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Dave Forest

Dave Forest

Dave is Managing Geologist of the Pierce Points Daily E-Letter.

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What a World Without Nuclear Looks Like

In a word, expensive.

Platts reports that electricity prices in California jumped 70% during the first half of 2013, year-on-year. Much of the increase apparently related to shut-down of the San Onofre nuclear generating station.

Power prices in the "Southern California" grid affected by the San Onofre outage surged by $4.29 per megawatt hour. Compared to an overall decrease of $3.65 per megawatt hour in neighbouring and unaffected grids like San Diego.

The rising prices in the Southern California zone look to be a direct result of the lost nuke. The California Independent System Operator Department of Market Monitoring reports that power imports to this zone have been rising to fill the gap. Causing "congestion" on this grid during 51% of operating hours.

Related article: One Step Closer to Fusion Power

Residents here however, asked to have it this way. The San Onofre nuclear plant was shut down in early 2012 after premature wear was discovered on some of its tubing. The plant's operator, Southern California Edison, had been trying to re-start the facility since. But protests from local communities had delayed the process.

Edison gave up on a re-start in June. After Friends of the Earth won a decision with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board saying that an adjudicatory public hearing would be needed before the facility could operate again.

Amid the protest, the plant will now be retired completely. Causing the results noted above.

Interesting to see just how much going non-nuclear can cost.

Here's to keeping the lights on,

By. Dave Forest


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  • brian lovell on September 01 2013 said:
    "....neighbouring and unaffected grids like San Diego" ?

    SDG&E owns 20% of San Onofre:

    http://www.sdge.com/san-onofre-nuclear-generating-station
  • John Bailo on September 02 2013 said:
    A word without nukes would look like...Germany. They are producing solar, at times under regular grid costs! And they are adding hydrogen storage so they soon will manage baseload with solar alone. And they are going zero nukes.
  • Dee on September 02 2013 said:
    California should go solar.

    Germany (where it's not even sunny) has shattered records in Solar Energy production; producing the equivalent of 30 nuclear power plants!

    Some of the success is in individual homes and businesses installing their own roof-top solar panels.

    And as far as nuclear energy in California being expensive, can you imagine the cost to health and property had San Onofre had an accident?

    Californians did the right thing.
  • Stephen Kennedy on September 02 2013 said:
    Germany's ongoing energy 'transition' is a disaster. Jurgen Grossman (former CEO of RWE): 'Solar in Germany makes as much sense as growing pineapples in Alaska). The outputs touted by solar/wind enthusiasts are always some peak value that occurred for 15 minutes when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing everywhere. Capacity utilization of wind is around 25%, for solar in Germany it is under 10%. In the meantime the subsidies for wind/solar and the rules which force utilities to take the power whenever it is available are wrecking the economics of the fossil and nuclear plants. Imagine the wind is blowing like mad for a hour, you have to take the power, so you shut down, curtail, whatever your coal, gas, nuclear plants ... do you think that machinery likes being jerked up and down constantly? These baseload plants are designed to run at full power 24/7. The CEO of E.ON (Germany's largest utility) recently threatened to move the company to Turkey (OK, only a threat, but you get an idea of his thinking).

    Another results of shutting down the 8 nuclear plants? Germany is completing construction of a 2GW brown coal plant, the dirtiest, most environmentally-damagine source of energy production (well, tar sands are in the running as well). Coal burning kills thousands every year. Nuclear ... zero, in all the years it has been operating.
  • Marcus on September 02 2013 said:
    This is more about competency than whether or not nuclear is a good policy. A few years ago the plant owner did a 650 million dollar upgrade, installing new piping, generators, etc. The problem gear came from Mitsubushi Heavy Equipment. Apparently the plant has corrosion and vibration problems serious enough to cause a high level of erosion in many of the pipes. The only solution had to offer was a reduced level of plant operation to mitiage the vibration issue. Bad engineering, very expensive mistakes caused the plant to shut down.
  • gonzo on September 02 2013 said:
    No one died at Chernobyl? News to me.

    True, switching from long time, well established power sources will require solving new grid/distribution problems, but localized solar also has some big grid advantages. Using the power in the building where it was generated- it doesn't get any more efficient than that.
  • Bob Wallace on September 02 2013 said:
    Abruptly remove a large chunk of capacity of any type from any grid and the cost of electricity will rise.

    If a nuclear/coal/hydro/whatever plant is scheduled to close and this is know enough in advance additional capacity can be developed.

    This is not what a world without nuclear would look like. This is what happens when a grid has to scramble for supply.
  • David on September 02 2013 said:
    It is without a doubt that moving away from Nuclear will make electricity and the power markets as a whole much more expensive.

    The Leak at San Onofre was well within safety limits (even those imposed by the strange regulations prompted by LNT) and even if the tubes failed completely would not have physically harmed anyone. The basic case against Nuclear power generation is that it is uniquely dangerous. Movies, cartoons and other memes tell us this. But the history is that it is the safest industry ever created by humans. Bar none. Using well researched science, not the rantings of people opposed.

    So, why use this? Because, cheap power is the best defense against poverty. Power should be cheap.
  • jmdesp on September 02 2013 said:
    Germany still has a significant number of nukes, and they generate at full power since 8 have been shut down, partially compensating the loss.

    Since September last year, solar units above 10 MW would have to sell their power at market price, without subsidies. Since then, none has been built. So all the unit that have been built have a guaranteed selling price, even when their production makes the market prices go negative, resulting in a tax for each KWh sold at 53 Euro cent that is higher that the full electricity price in a lot of the US. And it will be 60 Euro cent next year.
  • Rochelle Becker on September 02 2013 said:
    A California without nuclear would have looked a whole lot less costly if the energy efficiency programs had been taken out of the hands of the utilities. A California without nuclear would have transitioned in a less costly manner if SCE had responded in 2011 to Senator Padilla's request to provide studies of how the utility would cope without SONGS. A California without nuclear would have been well on its way to recovery if SCE had not forced SDG&E to buy into steam generator replacements.
  • jaagu on September 03 2013 said:
    Nuclear power is expensive (levelized cost of new nuclear is ~ 50% more than natural gas),

    Nuclear power is not safe or cost effective:

    Fukushima, Chernobyl, Davis Besse, Three Mile Island, Crystal River, and dozen of other nuclear accidents and plant failures. Fukushima costs are over $500 billion, Chernobyl costs are over $800 billion, Three Mile Island costs over $20 billion, etc.

    Decommissioning costs are in the billions per reactor.

    Operating nuclear plants are now being shutdown because they are not cost effective - see Kewaunee and Vermont Yankee nuclear plants.
  • Smarmy on September 03 2013 said:
    This is a silly article. When your sample size is 1, you're not really describing a broad trend. Here's a counterexample from just this year, where a "world without nuclear" looks a whole lot cheaper:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kewaunee_Power_Station

    550 MW plant shut down after its license was extended to 2033 because the power it produced was too expensive to compete.

    Then of course there was the Crystal River nuke in Florida that shut down because it was too expensive to bother repairing, and the costs wouldn't be recouped from sales:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_River_3_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    Do your homework next time before deciding that one data point makes a trend, especially when there are so many others available in the lay press, let alone trade publications, that say pretty much the opposite of the point you're trying to make.

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