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Earth Power The Almighty Buck

Nuclear Energy Now More Expensive Than Solar 635

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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  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:5, Informative)

    by eexaa ( 1252378 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:43AM (#33066482) Homepage

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

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/07/23/0125235/Worlds-First-Molten-Salt-Solar-Plant-Opens?from=rss [slashdot.org]

  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:49AM (#33066512)

    For cold climates, active solar water heating systems are a good alternative.
    Read more here. [wikipedia.org]

    And by the way, in Germany on sunny days there is more electricity produced by photovoltaics than by nuclear reactors.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:03AM (#33066580)

    RTFA, it's about PV, not CSP!

    "The data include only PV-generated electricity"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:07AM (#33066598)

    Yeah, but nuclear fuel is running low. If it is more costly too, there is very little to go for it. You're not going to solve your energy problems by investing large amounts of energy in a technology which is facing imminent fuel shortages. At best nuclear would only ever be a stop-gap until long term energy production systems could be deployed. But that only made sense as long as it was cheaper to deploy.

  • by LordFolken ( 731855 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:20AM (#33066656)

    It factors in the subsidies for solar energy. Compares an absolute discount price of solar to the average of nuclear power, ignores the fact that nuclear energy is a constant supplier etc.

    In short: sensational and bogus.

    I think the rebuke mentioned earlier should be read as well: http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/07/gullible-reporting-by-new-york-times-on.html [blogspot.com]

  • by evilandi ( 2800 ) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:26AM (#33066676) Homepage

    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.

    You forgot to consider the costs of building and decommissioning the power plant. A solar plant can be built and operational in a couple of months (or a couple of days if small-scale), with decommissioning taking half that. A nuclear plant takes 3-5 years to build and several hundred years, if not thousands of years, to decomission.

    You need to factor in the whole life of the project.

    I still think nuclear wins, but it's not a trivial choice.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:30AM (#33066698) Journal
    The trend is nonsense, but the data is not. A lot of nuclear fuel came from decommissioned nuclear warheads, over the past couple of decades. As a result, a lot of mines were shut down or reduced to a lower output because there was less demand. Now the spare warheads are almost used up, but it will take a couple of years to reopen the mines and get them up to production capacity. This means that there is currently a (short term) shortage of fuel for nuclear reactors, driving the price up. Once production increases again, this should stabilise (not, as that graph indicates, continue to increase forever).
  • by fadir ( 522518 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:33AM (#33066704)

    Just because the follow-up costs of nuclear energy are consequently ignored in those calculations it has been so cheap so far. While the costs of the solar panels, installation, etc. is to be fully covered by the one installing it, the nuclear waste is handled by the government and so is the insurance.

    Calculate the full costs, including recycling, insurance and the like and there is hardly any power source that's more expensive than nuclear energy.

  • by LSD-OBS ( 183415 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:42AM (#33066722)

    Yeah, but nuclear fuel is running low

    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.

    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.

  • by sunspot42 ( 455706 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:43AM (#33066732)

    Now considering that one nuclear power station usually generates 1 to 5 GIGAwatts, and these generate in the order of TENS OF MEGAwatts

    The Mojave plant already produces over 300 megawatts, the plant in Spain produces 100 megawats, and there are plans for solar plants of half a gigawatt to about a gigawatt. The Topaz Solar Farm in central California is supposed to produce 550 megawatts, and cost around a billion, which is steep but pretty comparable to the skyrocketing price of nuclear power. It's a PV installation. Of course solar only works during the day, but that's when demand is by far at its peak (especially in central and southern California) and customers pay the highest prices.

    Why does the plant capacity make a difference, anyhow? Cost seems like a much bigger issue than capacity. If you can build and operate ten 100 megawatt solar plants for the cost of building, operating and decommissioning one 1 gigawatt nuke plant (and insuring it for liability, and dealing with its waste), why not go with solar?

    I think real advantage solar offers over nuclear though comes from photovoltaics, which are also just starting to become practical, especially in warm sunny climates where peak summertime power rates spike. I think subsidizing the deployment of rooftop panels atop homes and businesses in places like California and Texas is going to be a more cost effective strategy than sinking tens of billions into nuke plants, and it'll help to advance a technology that could conceivably lead us to near total energy independence.

    It also gets a chunk of power generation out of the hands of the enormous energy conglomerates and into the hands of the people, which'll make it much more difficult for the powers that be to play games with the price of electricity on the spot market, a la Enron. And moving power generation much closer to the source of demand could ultimately reduce the overall peak summertime load on our power grids (at least here in America), not to mention the drastic cut in transmission losses.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:5, Informative)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:44AM (#33066740)
    Ok. Let's factor in the cost of transporting the energy or storing it to provide night time load handling capability and look at the costs again.

    To be honest I don't buy the "nuclear is expensive" thing. It's expensive the way you're doing it. Learn from the French [slashdot.org].

    In Japan and France, construction costs and delays are significantly diminished because of streamlined government licensing and certification procedures. In France, one model of reactor was type-certified, using a safety engineering process similar to the process used to certify aircraft models for safety. That is, rather than licensing individual reactors, the regulatory agency certified a particular design and its construction process to produce safe reactors. U.S. law permits type-licensing of reactors, a process which is being used on the AP1000 and the ESBWR.

  • Re:Coal (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:49AM (#33066764)
    I am posting anon. since I am moderating here.
    The problem with your posting is that you have it backwards. The reason why Coal is popular is because it receives the largest subsidies out of ALL energy (save nukes), AND the pollution costs are not considered in the price. Basically, Coal is popular, BECAUSE the gov. plays favorites with the free market. OTH, if they would quit subsidizing Fossil Fuels, AND would shift subsidies to what is in America's NEED:
    1. a subsidy for no imports AND is emissions clean.
    2. a subsidy for emissions clean AND baseload capable (24x7).
    3. a subsidy for clean storage.

    If you do the above, but with limited time and decreasing, then you will see that we do not need regulations. The free market works, but the problem is, that the feds play favorites with companies, rather than the needs of the nation. And remember that there is a difference between those two concepts.


  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:50AM (#33066768)

    And by the way, in Germany on sunny days there is more electricity produced by photovoltaics than by nuclear reactors.

    That's because Germany has long have had an anti-nuclear stance, while actively promoting solar energy. Even they are reconsidering on keeping nuclear plants open for a longer time, in the wake of economic realities.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:2, Informative)

    by AlecC ( 512609 ) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:57AM (#33066802)

    Pumped storage is certainly possible. But sites are not common, and it adds to capital costs - which add to production costs. The costs of both PV and pumped storage are dominated by capital costs, so this crossover is unlikely to have occurred if you have to add in pumped (or other) storage.

  • utter nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheLoneCabbage ( 323135 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:58AM (#33066806) Homepage

    The report compares running costs of a solar plant against the running costs of nuclear PLUS construction costs. Not only that but also chooses the most expensive plant designs, and takes the extremely high end estimates.

    Taken from http://energyfromthorium.com/ [energyfromthorium.com]:

    Fuel costs. Thorium fuel is plentiful and inexpensive; one ton worth $300,000 can power a 1,000 megawatt LFTR for a year – enough power for a city. Just 500 tons would supply all US electric energy for a year. The US government has 3,752 tons stored in the desert. US Geological Survey estimates reserves of 300,000 tons, and Thorium Energy claims 1.8 million tons of ore on 1,400 acres of Lemhi Pass, Idaho. Fuel costs for thorium would be $0.00004/kWh, compared to coal at $0.03/kWh.

    Capital costs. The 2009 update of MIT’s Future of Nuclear Power shows new coal plants cost $2.30/watt and PWR nuclear plants cost of $4.00/watt. The median of five cost studies of molten salt reactors from 1962 to 2002 is $1.98/watt, in 2009 dollars. The following are fundamental reasons that LFTR plants will be less costly than coal or PWR plants.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:02AM (#33066838)

    No - we didn't forget

    We are still pissing ourselves laughing at it's price..........
    There is no way it is going to be sold unsubsidised for 16c per kwHr

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:23AM (#33066944) Journal

    The money shot from that, for those who are too lazy to follow the link:
    "For the cost of solar electricity, Blackburn and Cunningham relied on reported offers of "commercial scale" solar electricity at a certain price to the grid supplier - without noting that those offers are on a strictly "when available" basis that is also take or pay.

    Here is an analogy - if you happen to grow tomatoes in your yard, imagine going to your local grocery store and demanding that the grocer pay you the same price that he charges at retail. The grocer must take all of the tomatoes that your garden produces, but you make no promises about how many you will bring each day. When you want to eat tomatoes at home, but your garden has not produced any, you expect to be able to walk into the store and purchase all of the tomatoes that you need at the same price that you sold them for. (Actually, this is not a very good analogy, because on page 11 of their paper, Blackburn and Cunningham admit that certain solar electricity suppliers will actually be paid a "subsidized" rate of 19 cents per kilowatt hour, which is almost two times the residential retail price in North Carolina of 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour.)

    In addition to failing to mention the terms and conditions under which electricity is being offered, Blackburn and Cunningham bury a few "minor" details about solar electricity real costs in an appendix. As they admit in a section that few people will read, the price that some installers are talking about charging utilities is the "net" price - after they receive and bank all currently offered payments from other taxpayers and after they have obtained taxpayer subsidized 25 year amortization, tax free loans. In North Carolina today, a homeowner who purchases a solar energy system receives a 30% cash grant from the federal government and a 35% cash grant from the state government.

    Using the example provided in the paper, those cash payments turn a 3 KWe (max capacity), $18,000 system that produces electricity at 35 cents per kilowatt hour (if financed at 6% interest for 25 years) into a system costing the homeowner just $8,190 and producing electricity for a total of 15.9 cents per kilowatt hour - when the sun is shining. Of course, that means that the homeowner has received a grant of $9,810 from his or her neighbors, some of whom may not own a home (renters) or even own a roof (condo and apartment dwellers). Blackburn and Cunningham admit that they did not include energy storage costs of any kind (pg 11)."

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_lfibbBnlKt8/TFAYotKn1yI/AAAAAAAAA4Q/e7giOX_5kV4/s1600/LCOE_Electricity_OECD.png [blogspot.com] ...that shows the sustained price for modern nuclear power to be about $50/MWh or 1/3 of Solar. (That's in the US; in Eur/Jpn/Kor where their proficiency and experience is much better, about $0.033/MWh.)

    New York Times guilty of 'writing to their preconceptions' again.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:3, Informative)

    by panda ( 10044 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:24AM (#33066956) Homepage Journal

    Hi, my name is Yucca Mountain [http]. I'd like to disagree with you about the costs of nuclear energy.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:2, Informative)

    by upower ( 1050254 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:27AM (#33066976)
    Or have long lifespan and good power output as reported a couple of days ago such as Toshiba SCiB. http://www.scib.jp/en/product/detail.htm [www.scib.jp]
  • Re:I wonder.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by elFarto the 2nd ( 709099 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:37AM (#33067042)
    I believe what our misguided friend means are Neutrons. Direct exposure to them is certainly something to avoid, but they can be captured effectively with water and lithium-6.
  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:46AM (#33067082) Journal
    No, you have several choices:

    Pumped storage. Remember those water towers near factories? They were used to drive generators for extra peak power. Any form of dam would also work - or even just raising a huge weight, or compressed air in an underground chamber.

    Using reflectors to heat up your steam generator - an idea from the 1970s. That retained heat can drive your steam plant until the next morning.

    Eutectic salts - ditto.

    Inertial storage systems, such as composite flywheels running in a vacuum - covered in Scientific American circa 1973.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:4, Informative)

    by TwiztidK ( 1723954 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:50AM (#33067114)

    Thats because we don't have the sense to reprocess our nuclear waste like other countries (read: France [ieee.org]).

  • FRAUD ALERT! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:54AM (#33067134) Homepage
    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.?

    Read the comment by "BillWoods" posted on "Tue, 2010-07-27 14:19" to the story linked in this Slashdot story. [theenergycollective.com] Quote: "Using the same amortization factor that they use for solar, the most expensive nuclear project on their list would produce power for a capital cost of about 11 cents/kW-h, well below even the subsidized cost of solar."

    The previous comment, by "Marcel F. Williams", posted on "Tue, 2010-07-27 12:51" says, "The capital cost of nuclear reactors are going to fall dramatically once the US and other countries start to mass produce and ship centrally manufactured modular nuclear reactors. Its going to be extremely difficult for any other clean energy systems to economically compete against small nuclear reactors during the rest of this century for producing electricity and carbon neutral synfuels."

    Wow! That was easy! Indicating the falsehood of the Slashdot story only required copying the comments in the linked story.
  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chatterton ( 228704 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:10AM (#33067264) Homepage

    Yes, it is interesting to compage a prototype of surgenerator to a 'traditional' reactor. Superphenix was a prototype taken in the struggle of political battles by the green parties.

  • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:16AM (#33067328)
    "Water vapor is the major green house gas ... This is relevant because Nuclear power plants, like coal fired power plants, are big steam engines, many of which release large quantities of steam into the atmosphere. "

    Wow. I can understand someone not knowing much about a subject, but I can't understand why they are inspired to spout off about it when they must surely realise they don't know what they are talking about.

    The steam from those "big steam engines" is condensed. Not originally because of environmental concerns, but because it makes the steam engine far more efficient. Heard of James Watt? Gave his name to the Kilowatts and Megawatts mentioned here? He invented the steam engine condenser.

    "Power plants like Diablo Canyon in Southern California get around the issue of needing large quantities of water by being feed by the ocean, but the new power plants on the Mississippi river seem to be causing other power plants to run short of water"

    The sea or river water is not boiled away to the sky but goes through the "cold" side of the condensers and returns, slightly warmer, to the sea/river. The water being boiled for the turbines recycles over-and-over again - they would not want to lose it as that water is highly treated stuff.

    I don't know Mississippi but it sounds like the river is being warmed enough to cause some loss of efficiency. The river water will not have been "lost".

    Some power stations by smaller rivers use cooling towers to supplement the river cooling and these do emit some steam. But that steam is a small fraction of the primary circuit flow through the turbines or the secondary (river water) flow through the condensers.

    The only large non-condensing steam engines were steam railway locos, but even some of those used condensers. Of course, oil and gas fired power stations, and internal combustion engines, emit lots of steam in their exhaust, most obvious on cold days, as the hydrogen in their fuel content is burned.
  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:19AM (#33067358) Journal

    In fact, just the thorium discarded from our surface-mined coal could power us for thousands of years.

    Meant to mention it in my last post. The spent fuel stream is thallium-208, a gamma emmiter - very nasty stuff to deal with - very hard to deal with. So we would have to have a waste repository designed, constructed and operational before we even start talking about Thorium based reactors.

    To understand why the words of Dixie Lee Ray, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission, proclaiming that the disposal of nuclear fuel would be "the greatest non-problem in history" and would be accomplished by 1985, yet here we are in 2010, over twenty years past that date and still there is no high level waste disposal site anywhere.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:20AM (#33067362) Journal

    Or even build reactors that reprocess internally [youtube.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:25AM (#33067412)

    The Germans cheat on Nuclear power use. In particular, they IMPORT a lot of Nuclear-generated electricity from France and the Czech Republic.

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:28AM (#33067450) Homepage

    If you read these [wikipedia.org] articles [wikipedia.org], you'll see that modern IFR reactors can be started on the existing nuclear WASTE from our current reactors, and need only a milkcrate-sized chunk of essentially unrefined uranium metal per month to continue operating ad infinitum [stanford.edu].

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:33AM (#33067494)

    batteries are not the only way to store power for use at night.

    A sufficiently large heat reservoir at the generation site works far better for solar thermal. They just built a solar plant that has the heat capacity to generate power through most of the night. With a larger reservoir it could generate power 24/7.

    Pumped storage may be another longer term storage option, but the cost in terms of land for reservoirs or risk of geological failure in case of vault pressurization are not worth it.

  • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @09:21AM (#33067922)


    I don't have a citation handy, but as I understand the situation, the rich uranium deposits are very low, resulting in the mining of lower grade deposits, Thus the cost of extracting uranium is going up, on a semi permanent basis.

    That said, Uranium is a fairly small cost of a reactor...

    You are correct on both points above (but not some of the others I cut out). Uranium costs are going up permanently. But they will only rise to the point where it is economical to extract from seawater, which contains more than 1000 times the supply of the current published reserve estimates which are based on a $130/kg ceiling cost.

    The estimated cost of seawater extraction, based on technologies that have already been given small scale field trials, is about $300/kg. Uranium costs won't rise above this given the multi-thousand year supply that results. But uranium has already been sold on the spot market at $300/kg (in 2007), and at this price it only adds about 1 cent per kWHr.

    It is the high capital cost that keeps nuclear plants off the utility company's purchase list, and creating incentives for long term investment in carbon reducing technologies will required to make them compete with new gas-fired power plants.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:3, Informative)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @09:41AM (#33068190) Homepage Journal

    A lesson that the Navy learned early.
    They standardized a reactor called the S5W it was used for the Skipjack class of subs, the George Washington Class, The Ethan Allen Class, the Permit class ,the Sturgeon class, The Lafayette class, and the Ben Franklin class. It may well be the most produced type of reactor in history "Don't know about Russia I know they built one reactor type for the Hotel, Echo, and November class but I am not sure of the numbers. This article is fud but the headline will cause people to believe it without question.

    And we so need to get it through peoples heads. If you bring up Chernobyl when talking about modern western reactors you are spreading FUD.

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

    by HiddenCamper ( 811539 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @09:42AM (#33068206)
    I work at a nuclear plant, and the "at cost" of selling our power is between 3.5 and 5.5 cents per kwh on average over a year based on whether or not we are shut down for refueling that year. This is at-cost, not for profit. nuclear would only cost 16 cents per kwh if the plant was awfully mismanaged with terrible performance.
  • by HiddenCamper ( 811539 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @09:49AM (#33068280)
    The plant I work at uses about 15,000 gallons per minute. When I say "Use" i mean, that is what we draw in from the river to replace what actually evaporates. We have a large pool of water that is many times larger than that which runs through the core multiple times. My plant has steam towers, if we had just pumped water directly in/out from the river we would 'evaporate' less, but still use a lot of water.
  • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @11:13AM (#33069456) Homepage

    France pulls off their system because Germany buys their nighttime power generation. Germany is roughly the size of France. Canada is roughly 1/10th the size of the USA. See the problem?

    The argument that the sun doesn't shine at night is exactly backwards. Demand at night is about half of what it is during the day, and it would be even less except that some industries intentionally run at night because the spot price is cheaper. With solar, those folks would gladly shift to daytime operations.

    Nobody has suggested that solar should generate 100% of the power; same goes for nuclear. Given that adding more of either would be perfectly fine in terms of supply-demand grid management, why not go with the choice which is cheaper for that location?

    P.S. I have no idea where you get 0.06 USD/kWh from (no citation), but I do love how you take pot shots at the public nature of the organization while still praising their low cost. Clearly, were it not a public organization they'd be selling it for something cheaper, right? Next time you "question the mode of cost calculation in the article," it would be helpful to provide your own contrary cost calculation, eh?

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:4, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @12:37PM (#33070914) Homepage

    They standardized a reactor called the S5W it was used for the Skipjack class of subs, the George Washington Class, The Ethan Allen Class, the Permit class ,the Sturgeon class, The Lafayette class, and the Ben Franklin class.

    That was an accident of history more than anything else. Thresher/Permit started life as 'Improved Skipjack'[1] and even though it evolved all out of recognition retained S5W. The same applies to George Washington (modified from Skipjack) and Ethan Allen (a mashup based of off Skipjack and Thresher/Permit). [2]

    The balance of the SSBN's that compromise the '41 for Freedom' are all incrementally evolved from Ethan Allen, so they ended up with S5W as well. The fact that they were all designed and built in a short time frame on an accelerated schedule contributed mightily to this. Sturgeon retained S5W because she was also essentially an evolved Thresher/Permit.

    So S5W was retained not because of any conscious decision to standardize, but to hold engineering effort and costs so as not to jeopardize construction and maintenance schedules. Between new construction boomers and SubSafe overhauls, US submarine shipyard capacity and budgets were maxed out throughout the bulk of the 1960's. (Scorpion had her SubSafe overhaul delayed and then only had a minimal overhaul because of this - which is often considered as one of the potential causes for her loss.)

    On top of which, there really isn't a 'standard' S5W installation - they varied considerably between classes, there's several different machinery and reactor compartments layouts. (Including the unique installations like Jack and Lipscomb.) Not even the cores were standard - they varied by class and over time. So really, the S5W ended up being a family of roughly similar reactors rather than a single 'standard' reactor.

    On top of which, by the mid 60's, the USN recognized that they'd created a problem - ship displacement has grown considerably while the output of the S5W power plant... hadn't. Hence both the 'Super-640' (the unbuilt follow on to the Franklin's) and the Los Angeles classes had new reactors because of this. (The Los Angeles's was also designed for increased stealth.)

    I'm also told (and I invite correction) that the standardization in France is leading toward a 'monopoly/monoculture' because when one company can consistently underbid the others, it has gradually driven competitors from the field.

    [1] See Friedman's US Submarines since 1945.
    [2] Ethan Allen essentially uses Thresher/Permit's engineering spaces with a Skipjack bow. (Though there's a lot of detailed systems differences throughout the ship as Ethan Allen and her descendants were a deep divers like the Thresher/Permit's.)

  • contract (Score:2, Informative)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @12:57PM (#33071320) Homepage Journal

    Are you able to get a contract from your local utility to carve in stone that kilowatt hour price for ten, twenty or thirty years, get it locked in? If so, cool, if not, your figures are an apples and oranges comparison because you have no idea what your centralized grid supplied power will cost in the future. My guess would be..always go up.

    Also, prices on panels..there is a theoretical way to get cheaper panels, do a mass bulk group buy and get wholesale instead of retail prices. Once you can deal with the real panel manufacturer instead of some middle man retail, well, it's just loads cheaper. Buy a few at a time, expensive, get a container load..cheaper.

    Then there is also the benefit of having on site power that is clean and acts as a whole house UPS system. You get *good* power out of these systems, very clean, better than most grid supplied. This is worth something, along with I have noticed that grid supplied always seems to go out at the most inopportune time, right when you need it the most, cold ice storms (whoops! furnace stops working), heat waves (whoops, no AC or fans available, food melting away in freezer, etc), etc. Hard to put an actual cost figure on that, but it *is* useful to have your power supply better secured.

        Been there done that, went through a near week long grid outage, but because the place was mostly PV and batts (all circuits but the ancient outside heatpump), suffered not one second downtime (january ice and windstorm). In fact, I didn't even know the grid was down until the evening, when I noticed all the street lights down in the valley weren't on. A few hours grid downtime ain't bad, but days can start to get really sucky. Doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen across the nation to large segments of the people now and then.

    Home produced you are paying a premium partially as it has a more "electricity insurance" benefit than grid supplied. That's worth something, but it is a variable situation to situation.

    Another thing about solar PV is that it isn't an either/or situation, you don't have to replace all your needs, you can go one circuit at a time. Example, like noted above, it might be nice if your furnace circuit could stay up, to burn that natgas in your furnace in the winter, or to keep a window fan going in a heat wave, or to power your home office and all your expensive gear (we are geeks, we all appreciate a good UPS system, the benefits there). You can add on more PV powered circuits at your leisure, just start out with a large enough subpanel so you have upgrade room.

        So, like today, get one or two circuits, your most critical done, even if it is more expensive. Five ~ ten years down the road, your loot has gone to help fund more R and D and production, now the stuff is cheaper still, and better quality, more efficient. If everyone did this, eventually, it would be really slick, real cost competitive and quite functional. Look at the relatively short time frame when computers were still rare in the home and very expensive, to today, say the last 15 years. Thousands of bucks back then, for slow speed, limited ram and storage, etc, to today a few hundred bucks for systems much better overall. That's what economies of scale can do, once the ball really gets rolling and mass adoption and competition kicks in better.

  • NYT really blew it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @01:24PM (#33071954) Homepage

    That's an amazingly bad article for the New York Times. It's based on a single paper which reads like a sales brochure. The figures for power costs are after subsides. Solar power isn't charged with storage costs. (Although, in hot areas, the solar peak coincides with the air conditioning peak. Wind has much worse problems; output is totally unrelated to when power is needed.)

    Their projections are even worse. Their projection graph has data points in the future, which they then fit with a line. What? The SolarBuzz solar power price index [solarbuzz.com], which is from a solar advocacy group, is far higher than the numbers in that paper. SolarBuzz shows a decline from $0.22/KWh in 2000 to $0.19/Kwh in 2010 today for medium-industrial sized roof-top solar projects in US sunbelt states, including inverters and grid connection, but not land or power storage. That's only a 10% decline per decade, not the 40% decline shown in the paper.

    Nobody has actually built and started up a big nuclear plant in the US in several decades, so there's no real cost basis available there. China has 22 reactors under construction right now.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:56PM (#33073872)

    Long distance electricty transmission is routine and efficient. California gets lots of its electricty all the way from BC, Canada.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:3, Informative)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:53PM (#33074892) Homepage Journal

    The end result is coal being burnt.

    The end result is coal being burnt at a lower rate, starting at a date that is sooner than it would be feasible to phase out coal.

    The alternative is to burn coal at faster rate, until it looks like we're running out of it, and hope that will be early enough to find a complete replacement for it.

  • Re:Conditions Apply (Score:3, Informative)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:59PM (#33075004) Homepage Journal

    "So S5W was retained not because of any conscious decision to standardize, but to hold engineering effort and costs so as not to jeopardize construction and maintenance schedules."
    Sounds like a great reason to standardize to me.
    The Thresher may have started out as an improved Skipjack but it really didn't end up that way.
    The Thresher had a totally different hull shape, it was much quieter because it used rafting, it had totally different bow Thresher and Permit used a spherical sonar array and had torpedo tubs mounted amidships. While Skipjack used a conventional array and bow mounted tubes.
    So I would put them as two very different classes.
    But what in effect you are saying is that the Navy Standardized reactors to save time and money. Which is the best reason to standardize anything.
    The Lipscomb, as well as the Tullibee and Narwal are all considered one offs. For some reason the Jack is not.

  • by JimToo ( 1304315 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:43AM (#33080104)
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html [world-nuclear.org] and http://www.solarbuzz.com/StatsCosts.htm [solarbuzz.com] and the crucial test, this article fails on my personal, does it sound like bull meter.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson