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Earth Power The Almighty Buck

Nuclear Energy Now More Expensive Than Solar 635

Posted by samzenpus
from the sunlight-is-free dept.
js_sebastian writes "According to an article on the New York Times, a historical cross-over has occurred because of the declining costs of solar vs. the increasing costs of nuclear energy: solar, hardly the cheapest of renewable technologies, is now cheaper than nuclear, at around 16 cents per kilowatt hour. Furthermore, the NY Times reports that financial markets will not finance the construction of nuclear power plants unless the risk of default (which is historically as high as 50 percent for the nuclear industry) is externalized to someone else through federal loan guarantees or ratepayer funding. The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive, and the push from the US government to subsidize it seems to be forcing the wrong choice on the market."
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Nuclear Energy Now More Expensive Than Solar

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  • Conditions Apply (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:27AM (#33066400)

    Except during nights.

  • by dimethylxanthine (946092) <mr.fruit@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:31AM (#33066414) Homepage

    The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive

    Of course the same people would be arguing that oil and gas are the way to go.

  • by psone (1416351) * on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:33AM (#33066424)
    Nuclear power offers the advantage of massive energy production on a small area of land, giving it a high W/skm rate. The ideal solution probably lies in the intelligent combination of several powering solutions depending on the zone type, energy demand and area coverage...
  • by ThoughtMonster (1602047) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:34AM (#33066434) Homepage

    Which also means you'll need to buy batteries, which are quite expensive, and have a fairly short lifespan. Which was always the point.

  • Coal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saibot834 (1061528) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:35AM (#33066440) Homepage

    Yeah, and what about coal? Fossil fuels are still by far the cheapest ways of getting / storing energy. (I recommend reading "Physics for future presidents", which lists and explains the reasons for our "love" of oil/gas/coal).

    I'm not arguing that we should use coal, but rather that a free market is inherently not (always) in line with protecting the environment. Sure, in the long run fossil fuels will become more expensive and "green energy" more affordable. But in the meantime, the government has to make sure that the industry doesn't destroy the environment. International treaties (Copenhagen, I'm looking at you) would have been a first step.

  • by johnjaydk (584895) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:37AM (#33066454)
    Fantastic for those who live in sunny states. A lot less great for those of us who don't. Try repeating those studies in northern Europe. For extra credit, factor in the saving from MODERN nuke plants. Even better, factor in the savings from serial production of those plants.

    The plants in the US are ancient one-off designs. Small wonder they don't compare well.

  • Overregulation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Coolhand2120 (1001761) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:42AM (#33066470)
    I'm sure that the amount of regulation in plant creation, "green" subsidies for solar and "politically correct" as opposed to "environmentally correct" disposal of waste serves to distort the true price of these sources.

    Besides, anyone who has played sim city knows that nuclear is much cheaper.
  • by StripedCow (776465) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:46AM (#33066494)

    Except, it's always day on some part of the planet...

  • by bbtom (581232) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:46AM (#33066500) Homepage Journal

    "Fantastic for those who live in sunny states."

    Yeah, it would be handy if there was some way of moving electricity from one place to another. Some sort of national grid service where power can be routed from the place it is being produced to the place it is required. I'm sure someone is working on something like that...

  • by marcello_dl (667940) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:49AM (#33066508) Homepage Journal

    why the citizen must be subjected to teraherz imaging, loss of privacy, a bureaucracy that in the name of national security can stop whatever investigation, the expenses for armies going around the world to fight terrorism, while the industrial complex can build plants that pose an incredibly high national security risk with government subsidies right at home.

    I have nothing against nuclear if the cost per kWh includes all the expenses for insuring, securing the venture from all likely dangers and dealing with nuclear waste while it is still radioactive/toxic. It currently doesn't. Solar has ALWAYS been better than nuclear because you don't have to guard used panels for thousands (millions? billions?) of years. Nuclear just put us into more debt.

  • Dammit! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wjh31 (1372867) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:49AM (#33066514) Homepage
    I just had a reactor fitted to the south side of my roof aswell!
  • Re:Nights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@@@p10link...net> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:54AM (#33066536) Homepage

    That is true, however a worldwide power grid would be incrediblly expensive to install. Joining america to eurasia would require either long undersea runs or long runs through inhospitable places like sibera.

  • by AbbeyRoad (198852) <p@2038bug.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:54AM (#33066538) Homepage

    Check out:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_thermal_power_stations [wikipedia.org]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_power_stations [wikipedia.org]

    Now considering that one nuclear power station usually generates 1 to 5 GIGAwatts, and these generate in the order of TENS OF MEGAwatts, it is inconceivable to me how anyone can compare Solar to Nuclear.

  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:56AM (#33066542) Homepage

    Where is it cheaper? Cheaper than nuclear in the north of England, or just in the southern United States?

    Hydro dams or wave power, possibly cheaper than nuclear near Manchester. Solar... not so much.

  • Re:Nights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dunkelfalke (91624) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:56AM (#33066544)

    There are already power lines in Siberia. There are even oil pipelines there.

  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:57AM (#33066550) Homepage
    So do alkaline batteries, but both are very inefficient and very, very expensive when all the costs over the lifecycle of the mass used in the product are counted.
  • Re:Nights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:13AM (#33066626)

    That is true, however a worldwide power grid would be incrediblly expensive to install. Joining america to eurasia would require either long undersea runs or long runs through inhospitable places like sibera.

    If we keep up with global warming it might be tropical

  • by gtall (79522) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:14AM (#33066630)

    Wow, you mean the world is not fair? And you say we need to explain this to you? I don't know if that is possible.

    Nuclear + reprocessing = much less to protect. And there was a European study reported in TheRegister awhile back, if you were to cover most of the Sahara with photo, you might be able to light up Europe..for now. So could you please get started, then we'll see about covering the U.S. south with photo.

  • by Hinhule (811436) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:30AM (#33066696)

    1. Energy industry cartels.
    2. Energy industry realizes people will still use roughly the same amount of power regardless of price why not capitalize on that and make outrageous profits.

  • Thorium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by madsenj37 (612413) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:45AM (#33066742)
    What is its price compared to uranium?
  • Re:Overregulation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:48AM (#33066758)

    the amount of regulation in plant creation

    Every aspect of manufacturing and industry is regulated in the Western world. The factories that manufacturing solar cells are also regulated. Regulation is a cost of doing business. The BP spill should remind everyone of what happens when regulation fails.

    "green" subsidies for solar

    The study authors already thought of that - from TFA: "While the study includes subsidies for both solar and nuclear power, it estimates that if subsidies were removed from solar power, the crossover point would be delayed by a maximum of nine years."

    "politically correct" as opposed to "environmentally correct" disposal of waste

    Do you have any evidence that this occurs? Storage and disposal of nuclear waste has real costs - even nuclear industry scientists acknowledge that disposing of the UK's nuclear waste stockpile will cost £85 billion [independent.co.uk]. Cleaning up decommissioned sites is costing £72 billion [bbc.co.uk] Who do you think pays for this - the nuclear industry, or the tax payer? Why are taxpayers subsidising disposal costs for new-build plants? [guardian.co.uk] The nuclear industry benefits enormously from the taxpayer.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:48AM (#33066762)

    Fantastic for those who live in sunny states. A lot less great for those of us who don't.

    So what? You can at least use it in sunny states then. Just because you have found some place on the map where solar is not practical doesn't mean that the whole idea of solar energy shouldn't be ignored for the rest of the world. It is like saying that solar power is useless because the Amish don't need electricity.

    You build whatever is practical for a given location. If their calculations are true, this just eliminates one factor that was against solar power previously. Simple really.

  • by kyuubi (1355069) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:53AM (#33066782)
    Alkaline batteries, like Hydrogen Fuel Cells, are a storage medium for energy. It is not an energy source, and is not in any way related to this discussion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:07AM (#33066856)

    Did everyone forget about molten salt and similar tech? It was here a week ago...

    Plus night time usage is not the problem, it's daytime demand that is the problem, so large scale solar plants could help reduce them and thereby reduce emissions. There is plenty of other use cases for solar power such as domestic air conditioners in places like Florida, why run them on grid power when you can install solar cells on the roof and use them to power your air conditioner, or you could use solar cells for charging your hybrid/electric cars. In Germany I've seen roof mounted solar cells being used even in colder climates for heating/lighting and to generally reduce dependence on grid power. The problem is that while solar remains an expensive option users of coal/oil/gas are enjoying cheap energy prices because nobody is making them or their suppliers pay for the environmental mess these energy sources are causing. There was an interview with an ex-oil executive on BBC Hardtalk recently. The reporter suggested making fossil fuel users pay the full price for their fossil fuel products, that is the extraction/production/transportation/etc... costs plus the environmental costs of things like carbon emissions due to oil shale processing... for a second there I thought I'd actually get to see steam coming out of a guys ears. He narrowly resisted the temptation to go totally ballistic and started ranting on about how the energy policy choices sovereign nations should not be questioned and rioting in the streets (that last part is probably a legitimate concern in some countries). People think coal/oil/gas is cheap but in reality it's just that a big part of the cost is being off loaded on the environment, if you factor that damage into the equation oal/oil/gas alluvasudden gets a lot more expensive.

  • Re:Nights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:12AM (#33066876)

    "There is always day somewhere."

    A lovely sounding line but try actually doing the math.

    Unless you have a superconducting grid you lose massive amounts of power in transmission over long distances.
    Try powering something off panels thirteen thousand miles away and you'll lose most of the energy in the lines.

    And if they do build a superconducting grid the issue becomes that of keeping thirteen thousand miles of superconducting cable cools to the temperature of liquid nitrogen.
    If your cable goes underwater in the sea you'll lose a shitload of energy. (magnetic field, conductor etc)

    And don't forget that these superconducting grids will be dangerous as hell, if you're pushing enough current through a cable to power north america and any part of the cooling system fails the resistance goes from zero to anything non-zero and your superconducting cable explodes extremely violently.

    It's always day somewhere.
    unfortunately sometimes that place is in the middle of the pacific and your hundreds of thousands of square miles of solar panels along with the explosive cables would have to be on rafts capable of surviving whatever tropical storms come their way.

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:25AM (#33066966) Journal

    Yeah, Our current policy (Carrrterrrrrrrrrrrr!) is like buying a value meal at a fast food place, eating one fry, calling the rest "waste" and complaining about how expensive it is.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:26AM (#33066968) Homepage

    Why do people insist on using 1950s reactors as the basis of safety/cost measurements?
    Modern reactors [wikipedia.org] can be a lot cheaper/simpler and have very little decommissioning costs (the plant outside the core doesn't become radioactive over time).

  • Re:Coal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:26AM (#33066972)

    Fossil fuels are the cheapest way to produce energy as long as they do not have to pay for negative externalities.

    The byproducts of burning fossil fuels for electricity are just dumped in the air and as long those that are doing the burning do not have to pay for the negative consequences of those byproducts they can "produced" electricity for a lower cost.

    Here's an example for your understanding:
    - Imagine I came up with a process to get gold from seawater. Running the process would cost me $50 for every gram of gold produced. However this process would have the downside that for every gram of gold extracted it produce 1 cubic kilometer of highly toxic water and cleaning that would cost $1000.

    If I have to pay for the negative externalities of the process ($1000 per gram of gold produced to clean-up the 1 cubic kilometer of toxic water produced as a side-effect) then my process is only competitive for gold prices above $1050 per gram.

    However, if I can get away with just dumping the toxic water somewhere for free, then at $50 per gram of gold my process is highly competitive with getting gold the old-fashioned way (mining).

    Generation of electrity from fossil fuels is currently at the point where they get away with dumping some of the toxic products created as a side effect of their process directly to the air without paying for it. Like my example above, their process is profitable because they don't have to pay for dumping toxic substances into the environment.

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:36AM (#33067032)

    "There is no way it is going to be sold unsubsidised for 16c per kwHr"

    Storing and guarding nuclear waste for 184000 years isn't cheap either.

  • by JohnBailey (1092697) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:58AM (#33067162)

    Except during nights.

    Yep..When all those offices and factories and everything are up and running.

    Oh wait..

  • by c6gunner (950153) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:03AM (#33067210)

    You know, no matter how many times you lie about it, you're not going to change what's true. Not only is it not true that the "follow up costs" are ignored, but they're actually overestimated due to the current policy of not reprocessing fuel. Change that, and electricity becomes even cheaper than the current calculations show.

  • by cbraescu1 (180267) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:06AM (#33067224) Homepage

    Simple rebuke of the silly claims in NYT here http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/07/gullible-reporting-by-new-york-times-on.html

    If solar would really be cheaper than nuclear, why would the governments (in the EU) or the federal government / states (in the USA) need to subsidize solar deployments and consumption?

    Slashdot editors failed once again to keep their brains on. Or maybe they knew the post is ridiculous, but they just succumbed to tabloidization: say something ridiculous in the first place then wait for the masses to take the bait and grow the advertising income.

    In that case, Slashdot, please take into consideration the following possible posts:

    Windows is safer than Unix.

    Solar is cheaper than oil.

    All Jews are actually Germans.

    All Germans are actually French.

    All Arabs use Unix.

    Some French sell oil to the Arabs (especially at night, when solar is not working).

    Vi is better than Emacs

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:10AM (#33067252)

    Except, it's always day on some part of the planet...

    True enough. Did we factor into the cost of Solar the cost of electrical transmission lines under the Atlantic Ocean sufficient to supply North America's power needs?

    I didn't think so.

    Oh, and how much extra capacity did we assume for Solar in our price comparison to allow for pumping water uphill, or melting salt, or whatever, to deal with night/clouds/etc? None?

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:10AM (#33067254) Journal

    Dude, you need a reality adjustment. It is estimated that there is enough surface-mineable thorium alone to power us for hundreds of thousands of years to come. In fact, just the thorium discarded from our surface-mined coal could power us for thousands of years.

    Thorium based reactors are a completely different technology stream from existing reactor technology and commercially undeveloped. If you are going to include thorium reactor technology with existing reactor technology then wouldn't it also be valid to ask if the spent fuel would be handled any better than the existing Nuclear industry? It's promising but I wouldn't want to relate it to the mess of the current nuclear industry.

    Then when have fast breeder reactor designs which burn uranium at efficiencies orders of magnitude better than our current production reactors. These designs even allow you to burn up almost all of the nuclear waste from slow breeder reactors.

    Except you are talking about a "Burner" reactor not a "Breeder" reactor and the technology for either type of fast reactor is not feasible with current materials technology. Even then you would still need a minimum of 30 years to resolve the infrastructure issues (mainly transporting the existing spent fuel) associated with it's implementation.

  • Re:FRAUD ALERT! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:11AM (#33067268)

    No worries.

    Using their regulatory powers, the feds can jack up the cost of anything to as high as needed in order to make an argument for politically correct power generation.

  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:18AM (#33067346) Homepage Journal

    At present, the most efficient "battery" would be unburned fossil fuels. The biggest advantage is that we already have the infrastructure in place to store energy as unburned fossil fuel; we simply use less of it during the day.

    That's not a viable technology in the long term, but the long term gives us plenty of time to come up with efficient storage technologies (in any case if we don't collect it, that sunlight is going to waste). We should also expect to get energy from a greater variety of sources in the future, nuclear may be part of that.

  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:19AM (#33067350)

    They don't have roofs in Chicago?

  • Waste disposal is a made up problem. That "waste" is very useful. Reprocessing it recovers almost all of the original fissionable mass, and the other products have medical and scientific applications. The remaining low-level crap can be glassified and dropped into a Yucca Mountain like storage depot (except that people's ignorance regarding nuclear waste and radioactivity makes them panic about that).

  • by SysKoll (48967) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @09:36AM (#33068134)

    I agree. I question the mode of cost calculation in the article.

    Here is a reference point. 82% of France's electricity comes from nuclear power plants. The price of power for industrial customers is about 0.06 USD/kWh. This includes huge personnel and pension costs (powerful unions) and sloppy financial management (politically appointed execs). So it means that actual production and delivery costs are below this price point. Since EDF, the French electricity semi-public firm, is a monopoly, there is little incentive to be more cost-effective. And yet, even so, they achieve a cost of 6 cents per kWh.

    I am therefore not impressed with the 0.16,USD/kWh quoted. It' s almost 3 times more expensive than what the French can get, without even trying to be cost-effective.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @10:01AM (#33068434) Journal

    Absolutely wrong.

    This study does the opposite, in fact it builds in the gigantic subsidies for solar, and disregards the same for nuclear. Further, the replacement costs and long-term costs of nuclear are well known, this 'study' disregards that for solar.

    Finally, this 'study' disregards any storage costs for solar, intermittance, or transport costs for the voltage.

    Basically, solar has a strong potential for arid, sunny climates.
    Unfortunately, the bulk of the Western World doesn't live in deserts, and power transmission isn't free.

  • Re:FRAUD ALERT! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @10:21AM (#33068692) Journal

    Fraud Alert! My guess is that this story is a public relations piece by people who are trying to sell solar energy. Is a Slashdot editor paid to run P.R.?...Wow! That was easy! Indicating the falsehood of the Slashdot story only required copying the comments in the linked story.

    Well insurance companies won't insure Nuclear Power. That is the purpose of the Price-Anderson act, to limit liability so investors would put money into Nuclear power. It was originally set to expire in 1967 once the industry had proved itself safe. Evidently it hasn't. The continued existence of the Price-Anderson act illustrates that professional risk assessors consider the risks involved in the Nuclear Industry too high to be financially viable, so the federal government stepped in with a remedy. The Nuclear industry would not be able to exist without the protections the P-A act afford as no sane investor would expose themselves to that level of liability.

    Actuaries and Risk Assessors are professionals in the insurance industry and their assessment of the Nuclear Industry is that they won't insure it without the Price-Anderson Act. They're not 'against' Nuclear power, they're just paid to asses the risks, professionally.

    Speaking of subsidies the 2005 U.S energy bill provided another $13 billion dollars worth of subsidies this round to 2021 and re-authorised the Price-Anderson Act to underwrite the Nuclear industry with $600 Billion of Taxpayer money and closer to a trillion dollars if you factor the huge amount of land you are going to lose from a single accident.

    Solar power doesn't require such a construct to be viable, or to exist. So let's not go waving the Fraud word around because the real fraud perpetrated is if the Nuclear power industry was forced to cover it's own liability and fund itself it would cease to exist.

  • by DrBoumBoum (926687) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @10:37AM (#33068928) Journal
    Please stop that bullcrap about reprocessing being the panacea for nuclear waste and French success with it. Just today Le Monde published an article [lemonde.fr] (sorry, French) showing that France is processing not more than 20% of its waste, probably less. The rest was simply sent to Russia to be piled up there, up to a recent scandal. The hundreds of tons of nuclear waste produced yearly are currently only sitting there, waiting for someone to take care of the problem. Nuclear industry claims that it will eventually be used in hypothetical 4th generation reactors, which are exactly as likely to become a reality as economically viable fusion reactors are.

    Nuclear waste is a real issue, the fact that some pro-nuclear nerds feel good laughing away any concern about it as illiterate idiots' fears doesn't make it less so. Parrotting French industry's lies about them having found or being close to find a magical solution about it doesn't make them more of a reality either.
  • by vtcodger (957785) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @10:38AM (#33068944)

    ***I am therefore not impressed with the 0.16,USD/kWh quoted. It' s almost 3 times more expensive than what the French can get, without even trying to be cost-effective.***

    Dead on. The article has many numbers, none of which seem to be consistent with either reality or each other. As of last December, Vermont utilities were paying Vermont Yankee which is about 100 miles down the road from the author 4.2 cents/kwhr and Entergy was trying to wheedle an increase to 6.1 cents.

    I'm not against solar power or wind, or cogeneration or any other sane non-fossil fuel based technology for meeting energy needs. But this report appears to me to be 100% pure Vermont cow manure. Based on what I can see, it's best and highest use would be to burn all the copies for heat next winter. Winters in this part of the world are a bit nippy.

    (And solar probably is not a 16cent/kwh hour choice for Vermont anyway. Too far from the equator, too much cloud cover, and for three or four months of the year, snow would have to be mechanically removed from the collectors. Now for Honolulu, Barstow, Tucson, or Las Vegas ...)

  • by vtcodger (957785) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @10:51AM (#33069146)

    ***The U.S. can't just build enormous nuke plants and send power by wire across the country without serious losses on the line.***

    You sure about that? I tried to research transmission line losses recently, and came up with a rather hazy 3-8%. And we already do routinely send electricity many hundreds of kilometers -- as, for example, from Boulder Dam to Southern California. Do you have a reference for higher losses? Seriously, I'd like to read it.

    Nuclear plants will generally be built within a few hundred kilometers of their loads. Wouldn't make lot of sense to build one in One Tree Gulch North Dakota unless there are users nearby.

    If your point is that the US power grid probably can't handle a major buildout of electric power of any sort, I fear you are probably correct. But that applies equally to wind, solar and nuclear.

  • by operagost (62405) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @11:03AM (#33069326) Homepage Journal

    To be fair, France benefits from a much more centralized population. The U.S. can't just build enormous nuke plants and send power by wire across the country without serious losses on the line.

    Irrelevant. We're going to need to wire power all over the nation, no matter from what source it is derived. We can't just plop solar generators in every community-- that would result in an historic eminent domain grab to the enrichment of the eco-capitalists.

  • by MrNiceguy_KS (800771) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @11:06AM (#33069368)

    I'm sure the French plants, being government built, weren't subject to idiotic "environmental" groups filing lawsuit after lawsuit to try to prevent the plant from being built. The summary says that the default risk for nuclear plant loans is as high as 50%. I would bet that the 50% default is because of plants that never produced a watt of power because they were tied up in court until the whole project was abandoned.

    If we can eliminate the costs of legal challenges, (and the costs of the construction delays that result,) nuclear power wins, hands down.

  • by stdarg (456557) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @11:23AM (#33069594)

    I've never understood the proliferation argument when it comes to fuel reprocessing.

    It's already possible for countries to develop their own nuclear programs against our wishes (i.e. Iran). Our moral standing on the issue is already difficult (we can have them, you can't because we don't trust you). I honestly don't see how our moral standing changes when we add to that, we can reprocess our waste, you can't. And our security standing also doesn't change -- countries aren't choosing to not pursue nuclear power because "it's too hard" or "we just don't get it" -- they face sanctions and stuff like that. Why would that go away just because we start reprocessing fuel?

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday July 29, 2010 @11:38AM (#33069822)

    We can't just plop solar generators in every community...

    Why not? We've got plenty of otherwise-unused rooftops everywhere!

  • Very well indeed (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @11:54AM (#33070112)

    Very well indeed. After all, you can't use the land around the nuke power plant for anything useful, but you CAN use the land between solar panels quite well, and if this land use paid for the land before, you don't have to pay for the land now with SPV.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @12:42PM (#33071018)

    Battery technology is advancing, Toshiba just released it's new SCiB the other day and most tech companies are investing at least some money in battery R&D.

    But what would the cost for nuclear energy be if we had not allowed 50 years to pass before designing new plants? What if we jump on the bandwagon now and get our best minds working on it like we did the first time (thinking Manhattan Project here). Why not get our top guys and girls and put em in a room with the goal of a safe and scalable reactor design that can be built all across the nation. Give em 5 years to do that while we beef up our wind and solar stuff and then start plunking down for one at a time, replace fossil fuel for electric generation first then start letting the 'unsightly' (not my opinion) offshore windmills die out while our new nuclear power grid takes us into the 22nd century.

    What would the cost be to our children's children if we invest in just Solar and Wind and find out we still don't have enough to make ends meet? We are 100 years out of practice and even more power hungry than ever? Nuclear power gives us the ability to have so much production in such a small footprint and it almost never needs to be taken offline unlike more mechanically intensive systems.

    Of course at the rate we are learning as a society who is to say that next year wont bring a revolutionary sterling engine design or some new super PV material that is 1/10th the cost of current coatings and can be sprayed on every skyscraper, windows, roofs etc.

    Long and short of it is we shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket even if one of the baskets looks better right now.

  • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:14PM (#33074144) Journal

    US policy is to deliberately create unnecessary nuclear waste, instead of recycling it via proven technology, when one of the biggest objections to nuclear power generation is the production of nuclear waste?

    I hadn't realized this. This is pretty appalling.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:01PM (#33075042) Homepage Journal

    It sounds like you're making the mistake of believing the level of technology we have today is the limit to human innovation.

    The problem I have with that kind of thinking is that it's been proved wrong consistently through history.

    The "molten salt" approach we're talking about is almost certainly just a step in a long curve of technological advance. You build one and the next guy finds a better, cheaper way. Then someone else comes along with something more effective than salt.

    I'm not saying you're guilty of this, but I hear constantly from certain people the notion that we shouldn't consider solar energy because the technology for solar energy is somehow insufficient, assuming that unlike every area of human endeavor, there won't be further advances.

  • by winwar (114053) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:01PM (#33075048)

    "Now considering that one nuclear power station usually generates 1 to 5 GIGAwatts, and these generate in the order of TENS OF MEGAwatts, it is inconceivable to me how anyone can compare Solar to Nuclear."

    Which is precisely why no nuclear power plants are being built in the US. Utilities don't need large amounts of new power all at once. They need smaller amounts over time. Solar and wind are great at supplying this incremental demand.

    The utilities learned the hard way about the unreliability of future power generation predications. This led to the building off and default off many nuclear power plants in the past. If they actually need large amounts of power generating capacity they will build coal or natural gas plants because they take less time and are more economical.

  • Re:FRAUD ALERT! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:09PM (#33076134)

    That's funny. They didn't think that the risks of Deepwater Horizon were too big.

  • Re:Coal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iceaxe (18903) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:04PM (#33076834) Journal

    The problem of being that 'negative externalities' is a buzzword that means whatever the person using it wants it to mean and dragging in whatever costs at whatever rate they want to in order to 'prove' their point.

    I agree that people should define what they mean by 'negative externalities', and back up claims with legitimate sources. Nonetheless, I think it's fairly widely held that burning fossil fuels produces some things which can be harmful to humans and other living things if allowed to escape into the general environment, as well as possibly contributing to the rate of climate change in some measurable amount. Considering those factors is not unreasonable.

    The problem being that you, and many others, seem to have missed the whole environmental thing - where companies are being forced to pay for their wastes. (In the form of scrubbers that remove the toxic substances from the exhaust and the subsequent disposal thereof.)

    Although I'm no authority on the matter, it seems to me that companies frequently do the absolute minimum scrubbing and cleaning that they can get away with (legally or by subterfuge) and even that they fight tooth and nail, including huge amounts of money (costs passed on to customers) spent on undermining the political process. While I'm certainly glad for any scrubbing that is done, I have grave doubts it would meet my personal standards for being able to say "we clean up our mess".

    I do understand that things usually don't change overnight, but I also understand that there will always be people who would gladly let all life in the universe die out in a few hundred years for a few more digits in the bank account today. What we have to arrive at is a point somewhere in the middle that we can agree on (more or less) as being the best way forward. And most of all, we have to be willing to try things, and learn, and change.

    As for solar vs. fission vs. whatever... use the tool that makes the most sense for a given task. If someone invents a better tool later, use that when it becomes available. Just don't keep using a tool when something better is available simply because somebody else is getting rich off of it.

Two is not equal to three, even for large values of two.

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