[FoRK] why the nuclear energy industry is dying

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Jun 18 09:32:10 PDT 2013

On Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 10:34:34AM -0500, mdw at martinwills.com wrote:

> One of the failures of the article is to cite the scientific fact that
> solar panel/cell technology is a red herring.  All citations to solar
> panels/cells cite optimum/maximum capacity of the cells under ideal
> conditions.  I have installed solar panels at my home and empirically

I don't see how ideal conditions enter the equation, these are
real world data like you see on http://www.heise.de/tp/blogs/2/154467

Sure, this is only electricity, but these are considerable fractions
of total demand, reached routinely.

The bad part is that if you look at the fraction of total energy,
you notice that it's pitiful. And you don't heat houses with
electricity, trucks and ships and jets don't fly with electricity,
and you can't fertilize your land with electricity either.

> discovered that when the temperature rises above 70F, their power output
> drops nearly logarithmically (living in an area where the temperatures
> reach 100F, my solar output is only 20-30% of their rated power during

What is measured is total output, not theoretical output. Si panels
don't do well in hot climates, but that's not intrinsic to the

> those temperatures). Also my $15,000.00 investment for the 4KW system will
> take 28 years to pay off using the common equation of using the difference
> of my grid energy costs to my savings of not being on the grid (also
> failing to take into consideration replacing batteries, controllers, and
> or panels due to failure).

End user batteries are not worthwhile yet, so if you're off-grid you'd
have to limit back-up to the barest necessity.
> Another failure of the article is to explain how the current solar
> panel/cell production facilities in the U.S. are, or nearly are bankrupt
> (several of these production facilities made news recently when it was

Yes, everybody is completely clobbered by cheap panels from China.
Siemens and Bosch just exited the solar thermal markets.
There is a tariff war on solar PV between EU and China.
Resident solar is unconvinced, because due to slashed subsidies
you need very cheap panels so that the market doesn't collapse

> discovered they declared bankruptcy after receiving millions of dollars of
> taxpayers money by the Obama administration). Furthermore, the prices of

Negligible. Happens all the time with immature technologies, and
doesn't raise an eyebrow.

> the panels/cells are nearly wholly subsidized by tax dollars. Solar

No, they're not. Depending on where you are you can get FITs, but 
these are going fast. And dollars? WTF?

> panel/cell technology is a failure and no amount of media spin can change
> the physics proving that as temperatures increases their solar power
> output decreases (don't even think about raising the fact that global
> warming will exacerbate the production of solar panel/cell energy in the
> future).

Well, you've just launched a quite nice red herring of your own.
> Same argument with wind power.  Most wind farms and wind turbines of
> sufficient power to be used by the grid, are built by companies that are
> almost completely subsidized by the tax payers (US companies). Wind is

I don't know why you always say US, I don't care about US. 
The US has made their own choices, which I think are rather poor,
but given that we're boiling in this here pot together it doesn't
matter that much.

> also significantly less predictable than the day and night calculations
> used with solar panel/cell technology.

I'm sorry, but EEX has this prediction built-in. Check the archives,
they're really accurate. The problem is conventional plants with
high thermal inertia, these can't adapt fast enough and gas turbine
peak plants are uneconomic, and need subsidies since they only
run few weeks per year. My hunch is that the battery part is going
to deal with both local and overnight load levelling, plus MWh
scale batteries and hydrogen/methane for seasonal buffers.
> I read the article and don't know if the author brought up the fact that
> today's nuclear reactors used in the U.S. were designed and built using
> 1940's and early 1950's physics and technology.  There is a new and

The article is talking about new nuclear. Old plants are money-makers,
but unsafe and in the process of being shut down. 

> revolutionary reactor design (utilizing 21st century physics and
> technology) by a prominent Japanese company that is far safer (designed
> using know physics principals that guarantees that upon losing water, the
> supercritical nuclear reaction ceases and it automatically shut itself
> down without intervention), cost effective (are built using modular,
> production line methods), easier to install (dig a large hole, install and
> then bury, thereby guaranteeing a person doesn't need to be being
> physically present to monitor when operating), and produces significantly

Can you order such reactors? No? I wonder why. And these are *breeders*,
right? Because we're not interested in reactors which have to be dismantled
after 20-30 years (factor these costs in, and also factor the costs
for waste storage), just because they've run out of fuel due to peak
fissible (which is 2020, by the way). And they better have onboard 
fuel processing, too, because if you look at the duty cycle of existing 
fuel reprocessing facilities, you can just shut them down, and nobody's 
going to notice.

> less nuclear waste. However, the controversial decision to abandon the
> plant and cover it with concrete after it exceeds it's useful life needs
> to be reconsidered IMHO.

Naw, we just build 2000 new reactors/year, for the next 40 years
(hey, these are only 80000 reactors total, can you count what you
average distance to the next one would be, and the annual accident
rate would be?). 
> Personally I am ambivalent over nuclear power generation, all of the
> energy production methods suggested by the author contains cost statements
> that don't properly account for all of the costs of any of the power
> generation solutions cited.

Let's agree that whatever the real numbers are, they're not bargains.
And this asks for long-term contracts, where people are loath to commit
to prices which are already not competitive.

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