Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “nuclear”

TerraPower Traveling Wave Reactor

TerraPower is an American nuclear reactor design and development engineering company headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. TerraPower is developing a class of nuclear fast reactors called the traveling wave reactor (TWR).

The TWR concept places a small core of enriched fuel in the center of a much larger mass of non-fissile material, in this case depleted uranium. Neutrons from fission in the core “breeds” new fissile material in the surrounding mass, producing Plutonium-239. Over time, enough fuel is bred in the area surrounding the core that it begins to undergo fission as well, sending neutrons further into the mass and continuing the process while the original core burns out. Over a period of decades, the reaction moves from the core of the reactor to the outside, thus giving the name “travelling wave”.

[] – TerraPower
[] – Traveling wave reactor

[] – TerraPower aims to build its first advanced nuclear reactor in Wyoming

[] – Bill Gates’ bad bet on plutonium-fueled reactors

Gates has been persuaded to back a costly reactor design fueled by nuclear-weapon-usable plutonium and shown, through decades of experience, to be expensive, quick to break down, and difficult to repair.

In fact, Gates and his company, Terrapower, are promoting a reactor type that the US and most other countries abandoned four decades ago because of concerns about both nuclear weapons proliferation and cost.

[] – Scientists pour cold water on Bill Gates’ nuclear plans

“It also does so too late and at a far too high cost. To make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, we would need hundreds of new reactors, spreading the risk of proliferation,” he said.

“The Natrium reactor is what we call a fast breeder reactor type. These reactors are proliferation nightmares,” said Haverkamp. “They are delivered together with the reprocessing technology that also is necessary to isolate material for nuclear bombs. For that reason alone, I think the ideas of Gates in this respect are outright dangerous,” he went on.

“These are what we call PowerPoint reactors: They are in the design phase and before they are ready and tested and approved to go commercial, we will be well beyond 2030, for most of them rather around 2050. That means they have no role to play in urgent climate action,” he added.

1.6 GW EPR Nuclear Reactor Online in Finland

Finland already had 2 nuclear power stations, generation 22% of Finland’s total electricity. Now a third is gradually coming online, adding an extra 14% capacity. In Finland, nuclear power is hardly controversial. Price tag: €5 billion (video), Wikipedia refers to a source that arrives at €11 billion. Main contractors: German Siemens and French Areva. Green light was given as early as 2005 with the intention to start producing in 2009, but with the usual massive time and cost overruns, early 2022 it is going to be. Next EPR projects in Europe are Flamanville in France (2023) and two units at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom (expected to begin operating in 2026).

[] – Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant
[] – EPR (nuclear reactor)
[Google Maps] – Location Olkiluoto 3, Finland

Rolls Royce Small Modular Reactor

Nuclear power has been around for decades but it’s never achieved the global dominance of the energy sector that its creators envisioned. Now, as the world moves away from fossil fuels, the nuclear debate is firmly back in focus and Small Modular Reactors are being touted as the only zero carbon baseload solution to our climate crisis. Rolls Royce say they’ll have their design operational within ten years. Can they do it, and do we want it?

[] – Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Are Mostly Bad Policy

Small Modular Reactors Explained

This blog is against nuclear energy, but in a pragmatic, non-ideological way. The end goal must be 100% renewable energy, supported by a mature storage system, probably hydrogen-based.

But… if nuclear energy would be required to help us through the transition, either by keeping existing nuclear power stations open for a decade longer, or even by building new capacity to function as base load, until storage really works in sufficient quantities, so be it.

In the end, renewable energy can be trusted to win, because it is the cheapest, both in financial and environmental sense. Nuclear has the advantage of being emission-free and offer predictable output, where nuclear fuel = storage. The world has survived Three Miles Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, and it will survive a possible fourth accident, were that to happen.

Nuclear energy should be phased out, but only if it can be phased out. Chancellor Merkel, for instance, could have ordered the closing down of nuclear reactors prematurely.

I nevertheless have my hopes high that new nuclear reactors will not be necessary, provided storage matures and gets implemented quickly enough, certainly in Europe. Not so sure about the US, Russia, UK or China.

[] – Small modular reactor
[] – The countries building miniature nuclear reactors
[] – Smaller, safer, cheaper: One company aims to reinvent the nuclear reactor and save a warming planet
[deepresource] – Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

What About Thorium?

The advantage of Thorium over Uranium: more abundant fuel available, less waste, reactors are safer. Most promising design: molten salt reactor.

So why don’t we see thorium reactors in practice?

First, because of the link between the uranium cycle and nuclear weapons.

Second, because of engineering challenges to contain corrosive molten salt.

Interest for thorium technology does exist, though, notably in India and China, but also in the US.

[] – Thorium
[] – Thorium fuel cycle
[] – Molten salt reactor

Dutch Right-wing Parties Want Nuclear Energy

[rtl nieuws]

Last night, the final debate of the party leaders in the run-up to the national parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, March 17, 2021.

For the viewers from left to right: Wopke Hoekstra (“CDA”, Christian-Democrats), PM Mark Rutte (“VVD”, Liberal-Right), Geert Wilders (“PVV”, Populist-Right), Lilian Marijnissen (“SP”, Socialist Party), Jesse Klaver (“Groen-Links”, Green-Left), Sigrid Kaag (“D66”, Liberal-Left).


Pro-EU: all, minus PVV (Nexit)
Pro-renewable energy: all, minus PVV
Pro-nuclear: CDA, VVD, PVV, against: SP, GL, D66
Pro-immigration: VVD, SP, GL, D66; CDA some reservation, PVV against
They are all US-groupies, unsurprisingly as the Netherlands is historically Anglo-1.0 country. Only the PVV has positive opinions about Putin-Russia

Read more…

Nuclear Power Dead as a Brick

After the Japanese had withdrawn from building nuclear infrastructure in the UK, EDF of France is willing to do the job of building Sizewell C, price tag £25bn for 3.2 GW. Except, the financier L&G Capital got wet feet and refuses to fund the project. Reason:

Responding to enquiries by The Independent, an L&G spokesperson said: “As we transition to a net zero carbon world, Legal & General Capital is playing an important role in investing in renewable infrastructure and clean technology across low-carbon heat, transport, and power generation.

Translation: oil, gas and nuclear simply lost to renewable energy, because of price and because renewables won the PR-battle.


[] – Investors ‘shun’ Sizewell C nuclear power station project
[] – Sizewell C nuclear power station
[deepresource] – UK Probably Opts for New Nuclear Power Station
[deepresource] – Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

Cost Comparison Nuclear – Offshore Wind

[source] Worldwide Nuclear Power Capacity Factors

Let’s do a cost comparison offshore wind-nuclear, based on the latest available data.

[deepresource] – UK Probably Opts for New Nuclear Power Station

Cost: €22.2 billion for 3.2 GW power. Factor in a capacity factor of 80% (see graph above) to arrive at 2.6 GW average power.

[deepresource] – The Cost of an Offshore Wind Turbine

The all-in cost of a 14 MW offshore wind turbine, including foundation and installation is €16.6 million. Assume that for these huge turbines a capacity factor of 0.60 applies. So you get on average 8.4 MW for €16.6 million.

You need 2600/8.4 = 310 of these turbines to match the nuclear power station above or €5.15 billion in total, which is 4 times cheaper (excl. cabling). Note that the cost of nuclear fuel is not included in this calculation, let alone the cost of getting rid of the spent fuel, let alone the staggering cost of a reprocessing plant (many billions).

That price advantage of a factor of 4 needs to be reduced to factor in intermittency and the partial need for storage. Not everything needs to be converted into hydrogen or pumped hydro. Excess supply can be used to charge seasonal storage of heat in large water volumes via heat pumps or to charge car batteries or “power walls” at home, via the price mechanism (electricity cheap if there is excess supply).

This back-of-an-envelope calculation is confirmed by a recent study by Lazard:

[deepresource] – Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

Offshore wind: 26-54 (39)
Nuclear: 129-198 (165)

Pushing nuclear energy in 2020 is like flogging a dead horse.

UK Probably Opts for New Nuclear Power Station

It’s official, the French state-owned company EDF is going to build a new nuclear power station in Sizewell, Suffolk, UK. Price tag £20bn (€22.2bn) and it will take about 10 years to build. Capacity: 3.2 GW. 25,000 new jobs.

Earlier Hitachi withdrew from a nuclear project in Wylfa on Anglesey.

[] – New nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk is set to be given the green light after government talks with energy giant EDF
[] – Sizewell nuclear power stations

Solar Farm Material Input per Unit of Energy

Australian nuclear lobby club “Bright New World” came with figures to diss solar power plants. The real numbers from the Kentucky Solar Farm (KSF) were offset against BNW figures.

[] – Material Input per Unit of Energy
[] – Bright New World site

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