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Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants

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--- Quote from: David in MN on February 05, 2020, 10:31:19 AM ---It is rather unfortunate that we Americans go unsung in our reduction in pollution over the past 6-ish decades. I remember George W Bush (I'm not a fan) struggling to try to get across "clean coal" because our technology has so vastly improved. People just don't understand how coal can be a part of a modern energy solution. We tend to wax about the smog of London in the 1800s. Modern reality is very different.

--- End quote ---

The rise of natural gas has been amazing.  But now that is under attack from Dem presidential candidates too.  They want to shut down US production no matter how efficient and clean it is.  Ultimately, new nuclear will win but it will be a battle till the end.  In the meantime we can expect hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to go into failed projects like Solyndra and Ivanpah.

I wouldn't count on nuclear.
I worked in the nuclear generating world for 30 years, it's a dying industry.
Plant de-commissioning is also another huge bubble getting ready to burst in 12 to 18 years when a majority of all current plants will be shutdown from age and that's a conservative estimate.
Companies were supposed to pay in to the fund, but convinced the government they could invest the money to help pay for it. They were even allowed to defer the decommissioning process for plants that are currently closed until the deadline (2032 or 2038, can't remember).
The info on the dates, currently closed plants, estimated decommissioning cost, and current fund balance used to be publically available on the NRC website. They took it down years ago. The last time I looked at it before it was taken down, one company would need to put 100% of their stated profits into the fund in order to reach the estimated cost balance before the deadline.

Many of these companies (including the one I worked for) have split off the nuclear generation portion of the company into its own subsidiary. I believe this was a move to be in a position to just allow these companies to file bankruptcy and pass off the cost to the taxpayers.

That is old nuclear, 1950s style fission reactors.  New nuclear using new fission designs and upcoming fusion are completely different proposition.  This year alone the world is adding 15 new reactors.  In France, for example, they are moving from 75% to over 80% nuclear.  India is about to take off drawing upon its thorium reserves.

If I had to guess, we are now within 20 years of practical fusion, maybe even 10.  But public is unaware of progress being made.  Just like most people are unaware we will soon have blanket high speed internet across the country via satelites.

From a purely technological perspective, this may be true, but from a political, corporate investment ideology, and legal perspective, it won’t happen fast enough. Even the recent plants under construction have ceased with no other new ones even being planned.

They can build all the nuclear plants they want in Europe and Asia, it does nothing for us beyond proving the viability of new designs.
Here in the USA, the barriers to new plants are multi-facetted:
•   The political winds between pro and anti nuke can shift too fast for corporations to risk spending that kind of money.
•   Anti-monopoly laws stand in the way of a single style reactors unless they are designed and built to allow the use of fuel from more than one manufacturer. There are currently only 2 manufacturers of nuclear fuel assemblies in the US. Power plant owners/operators are required to buy from both so both stay in business in order to not violate these laws.
•   While the public opinion towards nuclear is slowly shifting to pro, this isn’t the case when it comes to the “NIMBY” syndrome. “Not in my back yard” !
•   Currently, nuclear generation only equates to about 25% of the generating capacity required for our needs. It also resides in only a small portion of the US. It’s impractical to transmit electricity all over the country and would necessitate building more plants in more areas (see last “NIMBY” comment.
•   New regulations for ensuring the safety of current reactors that came out of the 9/11 and Fukushima events have required companies to invent a huge amount of money in current plants which takes away from using assets to build new ones. I think the added re-design and operational costs were, at least somewhat, responsible for the termination of continued construction of the new plants being built.

I could go on, but you get the idea.
I personally think your estimate on a “Viable Fusion Reactor” is a very liberal one. Currently, the fusion process can only be sustained for just a few milli-seconds. Beyond the need to make this a sustainable reaction in a laboratory environment, it will take many more years to design and test a practical, commercial design. And then they have to balance the cost of construction to long term pay-off.

Mr. Bill:
If I look out my window, there's a nuclear power plant steaming away in the distance.

I don't mind nuclear power plants if they are handled comptetently.  I suspect most of the citizens of Japan currently believe that plant operators and government regulators cannot be trusted to operate them competently, and you can hardly blame them for that belief.

But there is still not a satisfactory way to dispose of nuclear waste from the plants (including the plants themselves when they reach retirement age).  I feel like the industry's attitude has always been "People of the future will take care of that issue, it's not our problem."

Well, the other thing I see out my window is Hanford, and we are now the people of the future who are spending uncountable billions to take care of that problem.  Yeah, Hanford was atomic bomb production and not electricity generation, complicated by decades of incompetent and undocumented storage/disposal of waste materials, but many of the issues are similar.

I look forward to fusion power, but commercially-viable fusion power has been 10-20 years in the future ever since I was a kid.


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