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Power United States Hardware

Could the US Phase Out Nuclear Power? 657

mdsolar writes "In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, [German Chancellor] Merkel announced that her country would close all of its 17 existing reactors by 2022. Other nations, including Japan, Italy, and Switzerland, have announced plans to pare back nuclear power, but none have gone as far as Germany, the world's fourth-largest economy. Merkel vows to replace nuclear power with alternatives that do not increase greenhouse gases or shackle the economic growth. Could the US do the same? An increasing number of reports suggest it is not beyond the realm of possibility, and Germany could provide a road map."
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Could the US Phase Out Nuclear Power?

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  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @02:29PM (#36378196) Journal

    The great American cities we have today would have never been built if there was this much fear of the remote possibility of injury or death. Under today's mindset, you would have never had people walking the beams in Manhattan in order to build all that, as quickly and cheaply as they did.

    People are dying TODAY from coal and oil. Thousands of them per year. Can we please build something that only has a chance of killing people, rather than assuring people die?

  • by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @03:19PM (#36378946)

    In a debate on TED talks, taking the pro-nuclear side, Stuart Brand said something that sums up the whole thing: "I am not so much pro-nuclear as I am pro-arithmetic."

    The anti-nukes keep making assertions about how we "don't need nuclear or fossil fuels" that are violations of basic arithmetic.

    Assuming we're to be permitted to continue having a technological civilization, of course, which is not, perhaps, a given.

  • Re:Short Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:12PM (#36379638)

    But is it worse than a coal plant, or a natural gas plant, or the equivalent solar or windmill farm

    Partially apples vs oranges.

    Nuclear has lower operational impacts than coal. Coal has lower failure impacts than Nuclear.

    Operational impacts can be planned for and reasonably dealt with. Failure impacts cannot. At some point the level of planning fails because of unforeseen risks. You can mitigate as best as possible, but you can never solve the problem with certainty.

    Solar/wind is lower than either on both accounts. The energy 'storage' technology isn't yet ready for wind/solar to be grid scale but it is coming.

    And on top of that it's fuel is free.

  • Re:Longer Answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anspen ( 673098 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @04:20PM (#36379748)

    Germany is not phasing out nuclear power. They will need to import power in the short- and medium-term from France and England, both of which are nuclear-heavy (particularly France). Germany will still use nuclear-generated electricity; they're just playing a "not in my back yard" game. And by "they", I mean politicians which are pandering to their electorate to try to keep in power.

    Off course they will continue to im- and export electricity to neighbouring countries depending on the day. That's how the electricity market works. France's nuclear reactor for example tend to produce far to little electricity during the hottest part of the summer since they are mostly dependent on river water for cooling. Looking at the total energy consumption and production over the course of a year however Germany has a large electricity surplus. In 2009 this was 54.1 TWh (592.6 produced vs. 538.5 consumed [])

    As a matter of fact, the seven oldest nuclear plants can be shutdown without any problems [] immediately (which is what happened) since there is a significant production surplus. Even without the other nuclear power plants and all wind and solar power Germany still has enough production capacity to meet it's highest consumption moment so far. In practice that moment is always during the afternoon when you are guaranteed at least a quarter of installed solar power plus some of the wind power (since it's distributed across the fairly large country).

    Long-term, they are putting themselves at the mercy of Russia. The NordStream natural gas pipeline will eventually be providing fuel, which can and will be used as a political lever (Russia has successfully done so several times in the past to strong-arm NATO over membership for the Ukraine and Georgia).

    However, unlike the Ukraine and Georgia Germany has other sources of Gas (the Netherlands and Norway) and significant storage capacity.

    Also, natural gas is a fossil fuel just like oil, and if the CO2 boogeyman is still the boogeyman, well... how does that not cause problems? On a per-megawatt basis, nuclear power remains much cheaper than natural gas, and a full decimal order of magnitude cheaper than solar (recall how far north Germany is. That's a problem for solar.) Switching from nuclear power to natural gas is not a step forward, economically, politically, ecologically

    The difference is that gas can be put into service (or out) much faster than nuclear. Itâ(TM)s a much better partner for intermittent renewables (Which is what Germany is going for to replace the nuclear power plants). And while existing nuclear electricity is indeed very cheap (because the massive investment cost have already been depreciated and because the producers donâ(TM)t have to pay for decommissioning). New nuclear power is a lot more expensive, doubly so after Fukushima. Building one on spec (that is, without public financial guarantees and/or investment)to be finished in 2018 is already more expensive [] than some of the feed in tariffs paid in Germany for solar now. Most wind is already cheaper than any kind nuclear plant that still has to be built. And solar is expected to continue getting cheaper (the price of photovoltaic installations in Germany has halved in the last five years [] thanks to economy of scale and technological improvements)

    This is just another example of politicians doing long-term harm for short-term political dominance.

    Well, the nuclear fase out plan in Germany has been on the books for years. Itâ(TM)s was only in the last y

  • Re:Short Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:21PM (#36380928) Homepage

    The energy cost payback for your average solar panel is 1-3 years. Some of the new thin film ones are measured in months.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp