Tuesday, August 02, 2005

shot across the bow

I've generally taken a skeptical view of massively increasing nuclear power to keep our future rolling. There are a lot of good reasons to avoid it; and the argument for it seems to be desperation. (As in, "Argh! We must have energy at any cost!") Similar reasoning explains why coal is now being flogged as the latest "gateway" energy source, a bridge to a hypothetical.

Peak Energy Australia spotted an Amory Lovins argument that nuclear is insolvent in both in terms of financial returns, and by implication energy returns.

Competitors To Nuclear: Eat My Dust
Whenever nuclear power's competitors (even just on the supply side) were allowed to compete fairly, they've far outpaced central stations. Just in 1982–85, California utilities acquired and or were firmly offered enough cost-effective savings and decentralized supplies to meet all demand with no central fossil-fueled or nuclear plants.
...
No wonder the world's universities have dissolved or reorganized nearly all of their departments of nuclear engineering, and none still attracts top students—another portent that the business will continue to fall, as Nobel physicist Hannes Alfvén warned, "into ever less competent hands,"

For me, the gold standard in evaluating nuclear would be an end to end lifecycle analysis of energy returned on energy invested. This turns out to be one of the most complicated energy research projects one could take on; it is beyond my means as a part time blogger. If anyone knows of such an analysis, please drop a comment.

However, I tend to think that in practical terms the high cost of nuclear implies that useful energy return is dubious, and carrying with it a toll of nuclear waste.

So I really value Amory Lovins analysis on this one - cannily playing to the market forces set using a comparison of the heavily subsidized nuclear industry and renewables.

2 Comments:

At 1:22 AM, August 03, 2005, Blogger Big Gav said...

I think Grist referenced a EROEI study for nuclear a few months ago (noted somewhere on my blog) - but I was dubious about its accuracy and wanted to see something a bit more transparent. I think we can be sure the nuclear industry won't be providing one...

 
At 7:30 PM, August 19, 2005, Blogger patrick said...

Nuclear power is the cheapest form of power there is, taking into account the total life-cycel cost. Nuclear power can generate power for under 2 cents per KWh in operating costs, has small fuel costs, is the most efficient in terms of land and environmental impact per MWh, even comparing with 'renewables' like wind and solar (which use up far more land per MWh). Nuclear power is safe, clean, environmentally friendly. It doesnt need to be a last choice but a first choice.

Amory Lovins hates nuclear power because he's drunk the religion of decentralized power. He confuses energy vs economic efficiency and biases and misleads facts to 'prove' his points. I'm reading his latest and it reads like a snake-oil salesman selling elixir. Very annoying that he takes some good ideas and extrapolates them to an absurd extreme.

He claims solutions pay for themselves and can take over the world ... uh, Mr Lovins, why don't you just build your dream car if it so much better? (real answer: because he shaves the facts; his light-weight carbon fibres actually cost alot more; his solar panels are not cost competitive, etc.)

His lack of logic is frustrating: nuclear is bad because efficiency is 'cheaper', but we still need electricity so hurrah for wind and solar, which just happens to cost about 6 times conventional energy but which he claims - falsely - is due to subsidies. Wrong. See:

http://www.uic.com.au/nip08.htm

* Nuclear power is cost competitive with other forms of electricity generation, except where there is direct access to low-cost fossil fuels.
* Decreasing fossil fuel costs in the 1990s eroded nuclear energy's previous cost advantage in many OECD countries, but higher gas prices are now changing the picture again.
* Fuel costs for nuclear plants are a minor proportion of total generating costs and often about one-third those for coal-fired plants.
* In assessing the cost competitiveness of nuclear energy, decommissioning and waste disposal costs are taken into account.

 

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