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How Much Will New Nuclear Power Plants Cost?
2 Nov, 2008 03:03 pm
The costs of building new American nuclear reactors may be much higher than quoted by the industry.
A collection of new studies, however, suggest that these figures may underestimate the cost of building new nuclear units by more than a factor of 3. Researchers from the Keystone Center, a nonpartisan think tank, consulted with 27 nuclear power companies and contractors, and concluded in June 2007 that the cost for building new reactors would be between $3,600 and $4,000 per installed kW (with interest). They also projected that the operating costs for these plants would be remarkably expensive: 30 ¢/kWh for the first 13 years until construction costs are paid followed by 18 ¢/kWh over the remaining lifetime of the plant. (For comparison, the average residential price for electricity was about 10 ¢/kWh last year).
Just a few months later, in October 2007, Moody’s Investor Service projected even higher costs due to the quickly escalating price of metals, forgings, other materials, and labor needed to construct reactors. They estimated total costs for new plants, including interest, at between $5,000 and $6,000 per installed kW. Florida Power & Light informed the Florida Public Service Commission in December 2007 that their estimated the cost for building two new nuclear units at Turkey Point in South Florida was $8,000 per installed kW, or a shocking $24 billion. And in early 2008, Progress Energy pegged its cost estimates for two new units in Florida to be about $14 billion plus an additional $3 billion for T&D.
Remember, too, that these costs do not include the expense of storing nuclear waste. In August 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy offered an updated estimate of the cost for building and operating Yucca Mountain, the planned centralized repository being erected in Nevada. The DOE noted that the expected costs for Yucca Mountain jumped from $57.5 in 2001 billion to $96.2 billion today, and this latter figure only covers the costs of building the facility and transporting waste until 2133.
Furthermore, researchers at Georgetown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory assessed financial risks for advanced nuclear power plants utilizing a three-decade historical database of delivered costs from each of 99 conventional nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. The study pointed out two unique features of advanced nuclear power plants that make them prone to unexpected increases in cost: (a) their dependence on operational learning, a feature not well suited to rapidly changing technology and market environments subject to local variability in supplies, labor, technology, public opinion, and the risks of capital cost escalation; and (b) difficulty in standardizing new nuclear units, or the idiosyncratic problems of relying on large generators whose specific site requirements do not allow for mass production.
History does indeed seem to confirm this trend. The Congressional Budget Office reported in May 2008 that the actual costs of building 75 of the existing nuclear power plants in the U.S. exceeded industry quoted estimated by more than 300 percent. The industry, in other words, reported average construction costs for these plants at $45.2 billion (in 1990 dollars) but the facilities ended up costing $144.6 billion (in 1990 dollars). This increased their construction costs from $938 per installed kW to $2,959 per installed kW.
The lesson, in other words, is simple. The historical record, along with new projections from actual utilities and energy consultants, implies that industry cost estimates for new nuclear power plants cannot be trusted. As we move forward in debating which options will best meet our electricity (and possibly energy) needs in the next few decades, we should all beware that the experience with nuclear power in the United States shows how truly expensive that option can be.
For further reading:
Pam Radtke Russell, “Prices Are Rising: Nuclear Cost Estimates Under Pressure,” EnergyBiz Insider (May-June, 2008), available at http://a4nr.org/library/economics/may.june-energybiz/view.
The Keystone Center, Nuclear Power Joint Fact-Finding (July, 2007), available at http://www.keystone.org/spp/energy07_nuclear.html.
Nathan E. Hultman, Jonathan G. Koomey, Daniel M. Kammen, “What History Can Teach Us About the Future Costs of U.S. Nuclear Power,” Environmental Science & Technology (April 1, 2007), pp. 2088-2099, available at http://rael.berkeley.edu/files/2007/HultmanetalNuclearViewpoint2007.pdf.
“Nuclear Waste: Distant and Expensive Mirage,” Electricity Journal 21(7) (August/September, 2008), pp. 23-24, available at http://www.science-direct.com/science/journal/10406190.
Congressional Budget Office, Nuclear Power’s Role in Generating Electricity (Washington, DC: CBO, May, 2008), available at http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=9133.
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First, your title attacks a straw man. The nuclear industry is a fiction invented by anti-nukes. The big players have always been energy companies who don't have any particular attachment to nuclear energy over other kinds, whether they are fossil-fired, geothermal, wind, or whatever. The number of companies who specialize in nuclear services or nuclear equipment is too small to be termed an industry. And none of these have ever combined in such a way that they could offer cost estimates.
Then you compare cost estimates made by different sources and express surprise that they reach different conclusions. Why, that proves they can't be trusted! Why be concerned that different estimates are based on different assumptions about interest rates, equipment lifetimes, fuel costs, and the host of other factors that effect final costs. You even neglect to point out that some estimates don't include interest while others do.
The only thing that's true is that costs have risen over time, especially since 2000 because of the greater demand for construction materials. Nowhere in your article is the salient information that the same escalation applies to all forms of energy, including renewable energy sources.
The only importance of cost estimates is in their relative values. None of these points you've raised changes the reality that nuclear costs out as cheap as, or cheaper than, any energy source except coal.
G.K. Gilbert once famously stated in 1886 that ?in the testing of hypotheses lies the prime difference between the investigator and the theorist. The one seeks diligently for the facts which may overthrow his or her tentative theory, the other closes his or her eyes to these and searches only for those which will sustain it." Now why is it that I see myself as the investigator and most nuclear power advocates as the theorests?
If my comparisons are truly unequal and selective, I invite you to submit for the record quotes of new nuclear construction costs from 2007 or 2008 that contradict them. I'd bet that such estimates do not exist. And the fact that some of the high estimates I reference exclude interest only proves the central point of the post: that nuclear is much more expensive than vendors say it is.
While I would agree that the nuclear industry has no wizard behind the curtain controlling all of its moves, it does exist, and it is very consolidated and powerful. Nuclear power has institutionalized support from the IAEA and two trade associations, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the World Nuclear Association. Manufacturers such as Westinghouse and General Electric have a huge committment to nuclear power, especially in Asia.
To your final point about cost escalation for all energy sources, it is well taken. But because nuclear power plants take much longer to build and are more capital intensive, they are more subject to severe cost escalation in a way that renewables and energy efficiency is not. Construction costs for solar and wind are well below $3,000 per installed kilowatt, even taking into account recent rising prices for steel and cement. If you still believe that nuclear is cheaper to construct and operate than renewables, care to provide some evidence?
California has on its ballot tomorrow "Proposition 7". Proposition would mandate that 50% of California's electricity be produced by renewables in 2025. Based on data which I found in ECOWorld, i reported the following findings:
"ECOWorld.com has published some cost estimates by Ed Ring in connection with California's Proposition 7, which mandates an average renewables power of 50% of California's electricity outputs by 2025.
ECOWorld estimates the installed cost of solar power without transmission or storage infrastructure costs about $7.0 million per megawatt of rated output, or $7.0 billion per gigawatt. However on the best days California, solar output would only produce 4.5 hours per day electricity. Thus in order to produce 500 gWh of solar generated electricity each day in California, a solar array with a rated capacity of 111 gigawatts would be required. Such an array would cost $777 billion dollars.
For $777 billion would pay for 100 nuclear plants capable of producing 100 GW continuously, or 2400 gWhs a day, nearly 5 time the daily output of the solar facility.
What if California chose wind instead of solar? ECOWorld estimates a capacity factor of 17.5%, a very problematic figure a wind array equal too 119 gigawatts of wind generating name plate capacity, which would cost $297 billion dollars. Too this must be added the cost of new transmission lines. grid upgrades, and massive energy storage units. ECOWorld estimates the minimum cost for wind to be $300 billion. EcoWorld calculate the cost of energy storage to be $350 Million per gWh, and calculate that 100 gWhs of storage is needed, which would run $35 billion for a total cost of $335 Billion. The 350 million per GWh for storage is probably low but I won't argue. At any rate #335 will get you ate least 42 reactors. 42 reactors with average capacity factor of .90 will produce 900 gWhs of power every day. Since we need 500 gWhs, we only need 24 reactors and that will cost $192 billion, or 57% of the cost of a 42 reactor generating system. Thus the Green premium will run 43% of nuclear system costs for wind. The Green premium for solar would be an astonishing 300% of the cost of a nuclear system."
Clearly then the cost of nuclear is lower than the cost of of Renewables in many markets.
First, I don't see any evidence of your seeking for any facts except ferreting out those that fit your preconceptions. Anyway, since your article quotes estimates all over the map, your challenge that I show different quotes is hollow. I note, however, that Florida Power and Light offered an estimate range, not a specific number, allowing for uncertainties. Typically, you cited the extreme high end of the range as FPL's estimate.
IAEA is a UN agency whose principle mission is to prevent weapons proliferation. On the subject of nuclear energy it plays an advisory role, not an advocacy one. NEA and WNA have about as much influence as the American Wind Energy Association; all of them are minor voices in the roar of much more powerful lobbies. Neither NEA or WNA makes cost estimates. General Electric is committed to every form of energy. Westinghouse used to be like that but shrunk to a subsidiary currently owned by Toshiba.
Charles has covered the difference between rated power and actual output and has provided useful cost comparisons. In particular, note that renewable energy sources are more capital intensive in terms of output. On the subject of construction times, I should point out that there are good examples and bad examples; anti-nukes ignore the good examples. Once construction teams get used to the standards and methods used in nuclear plants they'll be able to assemble them at rates that would make wind contractors proud.
I concede that it is quite possible for the costs of installing renewable power systems to be more expensive than nuclear power systems in some markets, just as in others nuclear power will be much more expensive. The analysis that is most important, of course, is what the average cost of installing these new technologies will be for the United States (and other markets) as a whole, not California.
The point of this piece, which neither of you refute, is that the quoted costs of building average new nuclear power plants is much higher than the $2,000 per installed kilowatt exhaustively cited by vendors and trade groups. I was not artificially selective in portraying recent construction estimates; for they show how nuclear costs will differ by market, regulation, labor, etc. Despite their variance, however, the one thing that they all point to is costs well above $2,000 per installed kW. Some costs quoted above, I would add, are much lower than the rest because they presume constructing new reactors at an existing power plant, rather than building an entire plant from scratch.
Just as it would be unfair to take the costs quoted from Duke Energy in North Carolina or FPL in Florida for nuclear plants and misconstrue them as being national averages, so is pointing to hypothetical costs for building new renewables in a highly unlikely Proposition 7 California market. The average cost for building new nuclear plants cited above, between $3,600 and $8,000 per installed kW, makes them much more expensive than constructing new renewable power stations. If it is baseload power you are after, new hydroelectric and geothermal power plants cost about $1,150 to $3,000 per installed kW. New wind farms?even with their recent price increases?are about $1,710 per installed kW in the U.S. and $1,900 in Europe. Solar photovoltaics are near the upper range of nuclear estimates?$7,500 to $8,000 per installed kW?but can provide peaking power which nuclear units cannot. These numbers are from a few technical journals that aren?t available online, but I?m sure you can find similar figures on the internet.
One final point about construction cost overruns and selectivity: I did not just pick ?bad? examples. The CBO report cited above goes through the quoted and actual construction costs for 75 nuclear units in the US?more than 70 percent of the entire fleet?and found that every single one cost more than expected, with an average cost overrun of 300 percent. Where, exactly, are the good examples?
I'm not sure what point you're trying to make with the Keystone paper. The IEA's study shows costs about US$2000/KW, but that clearly excludes interest, while the Keystone figure includes interest. The costs are not so different that IEA can be accused of understating them. The levelized cost shows electricity costs will rise in the future. The amount we pay now is set by dams built before 1950 and thermal plants built before 1980, so no one should be surprised that new energy sources will cost more. Wind energy will cost more than nuclear, so if cost-increase is the problem then wind won't succeed and solar is a forlorn hope.
If you know a place where hydro dams or geothermal plants can be built, please let the rest of us know. Otherwise, speculation about costs don't fit this discussion.
Where you lose respect here is in refusing to recognize the difference in capacity factors between nuclear plants and renewables. Nukes run over 80% factors over their lives, compared to ideally 30% for wind and under 25% for solar. Comparing the cost per rated KW is much more simple-minded than your pay grade allows, so I have to suppose you're doing it on purpose.
No, solar panels don't meet peaking loads. In fact, neither wind nor solar can meet any demand. They only generate when conditions are right. Actually, nukes can follow loads, and do so in France. We just don't use them that way here because they and hydro are the cheapest electricity sources and so naturally they are run at full power whenever possible.
The CBO report cites an average of 12 years from start of construction to startup for 75 of the US's 104 plants. The data is available at EIA, which shows an average 9.5 years for all the plants. But citing the average camouflages the problem. The minimum time was 4.25 years and the maximum was 23.4 years. Clearly, it wasn't construction time that created the problem. Between litigation and political turmoil at the AEC/NRC, what with the AEC being reorganized, the problem was lawyers. It's possible that lawyers could sabotage the country's recovery in the next few years, but that's hardly a basis for deciding policy. Anyway, wind farms are as vulnerable as nuclear plants because of widespread opposition to them.
So the biggest part of the cost increase is due to inflation. During that period, 12 years' inflation averaged over 100%. The real increased cost due to construction delays, mostly interest, was due to political groups, not the constructors and certainly not the technology. By the way, the CBO report shows a 207% average overrun, not 300%. The CBO report ignores the fact that some the plants were upsized between the time the estimates were filed and the plants were completed, and also ignores that constructors were required by law to upgrade the plants as new technology permitted even though construction had already started.
So as we try to predict the future, what's different? The main difference is that the regulatory agencies have their acts together. The rule will be that once the construction permit is issued, the NRC won't be allowed to change the requirements except in the case where a legitimate safety issue is involved. The next biggest difference is that the plants will have standard designs so that when construction teams get up to speed the projects will be more predictable and manageable.
Curiously, we agree on the bottom line. I think it's true that wind power will cost out cheaper in ideal locations, such as the Great Plains. In most places, nukes will cost out cheaper, and the intermittence problem of renewables will limit their application. The main thing is, both are needed in much greater prominence.
The IEA study and others like it don?t just exclude interest; in many cases they exclude things such as land, contingency plans, insurance, construction of switchyards, and so on. These ?extra? components can often double the cost of a nuclear power plant. But let?s get to the meat of the discussion involving hydro and geothermal, capacity factors, and peaking loads for solar.
First, I highly encourage you to read two recent studies on geothermal and hydroelectric (respectively). The first is from the USGS, and notes that existing geothermal resources could easily power about one-third to one-fourth of all of the country?s power needs, and that is even without developing more advanced deep reservoir technology. See http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2004/c1249/. Second, a 2008 report just released on hydro in the U.S. noted that remaining hydroelectric potential is immense, even when you take into consideration environmental restrictions. You can view it here http://www.umsl.edu/~kosnikl/Saved%20Emissions.pdf. I don?t need to point out that the geothermal heat and water these technologies can use are much more reliable and less expensive than distant and imported reserves of uranium.
Second, capacity factors. What you didn?t mention is that the average capacity factor for the global nuclear reactor fleet over the course of its entire operation is less than 60 percent. I believe we discussed this a few posts ago. New wind technologies have capacity factors in the high 30s and 40s, and when coupled with pumped hydro or biomass fired stations, can provide baseload power as well. I wish I could say solar had a capacity factor/efficiency of 25 percent, but it?s actually a bit lower: 12-14% for thin film solar PV and 17-19% for multi- or mono-crystalline. But virtually no one says you should use solar power plants for baseload.
Third and finally, solar and peaking power. This is where solar has its biggest benefit, and numerous utilities have used solar quite effectively to displace peaking units. For an introduction into how, read this www.nrel.gov/docs/fy01osti/31179.pdf which explains the concept of effective load carrying capability.
Oh, and the CBO reports seems to have bungled the math if my calculator is correct. They report that the quoted cost for those 75 facilities was $45.2 billion (in 1990 dollars) but the facilities ended up costing $144.6 billion. I believe that is an increase of 319.9 percent, unless I am losing it.
in addition new and developing nuclear technologies have the potential to dramatically lower nuclear costs.
Factory production of small reactors could be one step to lower costs.
I have argued that
the custom, on site manufacture of large reactors by teams of craftsmen under divided and multilevel supervision is an expensive manufacturing system that invites human error. I have not even considered her the possibility for corruption entailed in this construction system.
Factory manufacture of small reactors would end the cost over run problems associated with the current system of reactor manufacturing. At the same time factory manufacture would greatly increase the number of reactors that can be built at one time. Finally technology exists that can resolve long standing nuclear problems like reactor safety, and nuclear waste, while lowering reactor costs.
I have called for a rethinking of nuclear power in light of the growing cost of conventional reactors, and the problems of safety and nuclear waste. The solution to these problems is not to scrap nuclear technology but to fix it. Better, safer, more efficient, lower cost, safer reactors that produce little or no nuclear waste, are quite possible, and the cost of developing the alternative technology is not exorbitant. I have argued on my blog Nuclear Green that the Reactor technology that I favor, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, can be built cheaply enough to serve in a peak reserve capacity.
Ben you you claim:
"The average cost for building new nuclear plants cited above, between $3,600 and $8,000 per installed kW, makes them much more expensive than constructing new renewable power stations. If it is baseload power you are after, new hydroelectric and geothermal power plants cost about $1,150 to $3,000 per installed kW."
There are multiple problems with these claims. First there are almost no sites in the United States where cost effective hydro projects can be located, and there have already been strong environmental objections to the use of those sites. Sites for geothermal projects are limited, even in California. I believe that the total untapped geothermal potential for California is something like 5 GWs. Most of the country does not have viable geothermal potential.
There is multiple confusions in your comparison of the cost of wind and nuclear. In the first place you compair the current price of wind, to the future inflation adjusted price of nuclear. Since wind turbine manufacturers have something like a 5 year backlogue of orders, it is very unlikely the inflation driven cost of installing new wind capacity in 2013 will be anywhere near the $1710 figure you use for wind costs. The investor in the 2013 wind project will have to calculate how much the cost of wind instalation will be increased by inflation. Since the cost of wind installations doubled between 2002 and 2007, and the same inflationary forces it is not unreasonable to assume that the coust of land based wing installations will be double the price you assume in 2013.
The second apples to oranges issue is your comparison between nuclear and renewables is the distinction between name plate capacity and actual electrical output. Typically in the United States nuclear reactors over a year will produce 90% of their name plate capacity, while windmills on average produce 27% of their nameplate capacity. Even in the best localities Windmills rarely produce more than 40% of their nameplate capacity. In order to to mstch the output of a nuclear facility, the investor would have to buy windmills with a nameplate capacity that is 225% of the nuclear plants averin wind powered age electrical output. Thus even with the best wind conditions the future investor electricity is going to pay $7600 per capacity factor KW in 2013. That figure is close to the %8 billion figure that you have mentioned. At that price however you still don't get enough reliability for wind to be counted as base power. A Stanford University study found that if wind facilities in 17 locations in the Southern Grate Plains were linked that 20% of their nameplate capacity could produce base power 80% of the time. The cost of building base power capacity using such a a scheem would be a staggering $17000 per KWh if the project were constructed in 2013, the earliest date turbines would be available.
Ben once we start comparing apples to apples, conventional nuclear is going to cost much less than the cost renewables with comparable electrical output.
The Saved Emissions paper doesn't say anything like "remaining hydroelectric potential is immense." What it says is,
small/micro 60,000 MW
Uprating 4000 MW
New Generation 17,000 MW
Total 81 million KW
Multiplying by 365.25 * 24 yields 710,046 million KWH/year = 17% of US consumption. So if every available site could be developed (let's ignore economics for this) the combination would be less than either nuclear or natural gas generate now.
I don't know where you're getting 60% capacity factors for nuclear. Earlier you stated 66% but didn't provide a reference. EIA data is showing a clear 90%. 80% is conservative enough to cover uncertainties in the future.
Capacity factor is different from efficiency. For wind, the low capacity factor comes from wind variability and for solar it comes from clouds, low angle, and darkness. So we're looking at 25% or less (depending on the region) for sunlight availability multiplied by the low efficiency. That's why solar panels yield such a feeble amount of energy.
No, I get that peak sunlight sometimes coincides with air-conditioning load. But sometimes it doesn't, which means the capacity has to be available from some other energy source. It means the customer has to pay for the same capacity twice: both for the solar panel, which is expensive, and for the standby capacity.
Over-run means the amount above the expected price. if article A is supposed to cost $1 but turns out to cost $2 the over-run is $1, or 100%, not 200%..
I agree it is important to compare apples with apples, but that means a number of the comparisons we have all been making are insufficient. Factory production of small reactors, for example, along the with marginal costs of building Generation IV reactors are largely unknown, especially for the U.S., since no new reactors have been built for decades, and no commercial Generation IV reactors exist or will exist for some time. The costs I mention of installing new wind systems in the 1,710 to$1,900 per installed kW range are for new systems, and refer to the cost of building them in 2008. It looks like the capital costs for new nuclear plants is about 3 times that, but yes, wind farms have only a 30-40% capacity factor, so the two technologies arguably become comparable in terms of cost. What breaks the tie for me is that wind gets you the power without waste, with non-depletable fuel, and with quicker construction lead times.
Also, the cost of building new geothermal and hydroelectric plants are clearly winners over nuclear, with costs about $1,150 to $3,000 per installed kW (or half of the cost of expected new nuclear plants), and these facilities can match the capacity factor for nuclear systems. Red, it is Table 4 of the Kosnik study I mention above that clearly demonstrates the immense amount of hydro potential for the US: for just small and micropower hydro systems, it estimates 311,202 MW of potential if rigorously pursued, or 58,882 MW of potential if only the best and cleanest systems were pursued. The USGS study argues that geothermal currently provides 1 percent of the country?s power, but could be easily and cost effectively ramped up to 10 percent. (The study mentions that developing deeper reservoirs has great potential, but I agree we should focus only on what can be built now). Tapping 300,000 MW of hydro and 100,000 MW of geothermal would be the equivalent of building 400 nuclear reactors. And I think we can agree hydro is a much older and more proven technology that both nuclear and new renewables.
For the cost overrun issue, I think we?re both right: the amount of the overruns was 200%, but the inflated cost was 300% (2 times the initial cost).
It would be interesting to know where you get the cost figures for such projects. Common sense tells us that a myriad of little projects will see a high per-KW cost.
I don't see anything in the geothermal study that says its output could be increased to 10% of total current consumption. From what we can read there, even the amount it advertises looks like wishful thinking. According to EIA, geothermal generates a measly 0.36% of the US's electricity (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html and http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/alternate/page/renew_energy_consump/table3.html). Even if we accept your unsupported claim that it could be multiplied by 10, it only gains us 3.24%. These nickels and dimes only add up to quarters. To replace fossil fuels we need some real folding money.
I don't think there is a choice between wind and nuclear, since both are necessary, but if the choice were forced, what breaks the tie for me is that wind only works part-time and I know people won't stay home in their cold, dark houses when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. They'll burn fossil fuels.
Just to clarify, the USGS study states on page 33 that, as I claimed, "Using current technology, geothermal energy can contribute as much as 10 percent to the Nation?s energy supply, if all known resources are fully developed."
Also, the Kosnik study is quite detailed on how new hydroelectric technology is much better and less damaging than older systems. If these hydro resources were developed, there would be no flooding of wetlands and mass killing of fish, only the reduced risk of nuclear meltdowns and uranium price spikes (if the systems helped displace aging nuclear plants, which I hope they would).
As for the intermittency of solar and wind, it's curious that many countries in Europe - notably Denmark and Germany - are aiming for 60% penetration of renewables or more. Do you really believe these countires would choose such a path if it really "kept them in the dark?"
No, the Kosnic paper only asserts that DOE evaluated the sites (http://hydropower.inl.gov/resourceassessment/pdfs/main_report_appendix_a_final.pdf). The DOE study shows 30,000 MW of feasible locations but Kosnic claims 60,000 MW and doesn't explain the difference. But even if all the DOE-approved sites were to survive the permitting process, an unlikelihood tantamount to an impossibility, and even if Kosnic's numbers are right, the total would amount only to a fraction of the non-fossil power that will be required and as electricity demands increase that fraction will diminish.
With regard to your absurd challenge about Denmark's and Germany's goals, a target is very much different from an achievement. Even at 13% wind, the Danes have to depend on the power grids of Germany, Sweden, and Norway. Very little of the electricity Danes use comes from wind. They have to sell electricity at times of oversupply and buy non-renewable electricity at times of undersupply. Charles has published an authoritative account of the Danes' travails here. Meanwhile, the Germans are re-thinking their energy future.
I would of course object to a depiction of my views on energy policy as equivalent to ?burning fossil fuels and hoping we get lucky.? In fact, I am more strongly against fossil fuels than I am nuclear power: I think nuclear is a much better alternative than coal, oil, and gas, but nowhere near as good as renewables and energy efficiency. For the record, I am a strong advocate of rigorously promoting energy efficiency, developing all types of renewable power generators, and relying on small-scale distributed generation units such as combined heat and power and cogeneration power plants to make up the rest.
We can of course go back and forth infinitely about the interpretation of the numerous studies we have each cited. You flatly accused me of misreporting some of the findings from the USGS and Kosnik; I?ve clarified that both the USGS and Kosnik say exactly what I?ve reported. Where we disagree is over what they mean, but that is quite a different matter.
Finally, I suspect that Denmark and Germany will eventually meet the targets they?ve set, along with the rest of the world. The reason is simple: we have no alternative. Eventually, uranium and fossil fuels will be gone. I just hope that the United States starts taking a more sustainable path so our society need no longer be darkened with fossil fuelled pollution and nuclear waste.
In parting, I'll remind you that reprocessing the spent fuel reduces the volume to a few percent and the residue loses its potential for harm in a few centuries, a challenge that can easily be met. As for running out of fuel, I invite you to look at this. Even if all the world's electricity were supplied by nuclear energy, an unnecessary condition, and even if the world's consumption rate tripled, there still would be more than a thousand years' supply of nuclear fuel. I'll stick my neck out here and predict that fusion will be up and running in a thousand years.
I haven't seen anyone claiming this for US or EU reactors in years.
"... Researchers from the Keystone Center, ... also projected that the operating costs for these plants would be remarkably expensive: 30 ?/kWh for the first 13 years until construction costs are paid followed by 18 ?/kWh over the remaining lifetime of the plant. (For comparison, the average residential price for electricity was about 10 ?/kWh last year)."
The report you link to talks about levelized costs of 8?11 ?/kWh, including 4?6 ?/kWh of capital costs. I suspect you or someone had another source with figures in $/MWh, and dropped a decimal point converting to ?/kWh.
A number of facts, figures, and projections are thrown about. I would point to the marketplace to underscore what facts and figures are probably correct. If geothermal, hydro or solar power were so attractive the market would be building them in abudance. The market clearly shows they are prohibitively expensive, which is why no one will build them. The possible exception being for point source or demonstration/research purposes. Wind is growing as a power source, but not as base load, again the market bares this out. A number of power companies, in business to make money, not feed some "nuclear industry", are taking a hard look at nuclear because it is one of the cheapest to produce. If it were not, the power companies would be shutting down their nuclear power plants, not extending their lifes as just about every nuclear power plant in the country has done or will do. Keep in mind, the much of energy produced in this country is now made by power companies, NOT utilities. An important distinction, power companies must make a profit to stay in business, unlike a utilitiy which can pass its costs on to the rate payer. Power companies are looking a Nuclear because it makes money sense. Public service commissions are looking at nuclear too, to cut down on carbon emmissions and ensure they have power for their constituents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, something wind cannot do.
In summary, the market, the real world, sees a future in wind power to supplement capacity and nuclear to provide base load.