Nuclear Energy in 2019

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Is Nuclear Energy Screwed?

Yes
1
13%
No
2
25%
Maybe
2
25%
I don't know
3
38%
 
Total votes: 8

Jamie in Chile
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Re: Nuclear Energy in 2019

Post by Jamie in Chile » Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm

We are not going to go towards solar 100% overnight, I think a steady build up over time and in conjunction with other energy sources would not require a sudden amount of energy production.

I assume almost all energy sources require up front energy spend - a whole nuclear power plant has to be build and mined before it can be started, fossil fuels require energy in mining etc, wind turbines have to be built and moved about. Is solar dramatically worse than the others for up front energy investment?

Does this argument against solar also apply to those solar desert towers?

I do think we should be prepared to invest more energy and cost up front if needed (as long as it's clean energy) - climate change needs long term cost planning.

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Post by Red » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:08 pm

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
We are not going to go towards solar 100% overnight, I think a steady build up over time and in conjunction with other energy sources would not require a sudden amount of energy production.
That sounds reasonable, but given all the downsides of other energy sources (mostly CO2 emissions, but also cost, sustainability (or lack thereof), and lack of utilization), nuclear only energy policies are the most productive.

For the next 5-10 years or so, we should be devoting just about our entire energy budget towards nuclear energy, but that's probably a pipe dream given people in politics not caring too much about the science and more about what their side says.

If a politician at least has nuclear energy in its agenda, then we can still support them, despite the issues.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
I assume almost all energy sources require up front energy spend - a whole nuclear power plant has to be build and mined before it can be started, fossil fuels require energy in mining etc, wind turbines have to be built and moved about. Is solar dramatically worse than the others for up front energy investment?
Well, it's not impossible to use Nuclear Energy to get Nuclear Energy. It may sound a bit silly, but it works.

As for solar, I ain't too sure about that.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
I do think we should be prepared to invest more energy and cost up front if needed (as long as it's clean energy) - climate change needs long term cost planning.
Oh, definitely. And short term too- The next decade is coming fast, and millions of lives are relying on us.
Learning never exhausts the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:42 pm

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
We are not going to go towards solar 100% overnight,
We need to go green basically overnight. We don't have time for false starts.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
I think a steady build up over time and in conjunction with other energy sources would not require a sudden amount of energy production.
We don't have time for that.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
I assume almost all energy sources require up front energy spend - a whole nuclear power plant has to be build and mined before it can be started,
We already have fuel on hand, it's just an issue of building the plant. And it takes a tiny amount of energy to do that.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
Is solar dramatically worse than the others for up front energy investment?
Yes. Very dramatic.

EROEI of around 4 instead of somewhere around 75.
Almost 20 times worse.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
Does this argument against solar also apply to those solar desert towers?
I don't know what you mean, but a place with no grid it makes sense to use solar due to the costs and energy associated with building out infrastructure. We already have grids, though, so nuclear is basically plug and play.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:53 pm
I do think we should be prepared to invest more energy and cost up front if needed (as long as it's clean energy) - climate change needs long term cost planning.
It would be what energy we have, which is not clean at all. We can't send energy back in time from the future where our grid is green.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:32 pm

When we talked about the EROEI of solar on a previous day I thought you meant the amount of energy you get in electricity for a given amount of solar energy, that's why I was saying previously that EROEI is irrelevant.

Now I think I misunderstood what you meant. You are talking about the energy returned being only 4 times higher than the energy invested in building the solar panel (including mining for materials, transport and installation of panels etc)? If yes, 4 looks a bit low since I heard in 2-3 places that the solar panel pays off that energy in a year or two, and can last for decades.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:52 pm

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:32 pm
If yes, 4 looks a bit low since I heard in 2-3 places that the solar panel pays off that energy in a year or two, and can last for decades.
That's in ideal conditions (which is only reality in a few cloudless sunny places like in some areas of California). There, returning in a couple years on a decade would be five, but keep in mind that solar panels drop in output over time, so even if they're still working that doesn't mean they're working at original capacity. There's also a difference in financial payoff/payback for a residential installation where the solar panels are both subsidized by government and competing with the total cost of the local grid power (which is higher than the cost of the fossil fuels/manufacturing in China or wherever).

Getting EROEI up is essential. But if we're speculating on new technologies, we also have to look at higher EROEI nuclear like breeder reactors.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:59 pm

Well I live in Chile so maybe I'm a little biased to my situation. Perhaps you'd be curious to hear about it.

I'll quote numbers in US dollars.

I quoted last month for a solar panel system that would provide all the needs for my house and it was going to be about $4500. With that spend for everything including an installation I would have enough panels to provide approximately all our needs for the year. In summer, I would be selling a bit to the grid and in winter I would be buying a bit and I planned to have some batteries in there as well to use some of the afternoon heat in the evening. And perhaps at night I might still end buying a bit and in the afternoon still selling a bit. The overall cost of electricity would have been hopefully about zero.

So I was going to go from $550 a year, which is what we spend now, to perhaps zero. It was an 8-year payback period which I was disappointed about, I had hoped it would be more like 5 or 6. However the 8-year payback period is a little optimistic since it assumes zero maintenance.

(I also assumed that the electricity price would rise, but equally you can argue that solar panel investment is a lost opportunity to invest in high interest bank accounts and the stock market, so I decided these two factors probably roughly would cancel out.)

However, we are renting a house. By the time you factor that in, our payback period could be never because we may have to pay for the system to be transferred to another house, or sell it to the owner of the current house or someone else at a big loss. I decided it was too much cost and hassle. Also, the bureaucracy involved in selling to the grid looking troublesome for the very specific location I am in.

Also, if the payback period were never, it doesn't really make sense from a carbon footprint perspective either, if it's more effective to reduce carbon in the atmosphere or otherwise do good in the world by giving to a charity or an offset organization. So that's what we did. We gave some money to charities and offsets, and moved on.

That may have been a rational decision but on some emotional or psychological level I would prefer to live under solar panels and ditch the grid connection, and I think had we owned the house I would have done so, because it would have been a rational decision since the solar system would likely have made its money back eventually.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Jan 31, 2019 5:41 pm

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:59 pm
In summer, I would be selling a bit to the grid and in winter I would be buying a bit
It can make sense on an individual level, but on a national scale where does that winter power come from?
In that way solar can increase, rather than decrease, our dependency on non-renewable energy.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:59 pm
and I planned to have some batteries in there as well to use some of the afternoon heat in the evening.
Unless you're going to bed when the sun goes down and only expecting your battery to power your alarm clock and night light for bathroom trips, I think you're highly underestimating the cost and complexity of power storage.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:59 pm
And perhaps at night I might still end buying a bit and in the afternoon still selling a bit. The overall cost of electricity would have been hopefully about zero.
Again, increased dependency. Just because it makes sense financially in a fossil fuel world to use a little bit of solar doesn't mean that's a viable path.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:59 pm
So I was going to go from $550 a year, which is what we spend now, to perhaps zero. It was an 8-year payback period which I was disappointed about, I had hoped it would be more like 5 or 6. However the 8-year payback period is a little optimistic since it assumes zero maintenance.
Right, it'll probably take longer to pay back than that.
And like you said you need to compare that to the interest you *would have* gotten on that money if you put it in the bank instead.

A high interest account will yield you around 1% interest, so on $4,500 that's $45. That probably adds almost another year to your payback, in effect.

There's also the fact that converting liquid assets into infrastructure like this potentially reduces your personal safety net.
Where you *could have* chosen a lower premium high deductible insurance plan, for example, now because you have fewer liquid assets to pay for unexpected expenses you're forced to pay a higher premium for a lower deductible that you can afford. Over time, that adds up too, and could add another year or more to your payback.

There's not really any reason to be so sure that electricity prices will continue to rise, but even if they do there's the fact that your solar output will continue to fall as the panels age. I would expect those to cancel out, or even favor the grid over the panels.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:59 pm
I think had we owned the house I would have done so, because it would have been a rational decision since the solar system would likely have made its money back eventually.
I think it can be, particularly for part of your power. It makes a lot of sense for water heating (which CAN be done during the day, and retain the heat at night) and for air conditioning the needs for which are typically in proportion to sunlight.

Once you're looking at more than an hour of battery power (for emergency blackouts) it's not really practical.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm

At my latitude there is still a decent amount of solar power in the winter. I might have still got say 70% of my needs maybe in winter and just had to top up the difference with grid.

Solar power maxes in the afternoon so is beneficial to the grid mix in hot countries that are not poor (i.e. can afford air con). Even in cold countries, there is still plenty of industrial and office activity in the afternoon so it's not that bad.

Batteries cost about $400 dollars per kilowatt hour (kWh) to $750/kWh typically. I could have got 2 1.2kWH energy storage units (batteries) so total 2.4kWH for a bit over $1000 including installation and an inverter and other needed components. However, I wouldn't have been able to use the whole 2.4kWH because you can't let the batteries discharge all the way to zero repeatedly, it is bad for the battery. But you have still got 1.2-2kWH depending on how far you are willing to drain the battery.

This was for lead acid batteries. Lithium batteries are better in some ways, but more expensive. The batteries had a 4-year guarantee. They degrade over time and have a useful life of 5-15 years so not as long as the panels.

We used an average 8kWH per 24 hours that's 0.3kW/hour. In the evening period it's probably more like 0.5-1kW/hour. We would have had enough to keep the solar power going for a couple of hours after the sun down to power everything from the fridge to the TV. And in summer, that would have got us to bed time or very close.

Had we paid for more batteries, we could have extended that. For another $1000-$2000, you could perhaps extend the power to bedtime in perhaps three seasons. For another several thousands (including more solar panels), you could extend the power through all night while charging your electric car.

These are very rough numbers. I don't know much about batteries but based on my googling and the quotation I have and discussions I had with the installer your comment about night light and alarm clocks looks pessimistic. I think the situation is not as bad as you think.

You can use batteries to store solar. However the battery systems are not as cost effective as a system that sells to the grid in the afternoon and buys after dark. But they do have benefits if you want to live off-grid, or you just want to avoid your own carbon emissions at all for reasons of personal purity, or if you are in a country or place where you are not able to sell to the grid for some reason.

I did think about the point of your personal financial safety net when I thought of buying the panels. However thinking of safety, solar panels are good in normal power cuts (and they are frequent here), as well as disasters (earthquakes here can take the power out for days, but that is a week every 5 years) and that was one of the reasons we wanted to get it (we have power cuts of minutes or hours all the time).

Solar panels are also potentially good for an end of the world scenario. So they are actually a safety net. If civilization has gone, and the electricity grid is gone, you still have electricity. Also, if money has become worth less or even worthless, you still have something of value.

Although you might become a target for thieves or vandals or jealous neighbours in such a scenario. So maybe you need something bad enough to take out the electricity grid but not bad enough to lead to total chaos. Like, there is no national grid but still a sort of semi functioning society and all the other neighbours are rushing to buy generators which now cost a fortune.

_____________________________________________________________

I believe we should have a mix of different renewable including solar, wind, and water pumped up hillsides ready for release (this is on demand clean energy). In such a cases you would have to be very unlucky to run out of energy. You would need days with no sun and wind across large parts of a country or the area of a grid all at the same time. I think that's unlikely. I also think as we transition to renewables we should increase the total capacity a bit and connect pipelines to other countries so we can buy/sell when one has high supply and the other low or vice versa.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:04 am

New article BBC

Since the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, an exclusion zone of more than 4,000 square kilometres has been abandoned. That could be about to change, as Victoria Gill discovered during a week-long trip to the zone.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47227767

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:46 pm

Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
At my latitude there is still a decent amount of solar power in the winter. I might have still got say 70% of my needs maybe in winter and just had to top up the difference with grid.
That's not too bad. There are some locations like that which get quite a bit of sun most of the year.
That 30% loss for half the year is unfortunate, though.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
Even in cold countries, there is still plenty of industrial and office activity in the afternoon so it's not that bad.
Not necessarily more activity than in the morning, though. And modern factories run pretty much 24/7 to take advantage of the infrastructure. Only retail and office stuff is closed at night, when that power usage gets distributed to homes. Those aren't the big power users, and very likely demand is higher when it's decentralized to homes plus cooking etc. so it might be higher in the morning and late evening.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
Batteries cost about $400 dollars per kilowatt hour (kWh) to $750/kWh typically. I could have got 2 1.2kWH energy storage units (batteries) so total 2.4kWH for a bit over $1000 including installation and an inverter and other needed components. However, I wouldn't have been able to use the whole 2.4kWH because you can't let the batteries discharge all the way to zero repeatedly, it is bad for the battery. But you have still got 1.2-2kWH depending on how far you are willing to drain the battery.
That's pretty expensive, and that's not a lot of power. They also don't last forever, like you said, so you have to account for that.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
We used an average 8kWH per 24 hours that's 0.3kW/hour. In the evening period it's probably more like 0.5-1kW/hour. We would have had enough to keep the solar power going for a couple of hours after the sun down to power everything from the fridge to the TV. And in summer, that would have got us to bed time or very close.
Your refrigerator doesn't shut down at night. At least I hope it doesn't. In order to keep the safe temperature at night and in the morning you'd have to get it *very* cold in the afternoon (negative something), and that could damage your food from freezing.

Maybe a technical solution would be practical like using some kind of fluid that freezes and melts at the temperature you want to refrigerate at (around 1.6 degrees Celsius), thus absorbing some heat when the temperature rises above that in order to melt. Or just a *huge* amount of insulation and thermal mass... or some kind of coolant body you cool below freezing, then use a pump to circulate it into the fridge as needed.

I'm just not sure any fridges like that exist, and that might not be an easy build... particularly considering the stakes (improperly refrigerated food could be dangerous, so you'd need a digital thermometer to make sure it didn't go too high for too long, and you risk wasting a lot of food).

I could see solar becoming more viable if we had that kind of energy demand flexible infrastructure in place, including heating water during peak production, but that seems really far off right now and a much bigger ask than people installing panels and batteries and just going on with business as usual.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
You can use batteries to store solar. However the battery systems are not as cost effective as a system that sells to the grid in the afternoon and buys after dark.
I can see that being more cost effective, but as I said that just commits us even more to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the only thing that can be reliably started up at night and shut down during the day. Nuclear takes a long time to adapt, so it's good for base load but works poorly with solar. It kind of makes them natural enemies. They can work together a bit with solar taking the extra afternoon load from air conditioning, but I think that's about the extent we should expect of solar. We really need to use nuclear to carry the bulk of power generation.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
However thinking of safety, solar panels are good in normal power cuts (and they are frequent here), as well as disasters (earthquakes here can take the power out for days, but that is a week every 5 years) and that was one of the reasons we wanted to get it (we have power cuts of minutes or hours all the time).
That makes a lot of sense. Better some power for part of the day than none.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
Solar panels are also potentially good for an end of the world scenario. So they are actually a safety net. If civilization has gone, and the electricity grid is gone, you still have electricity. Also, if money has become worth less or even worthless, you still have something of value.
Assuming you have somebody to repair them. ;)
Although if solar is making a nuclear grid less likely, promoting it may make the end of the world *more* likely rather than less.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
I believe we should have a mix of different renewable including solar, wind, and water pumped up hillsides ready for release (this is on demand clean energy).
Water pumping is good, but not everywhere is lucky enough to have the geography to make that plausible.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:59 pm
I also think as we transition to renewables we should increase the total capacity a bit and connect pipelines to other countries so we can buy/sell when one has high supply and the other low or vice versa.
Transmission losses long distance are a pretty big problem, as is that kind of infrastructre cost.

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