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Re: [cdn-nucl-l] Fw: The future of nuclear power
Although I liked the article by Inhaber (he has been a
consistent clear head over the years), I am not impressed with the
Heartland web site. It is so biased towards the free-market,
go-USA, capitalism forever camp that I expected to trip over Charlton
Heston. And sure enough, there it was listed under Think tanks /
web sites of interest: the National Rifle Association.
I am not impressed by people who use rational thought to support /
promote their view rather than use rational thought to develop
views. They are not seeking the truth; they are seeking to
dominate. Driven by fear of being dominated, I suspect.
At 10:17 AM 2001-02-20 -0500, Jerry Cuttler wrote:
Interesting article by Inhaber,
----- Original Message -----
From: Price, Terry C(Z76182) <TCPRICE@apsc.com>
To: Multiple recipients of list ans-pie
Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2001 12:02 PM
Subject: The future of nuclear power
> The following was sent hard copy to me from an environmental
> acquaintance. It is pretty self explanatory and follows along
some of the
> current communication on this list. The web site
> has some other interesting areas.
> Terry C. Price
> Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station
> P.O. Box 52034 Mail Stop 7526
> Phoenix, AZ 85072-2034
> Phone 623-393-5031 Fax 623-393-5285
> Digital Pager 602-658-0017
> email firstname.lastname@example.org
> Environment & Climate News
> January 2001
> Contents <../nov00/contents.htm>
> The future of nuclear power
> The world has changed dramatically in the 50 years since
> power first came to the U.S. The industry's future has ebbed and
> . and today it appears poised for a dramatic comeback.
> by Herbert Inhaber
> Certain article titles appear, reappear, and re-reappear. After
> Presidential election, the question asked is, "What will the
> do?" After a contentious sports event, the headline often is,
> criticize referees."
> In the energy arena, the title that has appeared more often
> those in the nuclear industry would like to admit is, "The
> power." Observers must get the impression the industry behaves
> sometimes it's up, and sometimes it's down. And there would be some
> that impression, as public opinion about nuclear power has varied
> But through all of the industry's ups and downs, one truth
> No new energy source has made a greater contribution to the world's
> for electricity since World War II, over half a century ago.
> What is more, there is nothing on the horizon--not renewables,
> fusion, nor anything else--that is likely to supplant nuclear power
> most important new electricity source for decades, if ever.
> People in the Third World are not likely to be satisfied
> with one light bulb hanging in the living room. And here in the
> our electric bills continue to climb because we find ever more
> plug into the wall. As the world demands more electricity, it will
> use more fossil fuels or nuclear. Hydro-electric may help meet the
> some parts of the Third World, since there are many undeveloped
> there. But all the others are also-rans, finishing so far down the
> they can't be seen.
> Public opinion and nuclear power
> There have been three periods when the future of nuclear power
> looked brilliant.
> In the beginning, right after World War II, all was light.
> Newspapers were filled with articles on how nuclear power would
> life. Dirty coal, the main fossil fuel generating electricity at the
> would be eliminated. We might even drive around in nuclear-fueled
> Then reality set in. A reactor that was both safe and
> compared to its competitors would have to be designed. Dozens of
> proposed; most were abandoned. Government and industry sponsored
> of engineers. By the 1960s, the first designs were ready to be
> It was unclear at the time how much market share nuclear would
> from fossil fuels and hydro. The first reactors were one-of-a-kind.
> first of anything always costs more than later editions.
> It was around this time that Lewis Strauss, one of the members
> the Atomic Energy Commission, hosted a dinner meeting for reporters
> would haunt the industry. Strauss shared his dreams of what the
> be like hundreds of years into the future, when he said disease and
> would be eliminated and nuclear power would be too cheap to
> Anti-nuclear groups conveniently dropped the fact that Strauss
> of future centuries, not predicting the next decade, and they have
> the industry since then for not fulfilling the "too cheap to
> Since that time, members of the Atomic Energy Commission and
> successor, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have kept their dreams
> Oil shock a nuclear boost
> The nuclear industry grew slowly but steadily, building on the
> success of the first reactors. The industry's main competition came
> oil-fired plants, which benefitted from historically low
> The first oil shock occurred in 1973, when foreign oil
> quadrupled the price of petroleum. The public assumed oil was about
> out, sparking enormous interest in nuclear power. Reactor
> sparking the second era of nuclear optimism. The Nixon
> its Project Independence report, envisioned perhaps a thousand
> (There are slightly more than 100 in the United States today.)
> The euphoria lasted a few years. Unfortunately for the nuclear
> industry, its price per reactor rose rapidly, due partly to
> rates attributable to the oil shock. Nuclear power would always be
> than oil-fired electricity, but it was difficult to beat coal, the
> which rose less rapidly than oil.
> Then came Three Mile Island. The risk to human health was small,
> the extra costs tacked on to existing and future reactors by
> were massive. Scores of reactor orders were cancelled.
> A new century, renewed promise
> Since Three Mile Island, the nuclear power industry gradually
> become more efficient, in cost per unit of electricity produced,
> been in the past. Today, some observers suggest a third era of
> at hand.
> Several factors have lifted the gloom that enveloped the
> during much of the 1980s and 1990s.
> Deregulation. Deregulation of the electricity-generating
> has boosted nuclear's chances, although many thought it would sink
> once and for all. Until deregulation, nuclear power plants had
> incentive to improve their operations, other than Nuclear
> Commission orders handed down from on high. With deregulation--and
> industry is by no means fully deregulated--every
> plant has been put on notice that it is in competition against
> could be shut down if operated inefficiently.
> The impact of deregulation is evident in the prices paid for
> plants in the last few years.
> Until deregulation, the idea that a nuclear reactor could be
> and sold like a slab of beef was unheard of. The first few sales
> disappointing to the industry. Reactors were sold for not much more
> cost of their carpeting, indicating investors had little faith in
> But in the last year or two, that has changed. Reactors are
> sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Investors think they can
> money in a deregulated market.
> For a fossil fuel plant, most of the cost per kilowatt-hour lies
> the fuel itself. But for a nuclear reactor, most of the cost lies in
> capital investment. Since many reactors are already paid for, the
> gravy for investors.
> So the market, which did not play much of a role in the
> industry in the past, has determined, at least for now, that
> reactors are gold mines.
> Natural gas. The second factor boosting nuclear power is the cost
> natural gas, which in recent decades has been the nuclear industry's
> competitor. (There was also what I call a "ghost"
> about which more later.)
> For years, natural gas prices remained fairly constant.
> produced from natural gas was cheaper than nuclear in almost every
> the country.
> That dynamic changed in 1999. Along with the tripling of
> prices came the doubling of gas prices. Since most of the cost
> electricity is the gas itself, this implies an eventual
> cost of this electricity source. Natural gas has become
> expensive than nuclear almost everywhere.
> Trying to predict natural gas prices is like guessing the winner
> the World Series 10 years from now. But the fact that prices could
> within a few months has shaken the confidence of those who said
> could meet our electricity needs for decades, and therefore called
> dismantling the country's nuclear infrastructure. If the price of
> fuel could be tied to the decisions of petroleum dictators half a
> away, how reliable a fuel is it?
> Kyoto. The proposed Kyoto treaty on global warming will also
> dramatically affect the future of nuclear power.
> Many articles in this newspaper have expressed skepticism that
> global warming, if it exists at all, is much affected by human
> share that skepticism. But the fact remains that Kyoto, if it ever
> into place, would be the most far-reaching energy treaty in the
> the world.
> In one of Sherlock Holmes' stories, the dog that did not bark
> a vital role in solving the mystery. In all the voluminous United
> documents dealing with climate change, the word "nuclear"
is rarely, if
> ever, mentioned. Yet it is the only viable source of electricity
> generates almost no carbon dioxide over its energy cycle. (A small
> CO2 is produced when uranium is upgraded for use in reactors, and
> the production of other reactor materials.) Nuclear power is truly
> that did not bark.
> Some evidence of the impact Kyoto will have on nuclear power
> been shown by the Clinton-Gore administration. In the first six or
> of Clinton's reign, the word "nuclear" may never have
passed his lips. In
> the Department of Energy, the N-word almost never appeared in
> energy plans and documents. Industry representatives attribute this
> conspiracy of silence, but I prefer to be a bit more
> it might just be forgetfulness.
> Since the Kyoto treaty was initialed (not ratified), some of
> has changed. In the fall of 2000, more than a dozen anti-nuclear
> publicly criticized the Clinton-Gore administration for allowing
> power as an option to meet Kyoto goals. This does not mean the
> Energy was advocating new U.S. reactors. Rather, if reactors are
> foreign countries under American auspices, the U.S. would get
> credits under the Kyoto schemes. The anti-nuclear groups preferred
> That the administration could even think out loud about
> after six years of silence, is positive news for the nuclear
> Renewables. The fourth factor improving the outlook for
> power is the failure of the ghost competitor I referred to
> When petroleum prices soared in the fall of 2000, Vice President
> Gore persuaded President Clinton to loosen the tap on the
> Petroleum Reserve. Gore did not advocate sending emergency shipments
> solar collectors around the country. Despite advocating renewables
> almost seven-and-a-half years, the administration fell back on the
> and true, an energy source they had claimed to be on its way
> What does a battle between fossil fuels and renewables have to
> with nuclear power? Opinion polls for years have shown that most of
> public expects renewables to be the energy of the future, not
> at the decisive moment, when an election hung in the balance,
> could not deliver--despite the investment of billions of dollars,
> small amount of rhetoric, over the course of the Clinton-Gore
> If renewables cannot solve energy problems, and if fossil
> dance to the tune of foreign potentates, what else is there?
> The industry readies itself
> The two remaining factors contributing to nuclear power's rosy
> outlook come from the industry itself.
> Longer lifetimes. When the nuclear power industry was launched,
> regulators licensed reactors for 40 years. Basing that decision on
> experience with other industrial facilities, regulators merely
> 40 years was a facility's likely useful lifespan. Some nuclear
> thought the lifetime of reactors could be much longer, since
> much better maintained than other industrial facilities. But
> opted for caution, preferring to get more experience with the
> before licensing them for longer periods of time.
> Now the evidence is in. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has
> extended the licenses of some reactors for another 20 years, giving
> lifetime of 60 years. This has great implications for the
> nuclear power, since most of its cost is tied up in the facility
> its fuel. By contrast, if a licensing body for a natural gas
> its lifetime by 20 years, the facility's cost of electricity would
> affected much. Most of its cost is in the fuel, the cost of which
> fluctuate greatly from year to year.
> Lengthening the projected lifetime of nuclear power plants means
> cost of nuclear electricity could be on the order of one-third less
> originally calculated. The exact decrease will depend on a variety
> factors, but the lesson is clear: Nuclear power, cheap to begin
> even cheaper than originally thought.
> New designs. The final reason for optimism in the nuclear
> is the appearance of new and simpler designs for reactors, such as
> Westinghouse AP-600 and the South African pebble bed reactors. These
> out the possibility of greater safety and lower cost, something
> has been aiming at for decades. While it is still too soon to say
> precision how these new designs will affect cost, there is no
> will greatly outperform current reactors designed and built a
> ago. Much has been learned in the research laboratories and by
> operating the plants since then.
> The future is bright
> None of these factors taken by itself could guarantee that the
> order for a nuclear reactor in the U.S. will come soon. The last
> built in this country was ordered about a quarter-century ago--the
> interval between orders of any high-technology facility in
> Taken together, however, these six factors suggest a bright new
> for nuclear power . . . one that should be long-lasting.
> Herbert Inhaber, a risk analyst in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the
> of Slaying the NIMBY Dragon and Why Energy Conservation Fails.
> Return to January 2001 contents
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