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Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion In Solar, Battery Investment (arstechnica.com) 390

Socguy writes: After being unable to complete the Levy County Nuclear Plant a few years ago, Duke energy abandoned it, leaving rate payers on the hook. Duke is now in the process of settling legal action as a result. As part of the settlement Duke will construct or acquire 700MW of solar capacity over four years in the western Florida area, construct 50MW of battery storage, undertake grid modernizations and install 530 electric car charging stations. "The Levy nuclear plant was proposed in 2008 and ran into hurdles early on," reports Ars Technica. "With cheap natural gas in 2013, Duke Energy Florida became nervous that it might not recuperate costs spent on the nuclear plant, especially with regulatory delays. The company cancelled its engineering and construction agreements in 2013 but said that it was holding open the possibility of returning to Levy someday. Over nine years, about $800 million had been spent on preparatory work for the plant. With Tuesday's announcement, those costs are sunk costs now. But overall, the changes will save residential customers future nuclear-related rate increases. Those customers will see a cost reduction of $2.50 per megawatt-hour (MWh) 'through the removal of unrecovered Levy Nuclear Project costs,' the utility said. The 700MW of solar won't exactly cover the nameplate capacity of the Levy plant, which was supposed to deliver 2.2 gigawatts to the region. But the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Duke 'is effectively giving up its long-held belief that nuclear power is a key component to its Florida future and, instead, making a dramatic shift toward more solar power.'"
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Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion In Solar, Battery Investment

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  • Florida seems like a good site for a solar plant with battery storage. This might actually make sense.
    • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @09:27PM (#55134731)
      Until a hurricane rolls over it and sends the solar panels out to sea in many small chunks, maybe....
      • Yea!!!

        Humanity is incapable of designing for wind and we should immediately abandon any attempt.

      • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @12:41AM (#55135225) Homepage

        I like how you try to make it sound saner to have stuck with the original plan to build another nuclear power plant in the middle of hurricane territory instead.

      • Re:Seems a good site (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @01:50AM (#55135347) Journal

        Until a hurricane rolls over it and sends the solar panels out to sea in many small chunks, maybe....

        The irony that this is the reason that Duke cites Levy being cancelled. Westinghouse couldn't make an AP1000 that can pass NRC hurricane regulations, here is a transcript of the radio program. [nukefree.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Florida seems like a good site for a solar plant with battery storage. This might actually make sense.

      Did you notice that category 5 storm swirling around Florida's tip right now? Last I heard they were expecting it to go right down to the balls. Florida is not a suitable place to build anything more permanent than a tent.

    • Re:Seems a good site (Score:5, Informative)

      by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @10:54PM (#55134965) Journal

      You would think. But...

      We would likely have a solar adoption rate higher than all but a few other states if it wasn't for whacked laws put in place to defend the utilities. A homeowner here can't sell energy back to the utility. Only those who can produce 24 hours a day on-demand can do so. Because of this, our solar penetration is lower than many northeastern states.

      Until we either get a change in the law or the cost of battery storage drops enough to make solar + battery much less than utility provided electric, Florida will lag the developed world in solar (and some of the third world).

      • A homeowner here can't sell energy back to the utility.

        Given that the utility doesn't want their power grid being messed up by random feedback from consumer panels, is it really a bad thing for them to not be paying for something that they don't want?

      • Retail rate net metering is going away. It's no way to finance a grid when the lights have to stay on at night. And yes, I'm in a northeastern state.
        The early adopters get a sweet deal for a few years on the backs of their neighbors (who pay for the early adopter's electricity at night), but that can't continue.

        • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @01:21AM (#55135307) Journal

          It's no way to finance a grid when the lights have to stay on at night.

          Yeah, it's not like the peak demand is close the same time that solar panels produce peak output. Oh, wait, it is.

          Most of the USA experiences peak demand mid-afternoon, when A/C units are cranking away.

      • A homeowner here can't sell energy back to the utility. Only those who can produce 24 hours a day on-demand can do so

        Which is partly to do with the energy markets not currently being designed to scale. The spot price of electricity varies second by second and a lot of power plants adjust their outputs based on this. Some big storage facilities buy power when it's cheap, pump water uphill, and then run as a hydro-electric power plant when the spot price is high. Having a lot more sources varying their output but not being able to adjust output down or up based on the current price will cause a lot of problems for the ex

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's the most impractical idea I've heard since I last read a tweet from Donald Trump.

    They don't call it the Sunshine State, not even on the license plates. And they wouldn't need so many oranges if they weren't vitamin deficient from too little sun. And let's face it, they should just use the same generator powered by the soul of a Forsaken child as is used to keep Disneyworld operational.

  • that is all.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      considering they are dealing with dangerous materials it would make sense to ensure it was built to code.
    • that is all.

      Maybe the bankruptcy of Westinghouse has something to do with it.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Monday September 04, 2017 @03:35AM (#55135543) Homepage Journal

      From TFS: "With cheap natural gas in 2013, Duke Energy Florida became nervous that it might not recuperate costs spent on the nuclear plant"

      Cheap gas, the expectation that renewables and batteries will keep getting cheaper... It doesn't make economic sense to build, operate and decomission a nuclear plant now.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Indeed, and it hardly did even before. The "nuclear renaissance"'s promise of much cheaper nuclear power failed to deliver; cost overruns was the name of the game with them. And more frequently than not, due to technical / construction reasons rather than regulatory. See Olkiluoto 3 [wikipedia.org] for one of the worst examples. Nearly a decade past schedule and still years from opening.

        Building nuclear plants is just plain hard. The corrosion environment is terrible (irradiation-induced embrittlement, decay products, tra

  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @09:17PM (#55134711)

    75% of Duke's generation mix is coal or natural gas. So, rather than offset any of that base load with a 2.2 GW nuclear facility, they'll supplement demand growth and cover peaks with solar and keep burning the coal and gas. It's cheaper and they get to wave the green flag etc.

    • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @09:51PM (#55134797)

      So, rather than offset any of that base load with a 2.2 GW nuclear facility, they'll supplement demand growth and cover peaks with solar and keep burning the coal and gas. It's cheaper and they get to wave the green flag etc.

      The saying for this is "perfect is the enemy of good enough."

      Is nuclear perfect? No. But then, neither is solar, wind, or any other technology? Is nuclear better than coal/natural gas? You bet. So then, why do people cheer when a nuclear project gets killed? Because they ignore the very thing that you pointed out. They look at it in absolute terms instead of "fossil fuel < nuclear < wind/solar/etc."

      Sort of like getting a cancer diagnosis and being told that while it might take some time to completely eradicate it because the treatment is new and not yet widely available, they can do something to slow its growth for now. You can be all principled and turn down the interim treatment while you wait for the perfect treatment. In the meantime you die waiting for the perfect treatment instead of opting to do something now that will buy time.

      • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

        The saying for this is "perfect is the enemy of good enough."

        Which always seems to be said in the context of defending the indefensible. Nuclear power isn't an exception here.

        So then, why do people cheer when a nuclear project gets killed?

        Because they don't want their taxpayer dollars to be pissed away on the ultimate form of corporate welfare? Because they don't want to saddle future generations with an enormous waste problem? Because they took fifth grade econ and have heard the term "cost effective"?

        T

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The frustration many of us feel is that if all the money invested into nuclear was instead invested into renewables it would see a reduction in fossil fuel use too.

        Look at Germany. Closing coal plans, and the new ones being opened are burning less of it and with cleaner output. It's not perfect but the net result is that by the mid 2020s they will not only have cancelled all new nuclear but closed all the current ones, and reduced coal and gas consumption, and developed a world-leading and highly profitable

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      But how much baseload is truly necessary? In other words, how much electrical demand is perfectly inelastic?

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Your conflation of coal and gas is wrong. They're very different fuels from an environmental footprint standpoint, and while gas is most definitely on the rise, coal is likewise most definitely on the decline.

      The US power grid is overwhelmingly headed in the direction of being a mix of gas, wind and solar (the latter small but undergoing an exponential scaleup similar to wind in its early days). All three will be major players over the next few decades at least, while coal continues its death spiral. At pr

  • Westinghouse, AREVA (Olkilouto 3), and now Duke Energy... More and more players seem to have trouble when trying to to re-start building new nuclear plants...
    • Westinghouse, AREVA (Olkilouto 3), and now Duke Energy... More and more players seem to have trouble when trying to to re-start building new nuclear plants...

      Hmmm... love me some solar, and full disclosure, I'm not against government interference in the markets in the form of subsidies to develop it, wind, and other renewables.

      But. Baseline generation is important to the delicate balance of the grid. How about some some friggin' government interference in the markets on behalf of next-generation nuclear power development?

      • The grid doesn't need base load. That term was invented because coal power plants could not follow load, so if all your power plants are of the load following types, base load is moot.

  • With Tuesday's announcement, those costs are sunk costs now.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Sunk costs [businessdictionary.com] are costs that are already spent. The $800 million was a sunk cost long before this announcement. What you mean is those costs are now a write off [businessdictionary.com] due to obsolescence [businessdictionary.com].

    • Which word? "Now"? The costs were always sunk.

      • While the use of now is technically correct, it is misleading.

        The phrasing implies that the costs have only recently become sunk(as a result of the decision to abandon the plant), whereas they have been sunk for a long time.

    • The definition you refer to says: "Money already spent and permanently lost".
      The "and" is important. Yes the costs were already spent but that doesn't make them sunk costs. That only happens when they are permanently lost. And that only happened at the moment they decided that they were definitively abandoning the project.
      So, for me the statement is a correct one. According the cited definition.

  • ... the Levy plant, which was supposed to deliver 2.2 gigawatts to the region ...

    I don't know why they keep messing with nuclear power. They showed how to create 1.21 jigawatts of electricity way back in 1984... [youtube.com] Why that research was discontinued? Who really shot such emmetinent scientists? Libyan terrorists? Or merceneries of the Big Power companies? I wonder...

  • But, they are not going to build large plants like this where the builders gouge the company. Once SMRs are going, Duke will jump all over them.
  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @09:52PM (#55134803)
    In this thread /. "nuclear experts" will decry just how costly all this solar stuff is and how great and awesome and cheap nuclear power is.

    All that on a story about how a multi billion dollar energy company couldn't get a nuclear power plant off the ground even after $800 million dollars. I'm sure all Duke needed to do was consult such expert /. in order to save their project.
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @01:00AM (#55135265)
      I wouldn't, except the renewables proponents keep making fundamental engineering errors which indicate they're clueless about power generation and are unqualified to be making decisions concerning it.
      • 700 MW of nameplate solar capacity multiplied by Levy County's solar capacity factor of 0.161 [nrel.gov] yields an average annual production of just 112.7 MW.
      • By comparison, the scrapped nuclear plant's 2.2 GW multiplied by nuclear's capacity factor of 0.9 yields an average annual production of 1980 MW.

      So this 700 MW of solar power represents just 5.7% the capacity of the scrapped nuclear plant. Guess where the other 94.3% of energy production is going to come from (hint: its initials are FF)?

      To replace the nuclear plant entirely with solar, they'd have to build (1980 MW / 0.161) = 12,300 MW of panels. That's more than 8x larger than the largest existing solar plant in the world [wikipedia.org], more than 20x larger than the largest existing solar plant in the U.S. At the optimistic cost of $1/Watt, those solar panels (never mind the supporting infrastructure) would cost $12.3 billion. The nuclear plant was only going to cost $7.65 billion. They killed it because of regulatory delays.

    • In this thread /. "nuclear experts" will decry just how costly all this solar stuff is and how great and awesome and cheap nuclear power is. All that on a story about how a multi billion dollar energy company couldn't get a nuclear power plant off the ground even after $800 million dollars.

      You're confusing technology with regulatory cost and garbage overheads caused by politics and NIMBYs. Don't do that, it makes you look foolish.

      Oh and maybe you want to run the costs of how much 2.2GW of solar with >90% capacity factors will actually cost. But you won't. You'll just see that a large nuclear plant got cancelled while a small piss-weak solar plant gets built in its place. Then in a few years everyone will wonder why we're still burning coal, suffering from rolling power outages, and where a

  • Cost per KW (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @10:00PM (#55134819)
    When this plant was proposed in 2006 nuclear was the most cost effective energy out there. Fracking drove the cost of natural gas into the basement and has remained there ever since. So nuclear is no longer the best bag for your buck in the energy industry and it comes with the NIMBY stigma associated with radiation. Duke probably ran the numbers and decided it was cheaper to take the hit and pay a fine rather than complete the project and be straddled with it for years to come.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      When this plant was proposed in 2006 nuclear was the most cost effective energy out there.

      Only if you ignore decommissioning and waste management, which you don't get to do unless you're one of the assholes actually building the plant.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When this plant was proposed in 2006 nuclear was the most cost effective energy out there.

        Only if you ignore decommissioning and waste management, which you don't get to do unless you're one of the assholes actually building the plant.

        Or, you know, if Luddite chicken-littles would stop blocking the building of breeder-type reactors that reuse their own fuel until what's left is much easier & safer to handle and dispose of. There doesn't have to be highly-radioactive waste to dispose of to begin with.

        Congratulations and thanks to your kind of pseudo-environmental ideological/political pop-science idiocy, we get all the worst of the negative conse

        • Or, you know, if Luddite chicken-littles would stop blocking the building of breeder-type reactors

          Nobody is even trying to build such a thing.

        • Re:Cost per KW (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @12:13AM (#55135155) Homepage Journal

          First, the main concern with early fast breeder reactor designs was proliferation. Engineering can reduce the convenience of proliferation, but it won't ever eliminate it because generating Pu-239 is inherent to the process. That's not a luddite concern; it's real.

          Second, fast breeders at least don't appear to be as economical as originally hoped. The assumption when the tech was proposed was that uranium supply wouldn't keep up with demand, but in fact uranium turns out to be reasonably plentiful. Even under a scenario of greatly increased nuclear adoption it would be many decades before we'd need to turn to breeders. On the cost side, the breeder reactors that have been built have proven to be much less reliable and more expensive to operate than hoped. Of course engineering advances could make breeders cheaper to build and run, but you could say that of conventional nuclear plants too.

          Finally, breeders still have radioactive waste problems; different, and likely more tractable ones, but from an economic standpoint that's meaningless because we allow companies to build conventional plants as if the future waste problem will solve itself. The need to solve the problems from a plant you break ground on today is so far in the future it has no financial reality. So I suspect to get breeder technology off the ground, you'd ironically have to crack down on nuclear power in general.

          It takes a lot more for a technology to be economically feasible than for it to be physically possible. A lot depends on the cost of the alternatives. As long as fossil fuel companies are allowed to externalize their costs on the scale that they do, and conventional nuclear power is allowed to ignore the future costs their plants will incur, advances in novel nuclear technologies are bound to occur at a snail's pace.

          You can imagine a future society running on thorium fuel cycle nuclear plants, it isn't hard to do, and that future can look reasonably good. But imagining something being done is a lot different than knowing how to get it done. You've got to convince people to spend money on stuff that costs more in the short- to mid-term.

        • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

          Or, you know, if Luddite chicken-littles would stop blocking the building of breeder-type reactors that reuse their own fuel until what's left is much easier & safer to handle and dispose of.

          No amount of vaporware is going to make nuclear power cost-effective. Stop trying to make the nuclear efficiency thing happen. It's not going to happen.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      So nuclear is no longer the best bag for your buck in the energy industry and it comes with the NIMBY stigma associated with radiation.

      It always did. The difference is that post-Fukushima, building a nuclear power plant near a coast also comes with a boatload of new regulations and extra scrutiny. Plus, with Westinghouse's bankruptcy putting the entire future of the AP1000 in jeopardy, there was a good chance that they would get halfway through and have to scrap it anyway. Better to cut their losses relatively early.

      • It is interesting to note that Florida has several other nuclear reactors on the coast. One of them, Crystal River, was just a few feet above a Category 5 storm surge. Its basically built on a little platform that just barely brings above projected storm surge level. It would be a little island admist 10 foot waves should the worst happen. Very comforting.That often would cause me to wonder. I think that wondering more would be a good idea given what happened with Fukashima. The levy plant was located furth

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          The levy plant was located further inland in acknowledgement of the bad location of the Crystal River plant.

          The problem with that plan, IMO, is that the state of Florida is very nearly flat. The highest elevation in Florida is less than 350 feet above sea level. The record run-up height for a tsunami was 1,720 feet. Even the relatively modest Fukushima run-up (128 feet) would theoretically have covered the entire state of Florida, with the exception of the most inland parts of the panhandle and a small h

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @01:38AM (#55135333) Journal

    Here we see the effect of dismantling the Public Utility Companies Holding Act (PUCHA deregulation) in action. This 'New Deal' act to prevent a re-occurrence of the 1929 depression by Utility companies scamming taxpayers.

    Duke received subsidies and tax incentives under provisions to build a nuclear reactor (that's the $2.50 per MWh they charged) and will now be able to activate cost recovery under "SEC. 638. STANDBY SUPPORT FOR CERTAIN NUCLEAR PLANT DELAYS" of the 2005 US energy policy act to the tune of half a billion dollars for these two 'proposed' nuclear reactors. Not a bad return on sunk costs of $65 million. Specifically SEC. 638, (d)(2)(A,B).

    To those that cite NIMBYs, NIMBYs didn't make Westinghouse Nuclear go bankrupt and Duke is blaming the NRC for delays issuing the Combined License for the construction and operation of Levy, this is SEC. 638, (c)(1)(A). It would be interesting to know what Duke claims those delays were and US tax and ratepayers should be concerned that this isn't actually covered by SEC. 638, (c)(2)(C), i.e a normal business risk because Westinghouse can't build them a pair of AP1000s anymore and even if they could they can't pass the NRC regulations that make them safe in a hurricane.

    Of interest is a 2011 Tampa Bay Times article [tampabay.com] which aired complaints that Duke have been scamming their customers $2.50 per Mwh since they proposed Levy probably under SEC. 638, (d)(4)(B). This clumsy episode shows exactly how the scam works. It's difficult to believe there was an intention to build a nuclear power plant and that the entire nuclear renaissance was a way for oil and coal companies to use the nuclear industry to plunder the taxpayer.

  • "50MW of battery storage". How can a watt be a unit of storage?

  • by Mike Greaves ( 1236 ) on Monday September 04, 2017 @10:01AM (#55136527) Homepage

    Solar? Battery "storage"? Can we do the math on this one?

    The cancelled reactors would have produced an average of 47.5 GWh per day @ 90% cap factor.

    If the 700 MW of added solar uses modest DC overbuild, it will achieve something like a 25% cap factor, as a seasonal average.
    That's 4.2 GWh per day, replacing just 9% of the foregone nuclear gen.

    Most grid battery "storage" systems run for less than a couple of hours @ rated power (50 MW in this case) per day; many only have 10 minutes of rated runtime, just enough to allow paralleled quick-dispatch gas turbines (burning natural gas) time to spin-up.
    So that's less than 0.1 GWh per day. The reactors would do nearly 500x times that.

    Duke is planning to replace up to 90% of the nuclear with NATURAL GAS, mostly burned in high-efficiency combined-cycle turbines plus some in quick-dispatch simple-cycle turbines. The rest of the story is window-dressing.

    I hope the "environmentalists" don't mind the GHG impact of this decision.

Gravity is a myth, the Earth sucks.

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