most-likely scenario is for nuclear to account for 12.5% of electric power supply in 2050. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Electric power currently accounts for about 39% of world energy supply (Figure 3). IEA estimates that it will only increase to about 41% by 2050.

Figure 3. Electric power will increase from 39% to 41% of world energy supply by 2050. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2021 is largely in agreement with IEA’s assessment of both electric and nuclear power. Unlike IEA, however, EIA provides data to account for the considerable energy losses during power generation, transmission and distribution. The losses amounted to 64% in 2020 (Table 1).

Table 1. EIA electric and nuclear net power to the electric grid and energy losses. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

When losses are included, net electric power to the grid is expected to increase from 19% in 2020 to 28% in 2050 (Figure 4) instead of 41% in IEA’s evaluation shown above in Figure 3.

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France to build up to 14 new nuclear reactors by 2050, says Macron

French president says ‘renaissance’ of atomic energy industry will help end country’s reliance on fossil fuels

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron made his announcement during an visit to the eastern industrial town of Belfort. Photograph: Jean-François Badias/AFP/Getty Images
Emmanuel Macron has announced a “renaissance” for the French nuclear industry with a vast programme to build as many as 14 new reactors, arguing that it would help end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and make France carbon neutral by 2050.

“What our country needs … is the rebirth of France’s nuclear industry,” Macron said in a speech in the eastern industrial town of Belfort, in which he lauded the country’s technological prowess.

The centrist French president, who is expected to announce his campaign for re-election this month, is conscious of a growing debate about energy ahead of this spring’s presidential vote as costs to consumers rise. Environmental issues are also a growing concern among French voters.

Atomic energy provides about 70% of French electricity, and low-cost nuclear power has been a mainstay of the French economy since the 1970s, but recent attempts to build new-generation reactors to replace older models have become mired in cost overruns and delays.

Presidential candidates on the right have supported more nuclear power plants saying France should have “sovereignty” over its electricity, while detractors on the left have warned of the cost and complexity of building new reactors. Environmentalists have raised safety concerns over radioactive waste that remains deadly for tens of thousands of years.

Macron said French nuclear regulators were “unequalled” in their rigour and professionalism and that the decision to build new nuclear power plants was a “choice of progress, a choice of confidence in science and technology”.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s offshore wind resources are huge

Nuclear energy is not the solution to achieving Canada’s emission reduction targets. Offshore wind power is safer, less costly, and carries none of the risks of nuclear technology.

Canada’s offshore wind could deliver more energy than nuclear power. The aging CANDU nuclear reactors are being refurbished at substantial cost in an effort to keep them up and running for a few more years. But this is only a stopgap measure.

The six reactors at Pickering will be shut down before 2024; the reactors at Bruce, Darlington and Lepreau will continue to generate power for perhaps a decade or so; but the era of power generation from the CANDU reactors in Canada is drawing to a close.

Canada has committed to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The federal government has made it clear that it considers nuclear power essential for meeting these goals. In 2020, minister Seamus O’Regan, at that time the minister of natural resources in the federal government, stated in a keynote address to the Canadian Nuclear Association, “Our government understands the importance of nuclear energy in meeting our climate change goals…We are placing nuclear energy front and centre.”

But the nuclear technology the federal government is pinning its hopes on is not the CANDU design. The concept now being strongly promoted by the government is small modular reactors (SMRs). An action plan has been launched; the obligatory roadmap has been drafted and published.

At the present time, this action plan is more wishful thinking than a realistic scenario. No prototype SMR has been constructed; the final design has not even been selected from the ten technical proposals currently under consideration. The government’s claim that SMRs will help Canada meet its 2030 emission reduction targets is simply not credible.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Germany closes half its remaining nuclear power plants

Germany closes half its remaining nuclear power plants

The shutdowns of three plants take place as Europe faces one of its worst-ever energy crises and as support for nuclear as a low carbon energy is, once again, on the rise.

Germany's Grohnde nuclear power plantThe Grohnde nuclear power plant is one of three being shut down on Friday

Germany is to shut down three nuclear power plants on Friday, as part of the country’s phase-out of nuclear energy.

The closures take place as Europe faces one of its worst-ever energy crises and as nuclear power is, once again, gaining support as it produces significantly less carbon dioxide.

The plants in Brokdorf in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, Grohnde in Lower Saxony and Unit C at Gundremmingen in Bavaria in the south are being taken off the grid.

The decommissioning process will take two decades and cost €1.1 billion ($1.25 billion) per plant.

Germany: The end of nuclear power plants

Where does this leave nuclear in Germany?

This means that in 2022, Germany will have just three nuclear power plants — in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony.

They are due to cease production in exactly a year’s time, cutting nuclear energy output by around four gigawatts — equivalent to the power produced by 1,000 wind turbines.

However, two plants that produce fuel and fuel elements for export may continue to operate.

The closures will officially end the nuclear phase-out for domestic energy production started under former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel’s government made the decision in 2011 after the accident at the Fukushima atomic power plant in Japan.

An earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal plant in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

Germany's Brokdorf nuclear power plantThe Brokdorf plant is one of three nuclear power stations in Germany being shut down on New Year’s Eve

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Germany “Imperils” Power Grid By Pulling Plug On 3 Nuclear Plants

Germany “Imperils” Power Grid By Pulling Plug On 3 Nuclear Plants

As nat gas prices surge in Europe, Germany is kicking off the new year by moving ahead with plans to shutter three of its six remaining nuclear power plants, making good on a commitment made in the aftermath of Japan’s disastrous meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The decision was championed especially vigorously by the Greens, who are now helping to rule as part of Germany’s new “stop sign” ruling coalition. But soaring natural gas prices across Europe mean this concession to the environmental lobby couldn’t come at a worse time.

Above: One of the shuttered plants, located in Gundremmingen. Source: Reuters

It’s a decision that could have consequences for the US. As we have complained before, the AOC-backed “Green New Deal” mostly excluded nuclear, by far the most efficient and useful alternative to fossil fuels, instead choosing to rely solely on inadequate “renewables”. And as Reuters adds in its report, Germany’s decision to pull the plug represent an “irreversible” pivot away from an energy source deemed “clean and cheap by some.”

Here’s more from Reuters:

Germany has pulled the plug on three of its last six nuclear power stations as it moves towards completing its withdrawal from nuclear power as it turns its focus to renewables.

The government decided to speed up the phasing out of nuclear power following Japan’s Fukushima reactor meltdown in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal plant in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The reactors of Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C, run by utilities E.ON and RWE shut down late on Friday after three and half decades in operation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New England is an Energy Crisis Waiting to Happen

New England is an Energy Crisis Waiting to Happen

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner

At its core, the human body is a symphony of chemical reactions. The complexities and interdependencies of the molecular machinery that makes our bodies function are almost too staggering to ponder. As any chemist can attest, chemical reactions are usually quite sensitive to temperature, and sensitivity to temperature varies substantially across reaction pathways. As such, temperature control not only dictates reaction rates, but it also influences product and byproduct distributions. At one temperature, two reagents might react cleanly to produce a desired product with high purity. At a different temperature, an undesirable pathway might become more kinetically favored, leading to the accumulation of unwanted impurities.

One of the miracles of the body is its ability to maintain strict internal temperature control, which allows it to regulate the speed and product distributions of the myriad of chemical reactions that are occurring inside you as you read this. The equilibria are delicate, so much so that fluctuations of a mere few degrees can be fatal. This concept of “normal” body temperature is widely understood, but its direct, vital connection to the core chemical reactions occurring inside you is less well known.

Because internal temperature is critical to sustaining life, the body has developed elaborate heat management systems, including discomfort nudges (like shivering and sweating) that are meant to directly generate or shed heat and motivate you to relocate to a more suitable environment. If you stand outside for a few minutes in the winter wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, you become uncomfortable rather quickly. Return inside to a warm fire and a rewarding comfort envelops you. Just don’t get too close to the fire, lest the body be forced to nudge you back outside.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Bad To Worse: Another French Nuclear Reactor Cuts Output Due To Strike

From Bad To Worse: Another French Nuclear Reactor Cuts Output Due To Strike

France’s energy crisis worsened overnight when another nuclear power plant had to reduce electricity output. Power prices jumped as the government requested one of the largest utility companies to restart more nuclear reactors amid cold weather.

Following last week’s shuttering of two nuclear power plants by Électricité de France S.A., commonly known as EDF, a French electric utility company primarily owned by the state, after safety inspections found cracks in at least one nuclear reactor, another one was closed Monday due to a worker strike.

EDF said an unplanned outage at the Bugey Nuclear Power Plant in eastern France was due to a strike. Output at reactor four was cut from 800 megawatts to 180 megawatts.

France’s grid remains under pressure due to the recent nuclear power plant loss. The day-ahead power price rose to the highest level since 2009 on Sunday and was priced even higher on Monday.

European natural gas climbed above 143 euros.

At least 25% of the EDF’s 56 atomic reactors are offline for maintenance. For some context, this is highly unusual for this time of year, considering the Northern Hemisphere winter is about to begin. A cold spell has sent much of the country into a deep freeze as power demand soars.

Like everywhere else in Europe, the power crisis in France has worsened Monday as power prices from France to Germany are at elevated levels.

German power prices hit a record on Monday.

France’s Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili has called on EDF to restart some nuclear power plants to avoid blackouts.

“I asked that EDF employees work to reopen them earlier in order face any possible shortages,” Pompili said.

Temperatures are forecasted to hover around zero degrees Celsius in several European countries this week as the power crisis across Europe worsens.

European Nuke Plants Offline As Power Prices Hit Record 

European Nuke Plants Offline As Power Prices Hit Record 

Bloomberg’s Chief Energy Correspondent Javier Blas tweeted a disturbing map of European day-ahead electricity prices that will hit record highs on Monday.

“EUROPEAN ENERGY CRISIS: Wow, wow, wow… I’m running out of words to describe the European short-term electricity market,” Blas said.

He continued, “Multiple records breached for Monday. With the exception of Poland and Scandinavia, all Europe is above €300 per MWh (France and Switzerland near €400).”

The continuation of surging power prices, as Blas explained, is due to “Lots of nuclear reactors are down, demand is high (electricity used for heating), so it’s burning gas to bridge the gap.” 

Days ago, we told readers multiple nuclear power plants in France were taken offline due to routine safety inspections that found cracks at one power plant.

European daily power demand continues to soar as colder-than-normal temperatures are present across the continent.

Benchmark natural gas prices surged to a new high last week, up more than 650% on the year, on concerns of declining gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline that runs across Belarus and Poland to Mallnow, Germany; low storage on the continent, and geopolitical risk.

European natural gas prices hit a new record high.

The amount of gas entering Germany at the Mallnow compressor station collapsed. The pipeline only booked for 4% of space for Dec. 20.

The latest geopolitical flare-up occurred last week when Germany’s federal network agency, Bundesnetzagentur, said Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline won’t be cleared until July. On Sunday, Germany said they could entirely block the Nord Stream 2 if a possible conflict between Russia and Ukraine erupts.

Europe’s energy crisis worsens and risks sparking discontent among many Europeans. How long until politicians order utilities to implement price caps on power rates? If politicians want to stay in power, they might also have to subsidize people’s power bills as energy inflation runs wild.

France’s EDF Shutters Two Nuclear Power Plants After Cracks Found

France’s EDF Shutters Two Nuclear Power Plants After Cracks Found

Électricité de France S.A., commonly known as EDF, a French electric utility company primarily owned by the state, shuttered two nuclear power plants after routine safety inspections found cracks at one power plant.

EDF wrote in a press release, “preventive maintenance checks on the primary circuit of reactor number 1 of the Civaux Nuclear Power Plant” found cracks due to corrosion on the pipes.

“Checks initiated on the same equipment of reactor number 2 of the Civaux Nuclear Power Plant revealed similar defects,” the French power giant said.

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) was informed about cracks detected close to the welds on the reactor’s pipes.

EDF temporarily closed Civaux to “replace the affected parts on the two Civaux reactors, the work being governed by a technical instruction prepared in cooperation with the ASN, which leads to extend the shutdown of the two reactors,” it said.

EDF has also chosen to close two reactors at another nuclear plant at Chooz in the northeastern Ardennes department for inspections. Both power plants use the same reactor technology.

The temporarily closing of Civaux’s reactors and Chooz’s reactors will reduce one terawatt-hour of output and couldn’t come at the worst time as cooler weather sent French power contracts to a record high earlier this week.

A power reduction could suggest strain on the power grid amid cooler weather and higher power prices.

The Record-Breaking Failures of Nuclear Power

The Record-Breaking Failures of Nuclear Power

Photograph Source: Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power reactor – CC BY 2.0

The Tennessee Valley Authority could likely rightfully claim a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, but it’s not an achievement for which the federally-owned electric utility corporation would welcome notoriety.

After taking a whopping 42 years to build and finally bring on line its Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power reactor in Tennessee, TVA just broke its own record for longest nuclear plant construction time. However, this time, the company failed to deliver a completed nuclear plant.

Watts Bar 2 achieved criticality in May 2016, then promptly came off line due to a transformer fire three months later. It finally achieved full operational status on October 19, 2016, making it  the first United States reactor to enter commercial operation since 1996.

Now, almost five years later, TVA has announced it has abandoned its unfinished two-reactor Bellefonte nuclear plant in Alabama, a breathtaking 47 years after construction began.

TVA was apparently happy to get out of the nuclear construction business, because, as the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported, the company “did not see the need for such a large and expensive capacity generation source.” No kidding!

Ironically, this is precisely the argument used to advance renewables, in an energy environment that cannot and will no longer support inflexible, large, thermo-electric generators that are completely impractical under the coming smart grids as well as climate change-induced conditions.

Accordingly, TVA was more than happy to accept overtures from a purchaser for Bellefonte — the Haney real estate company— whose director, Frank Haney, gained his own notoriety by lavishing $1 million on former President Trump and courting Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, possibly, suggested media reports, to curry regulatory favors for his new nuclear toy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America’s Energy Strategy is Bonkers

America’s Energy Strategy is Bonkers

Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery. The price of crude oil has been higher than it was at the end of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic. While OPEC+ recently agreed to production increases, these increases will not fully offset previous production cuts that OPEC+ imposed during the pandemic until well into 2022. At a critical moment in the global recovery, this is simply not enough. President Biden has made clear that he wants Americans to have access to affordable and reliable energy, including at the pump.” – Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor (emphasis added)

Almost a decade ago, the official mascots of the London 2012 Summer Olympics were revealed. It didn’t go very well. Meet Wenlock and Mandeville:

At the time, I was perusing a magazine article collecting various reactions to the mascots – I think it was in Time but I can’t be sure – and one commentator delivered a line that will stick with me forever.

This can only be the work of a committee. It has cc written all over it.

I am reminded of Wenlock and Mandeville as I observe America’s rambling approach to energy policy over the past several years. When you ponder the logical consequences of where we are headed, it is hard not to conclude that this too must be the work of a committee, and a disjointed one at that. More on the members of that committee a little later.

Let’s start with the opening quote for this piece, which I took from an official White House statement, because it is quite the stunner. The President and his allies are limiting domestically produced oil and gas at every opportunity, which should come as no surprise – they ran for office on exactly this policy, after all…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Germany Schnitzels Itself After Ditching Nuclear, Coal Power For Green Pipe Dreams

Germany Schnitzels Itself After Ditching Nuclear, Coal Power For Green Pipe Dreams

As Germans continue to ‘enjoy’ the highest power bills in Europe, critics are warning that green energy solutions aren’t being deployed quickly enough amid the closure of its last nuclear reactor, and a sharp (and possibly early) reduction in coal electricity generation – putting the country’s ability to meet peak demand over the next two years in jeopardy.

This, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party slumping to an all-time low in popularity.

“There is no doubt that security of supply must be high on the priority list of the next government and political action is urgent,” said RWE energy’s chief economist, Alexander Nolden. “The new climate law is a real game changer for Germany. It means a much higher ambition and will demand much higher speed for the changes needed.”

Merkel admits her government got it wrong. Power demand will probably increase more than official forecasts by the end of the decade, she said in June. A month earlier she recognized that increasing local opposition and too much bureaucracy have curbed investments in green power.

For a long time, Germany showed the world how renewable energy could be added to make up a substantial share of the power mix. Now, the Norwegian utility Statkraft SF says it takes twice as long to build a wind park in Germany compared with the U.S. Complaints from locals, a lack of space, stricter environmental standards and a longer permitting process are just some of the reasons growth is slowing. -Bloomberg

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Whatever happened to China’s revolutionary molten salt nuclear reactor program?

Whatever happened to China’s revolutionary molten salt nuclear reactor program?

Several years ago during a radio interview, the host told me that the Chinese were planning on deploying a commercial modular molten salt reactor (MSR) by 2020. For context, these nuclear reactors are based on existing technology demonstrated by previous operating prototypes, can use fuel that is hundreds of times more abundant than the only naturally occurring fissile isotope (uranium-235), are resistant to making bomb-grade material, and cannot suffer meltdowns. Modular design could allow them to be built in factories and shipped ready to install to any suitable location.

The host was confident about his prediction because it had come from one of the many books circulating at the time telling us how great the human future would be and that new technology would solve all the world’s major problems including hunger, climate change, environmental pollution and resource scarcity. This would happen in part due to abundant energy produced by MSRs even as human populations continued to grow.

Sticking to the narrow question of MSRs, I opined that development of complex technologies takes far longer than anticipated and that there are unique challenges in the utility industry. I guessed it would be 20 years before a viable commercial Chinese MSR would appear.

While the Chinese did recently begin construction of a demonstration modular nuclear reactor, this reactor is of the light-water variety—the kind that is already widely in use, that is subject to the catastrophic meltdowns that haunt the nuclear industry, that uses uranium as its fuel, and that can foster proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The pressurized water reactor mentioned in the news release linked above is a type of light-water reactor (LWR). The design is undoubtedly safer than previous LWRs. But it still suffers from the many drawbacks of LWRs and seems unlikely to be widely adopted.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When climate breakdown goes nuclear

Barakah
Wikipedia
Nuclear is on the front-line of climate change – and not in a good way.

Climate models have run hot in the last year. 

As knowledge of climate sensitivity and polar ice melt-rate evolves, it’s become clear that sea-level rise is significantly faster than previously thought – which means more frequent and destructive storm, storm surge, severe precipitation, and flooding.

With extreme events that are rare today becoming the norm in the future, existing risk mitigation measures become increasingly obsoleteThe corollary to this analysis is that present and planned coastal and inland nuclear installations will be at significant risk.

Coastal

In other words, nuclear’s sustainable electricity claim sits in the context of a much larger picture – that coastal and inland nuclear will be one of the first, and most significant, casualties to ramping climate impact.

As the world heats, ice stored at the poles and in glaciers melt and sea levels rise.

With a recent NASA study based on 25 years of satellite data finding that global sealevel rise has been accelerating rather than increasing steadily, the Arctic is melting so rapidly that its now 20 percent thinner than a decade ago, weakening a major source of the planet’s cooling. [1]

Meanwhile, satellite data shows the Greenland Ice Sheet has lost a record amount of ice in 2019  – equivalent to a million tons per minute.

With the climate crisis heating the Arctic at double the rate in lower latitudes, the ice cap is currently the biggest single contributor to sea-level rise, and already imperils coasts and coastal populations. [2]

Model

This is all the more concerning since very recent research reports new early-warning signals indicating that the central-western part of the Greenland Ice Sheet is undergoing a critical transition.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nuclear Reactions At Chernobyl “Cause for Concern”

Nuclear Reactions At Chernobyl “Cause for Concern”

Sensors have detected increased levels of neutrons in an inaccessible chamber at the Chernobyl site, signaling that nuclear fission reactions are taking place in the entombed reactor hall, Science reports.

The signs that fission reactions are occurring come 35 years nearly to the date when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what is now Ukraine exploded on April 26, 1986. It was the worst-ever nuclear disaster in the world to date.

The nuclear fission reactions are taking place in a room that is sealed with concrete and contains a large part of the uranium fuel of the former reactor.

Ukrainian scientists are now trying to assess whether the detected nuclear fission reactions will die out or create a larger problem that will require some type of extraordinary intervention.

“It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit,” Neil Hyatt, a nuclear materials chemist at the University of Sheffield, told Science.

Maxim Saveliev of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, says that the scientists cannot rule out the possibility of an accident.

“We’re talking about very low rates of fission, so it’s not like a fizzing nuclear reactor,” Hyatt told New Scientist.

“And our estimation of fissile material in that room means that we can be fairly confident that you’re not going to get such rapid release of nuclear energy that you have an explosion. But we don’t know for sure,” the nuclear materials chemist noted.

According to Hyatt, the higher level of neutrons is a “cause for concern but not alarm.”

However, if sensors continue to detect rising production of neutrons, the site may need an extraordinary intervention, Hyatt said. One approach could be to drill into the entombed chamber and spray it with a substance such as gadolinium nitrate, which would stop the fission reactions.

 

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