Is Nuclear Power Really More Expensive?

Last month, I penned a simple list of 30 facts that I hoped would quell some fears and misconceptions about nuclear energy. Fellow Fool Travis Hoium offered a rebuttal with five facts that he believed doomed nuclear power. The biggest nail in nuclear's coffin is cost, according to Travis and many others.

While I always welcome an intellectual discussion and debate, the article made me wonder whether nuclear really was more expensive than other sources of electricity generation. After digging into the numbers and working my way up the logic tree, I found several surprising answers.

First things first
My interest in the differing costs of flipping a light switch was piqued when Travis offered an example comparing First Solar's (NASDAQ: FSLR  ) new plant in New Mexico with new nuclear facilities being built throughout the country. I wasn't sold on the simplicity of the argument: Solar energy in the middle of the desert -- an optimal location -- is cheaper than another energy source. Let's see First Solar build one of those puppies in New England and keep electricity rates under $0.06 per kWh.

This doesn't mean renewable energy is an inferior option for the national grid, but it does highlight the regionalization and complexity of electricity costs. For instance, 34 states had average retail electricity prices that were less than the national average of $0.0983 per kWh in 2010. That's because states with larger populations -- and higher prices -- are given more weight in the calculation. And as we will see, prices are also affected by the makeup of the regional grid.   

Chicken or the egg?
Next, I turned to the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, for state-by-state data. It took a while to mine meaningful relationships from the raw numbers, but there did seem to be correlations between costly electricity, summer capacity, and total nuclear capacity. Here are selected metrics from the top five nuclear-powered states:

State

Average Retail Electricity Price ($/kWh)

Price Rank (cheapest=1)

Net Summer Capacity (GW)

Summer Capacity Rank (largest=1)

Illinois

$0.0913

28

44.13

5

Pennsylvania

$0.1031

36

45.58

4

South Carolina

$0.0849

21

8.49

17

New York

$0.1641

48

16.41

6

North Carolina

$0.0867

24

8.67

12

National average

$0.0983

---

20.77

---

Source: EIA state electricity profiles, 2010.

Looking at the 19 states with no nuclear capacity adds some color to the other end of the analysis: 12 of these states are in the top 19 for cheapest retail rates. That's it. End of story. It seems that nuclear must be the cause of higher electricity prices. Right?

There's another way to view this relationship. Does nuclear cause higher rates, or is the powerful energy source simply relied upon more heavily in regions with larger populations and more demand?

Consider that the correlation factor between net summer capacity, when electricity demand is at its peak, and the amount of nuclear capacity installed in each state is 0.73 (pretty high). What the heck does that mean? States that have high population density regions (cities) are more likely to employ nuclear power -- and a greater mix in general -- to combat customer demand than states with lower peak demand.

Source: Exelon.

Exelon (NYSE: EXC  ) , whose Braidwood, Ill. nuclear facility is pictured, illustrates this trend perfectly. The company has 17 reactors powering the metropolitan areas of Chicago (13), Philadelphia (three), and New Jersey (one), with almost 140 GWh of electricity each year. So it looks as if we have answered several important questions already, but there's no getting around the enormous price tags that come with constructing a new nuclear facility. 

Does sticker shock matter?
How expensive are new reactors? Very expensive. Southern (NYSE: SO  ) is building two new reactors -- the first approved in the United States since 1978 -- at its Vogtle nuclear facility in Georgia for a cost of about $15.1 billion. The company received an $8.3 billion loan from the Department of Energy in 2010, which leaves ratepayers with the remaining $6.8 billion.

There has been some debate over how those funds are collected. Regulators weren't very happy last week when Southern announced that costs would be about $737 million higher than initial estimates (included in the cost I mentioned). That's not nearly as bad as Progress Energy, now owned by Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK  ) , which has poached $819 million from customers in recent years for two nuclear projects. One was cancelled, and the other has yet to receive the green light from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Now, that is certainly a lot of money, and I don't agree with charging customers for facilities that have yet to be approved, but investors and consumers should know that construction costs represent the overwhelming majority of the price of a nuclear facility over its lifetime. Consider the comparison of fuels:

Fuel

Price Per kg

Uranium Energy Density Factor

Adjusted Fuel Cost Per Energy Factor

Enriched uranium (4%)

$680

1.00

$680

Appalachian Coal

$0.065

20,000

$1,300

Natural gas

$125.36 (per thousand cu. m)

13.2 (per thousand cu. m)

$1,654

Sources: World Nuclear Association, Department of Energy.     

These numbers don't account for transportation costs, which are a much bigger expense for coal than for natural gas or uranium. Nonetheless, they show that the cost of fueling a nuclear reactor is far cheaper, and less volatile, than running a fleet of natural gas turbines or coal-powered thermal reactors. Take this snip from Exelon's 2012 Annual Report:

The fuel costs for nuclear generation are less than for fossil-fuel generation. Consequently, nuclear generation is generally the most cost-effective way for (our generation business) to meet its wholesale and retail load servicing requirements. The cycle of production and utilization of nuclear fuel includes the mining and milling of uranium ore into uranium concentrates, the conversion of uranium concentrates to uranium hexafluoride, the enrichment of the uranium hexafluoride, and the fabrication of fuel assemblies.

The company's estimated capital expenditures for 2013 also highlight the operating disparities. Nuclear plants will require just $7,150 per GWh, while renewable and fossil-fuel generation will require $141,000 per GWh and $36,000 per GWh, respectively.

Foolish bottom line
Is electricity produced from nuclear power really more expensive than other sources? It depends on how you look at it. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, released a study in 2010 comparing worldwide electricity rates for the lifetime of various energy sources. It concluded that nuclear power plants provide the cheapest energy across the board, except for specialized cases of large-scale hydroelectric power.

Think about it like this: Would the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have 28 pending applications for new reactors on its desk if nuclear posed such a disadvantage? Over the long term, nuclear is a cheaper, more efficient, and more dependable generation source than any other energy source at our disposal. In fact, a nuclear reactor's ability to provide steady base load power during peak usage times actually helps stabilize the grid for customers. Remember that the next time you turn on a light.

If you live near Chicago, then you'll definitely want to thank Exelon for stabilizing your electricity prices. With the largest nuclear fleet in North America, the company does its part to combat volatility in the grid. Combine this strength with an increased focus on renewable energy, and Exelon's recent merger with Constellation places Exelon and its best-in-class dividend on a short list of top utilities. To determine whether Exelon is a good long-term fit for your portfolio, you're invited to check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Simply click here now for instant access.


Read/Post Comments (33) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 11:48 AM, seattle1115 wrote:

    Two points: First, it's hard to evaluate the relative costs of any of these energy sources when so many of the true costs are hidden in the form of uncaptured externalities. Of course, in many cases those costs are difficult or even impossible to calculate but they're there.

    Second, I have serious questions about investors' enthusiasm to jump into nuclear power in a big way after the WPPSS debacle. I believe it is still the largest public default on record.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 12:22 PM, AtariHero wrote:

    This author knows NOTHING about energy policy or energy economics.

    Nuclear energy is VERY cheap on a per kwh basis, once the plant is built. Virtually every plant in the U.S. has already been built and paid for. Costs of electricity prices in high priced states likely have little to do with nuclear capacity.

    Nuclear energy is extremely expensive to build (which actually makes it's economics similar to renewable energy). The Vogtle plant, in Georgia - is currently projected to cost $14 billion.

    If you look at levelized cost estimates from the EIA, which include capital, operating, and fuel costs, Nuclear is more expensive than anything but solar. Further, the EIA has been accused of taking an optimistic approach to Nuclear. If you were to ask a utility executive how much it costs to build a nuclear plant - you couldn't get a good estimate. Ranges for capital costs are enormous.

    Further, nuclear currently benefits from an enormous amount of federal subsidies related to waste disposal, insurance, etc. which are unpriced.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 12:48 PM, graychin wrote:

    In all the tables and figures in this article, I see no consideration given to the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants that have reached the end of their useful lives, nor of the cost of disposition of spent nuclear fuel. At present, spent nuclear fuel is just left in ponds on site, with no plan for disposal.

    Of course the industry assumes that taxpayers will ultimately pick up the tab for these extremely high costs. And they're probably right.

    One could argue that generation with fossil fuels (especially dirty coal - there's no such thing as "clean coal") has its own unaccounted costs in the form of atmospheric polution, costs that the rest of society downwind must bear. That's true too.

    In short, the discussion is overly simplistic in that it counts construction costs and fuel costs alone in making its comparisons.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 12:52 PM, oldmec51 wrote:

    I live but five miles from a nuke facility in Missouri my number one worry is what are they doing with the waste. At this time the only answer they have come with is to bury it in any hole they can find or dig. in the military I was privy to information about waste disposal and how it was contained how ever in the light of fairly recent earth quakes it has been a growing concern to me. If in fact the New Madrid fault should break the big one what are the chances of said containment being damaged thus polluting the majority of ground water for hundreds of miles maybe more. I think that this factor alone makes the Nuclear option to high at any rate until we can find away to "completely" dispose of it's waste. We cannot continue to create billions of tons and not be able to destroy it. That is just a suicidal cost we can't not afford no matter how cheap it makes it to flip the switch.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 12:53 PM, loganjames wrote:

    What about the disposal of the most dagerous and deadly spent fuel? Nobody has solved this problem and what atre the costs to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. Your obviously very ignorant if you don't take this into account, nuclear waste can wipeout the entire planet. Nuclear power is much too dagerous without proper waste disposal.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 1:06 PM, gordonzoo wrote:

    Whether you are pro or con nuclear power, it is important to realize it is subsidized at less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour produced. Wind and solar are subsidized at 24 cents per kilowatt.

    Recognize Foolish readers, this is the Pet Smart business model - you pay a fraction of that subsidy. If the subsidies go away, they are gone. While I wish it were not so, they also are extraordinarily inefficient for large scale power production. The Braidwood plant pictured above produces more energy in a day than all the wind power in the U.S. does in a year.

    That being said, the current low price of natural gas is beating all other options for power production.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 1:10 PM, gordonzoo wrote:

    loganjames - to your point about spent fuel, "new" nuclear technology produces far less spent fuel as many in Europe are already aware. Meanwhile, we cling to decades old structures because we make it so incredibly difficult to obtain licensing for plants which would operate on a safer and more efficient basis (and still not perfect). Yet another example of our government kicking the can down the road.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 2:24 PM, vegasfem wrote:

    True, this author knows NOTHING about the nuclear industry and how it operates. Costs omitted:

    The nuclear fuel cycle is subsidized every step of the way in order to produce the fuel needed for nuclear power plants. No private utility, even Exelon, could afford to produce it's own fuel.

    Nuclear power plants are sitting ducks for terrorist attacks. If we really chose to open ourselves up to the widespread, long-term destruction and contamination of large parts of country in return for electricity we can produce thru other sources, then we are truly idiots.

    Author says that operators would not be going ahead with plants now if the cost was not justifiable. That is just plain nonsense. The nuclear industry has always disregarded long-term costs and consequences in fair of short-term profits. If the state commissions allow them to profit during construction and pass costs onto the consumer, that is all the green light they have ever needed. If the state commissions held their feet to the fire and required them to fully cover the the complete and actual costs of transport, fuel leaks, decommissioning, environmental effects, and have full liability for effects of releases, safety issues, construction issues, injuries, terrorist attacks, etc., instead of nice insurance coverage for their behinds, there would be no nuclear power plants period.

    Plant lifetimes have always been overstated by the utilities. We see the advent of barrel waste leakage at Hanford now (which has been going on for awhile). Waste is everywhere, a timebomb waiting to go off, but the plants themselves are not made of krytonite!! They are made of stainless steel, and over 30 - 40 years of exposure to corrosive water and radioactive liquids, all stainless steel corrodes; it does not matter how expensive the plant is in the first place. These utilities don't care about this.

    Last, forget the rah rah about the standardized nuke plant design supposed to make plants safer and cheaper to build. You can mass produce em all you want, but you will never, ever, be able to find the "standarized nuclear plant site". Every, single plant is different and will respond differently with its own set of problems. There are already twin plants in existance like Exelon's Byron and Braidwood plants, and they show that even twin plants do not end up the same in quality or nature.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 2:49 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    Interesting comments. I have some upcoming articles about thorium based reactors (they're making a comeback) and GE Hitachi's plan to power the world with spent nuclear fuel. It is a complex issue that is difficult to attack in one article, so please keep an open mind. And remember that all energy is subsidized in one way or another.

    Also bear in mind that finding a use for spent fuel would complete the nuclear fuel cycle and significantly reduce costs associated with decommissioning. Since few plants around the world have ever gone through the process, it is still a relatively new problem and the costs are hard to pin down.

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 3:31 PM, mattjohnson4167 wrote:

    A fool and his money are soon parted. Remember when Nuclear power was just getting started and the promises of electricity so cheap it was "pennies on the dollar"?? "The wave of the future" that would dramatically lead to energy independence...Kind of sounds like the con job that everyone is getting NOW with oduma and his "solyndra" companies.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 4:15 PM, bamawelder wrote:

    The fact that the utilities are willing to go through so much hardship with regulatory approvals, construction risk and financing costs should be enough of an indicator that the cost of nuclear power is lower. If it wasn't low enough to be competitive, they would not be pursuing it. Utilities also don't want all their eggs in one basket. A good mix of coal, gas, hydro, solar, and nuclear makes for a stable operating environment that is capable of dealing with issues in a particular energy segment, such as higher short term fuel costs or regulatory pressure on a particular energy segment.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 6:19 PM, GuestPost wrote:

    The analysis on the price of nuclear energy is naive and incomplete.

    Nuclear energy costs taxpayers HUGE amounts of money for agencies, insurance, etc. that are UNIQUE to nuclear energy.

    Here's a PARTIAL list of Nuclear Energy expenses to the taxpayer:

    1.. THE COST TO STORE AND SECURE NUCLEAR WASTE SUCH AS PLUTONIUM, which is radioactive for over 200,000 years, will cost 20,000 generations of taxpayers. Your relatives for 20,000 generations will need to pay for this. The cost is INFINITE.

    2. $12 BILLION dollars a year for the Department of Energy

    3. $380 MILLION dollars to insure EACH reactor in the U.S. as per the Price Anderson Act. $380 million dollars times 103 reactors equals almost $40 BILLION dollars.

    4. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency = $1 BILLION dollars a year

    5. The security to watch over nuclear power plants costs = $2.1 billion and climbing

    6. The cost to cleanup uranium mines falls to the taxpayer, and takes 15 to 20 years = incalculable, but several tens of BILLIONS of dollars. One mine in Seattle will cost $193 million alone.

    7. The cost for a site to store radioactive waste = Yucca Mountain costed $96 BILLION - and was shelved, so Billions will go to build a new site.

    7. The HEALTH cost for exposure to nuclear radiation = INFINITE (Plutonium, for example, can damage several generations with cancers and birth defects)

    8. The ENVIRONMENTAL cost of polluting the land, water and food supply with radiation that nuclear power plants emit on a daily basis = INFINITE

    9. The cost of decommissioning a nuclear power plant = $1 BILLION per reactor, and climbing

    10. The cost of the MOX fuel plant in South Carolina = $7 BILLION, and climbing

    11. The cost of nuclear waste incinerators = BILLIONS, and the cost to the health of people downwind of these incinerators and breathing this in is infinite.

    In addition, nuclear energy is **unreliable, **plants have to be shut down every 18 months for 4 months for refueling, **they don't work well in warm climates,**they leave vast miles of land uninhabitable...

    In conclusion, nuclear energy is THE MOST EXPENSIVE energy. It is infinitely expensive.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 7:04 PM, shartflhs wrote:

    guestpost, I would really like to know where you got your information and price quotes. I have been in the energy industry for over 30 years. I have worked on coal, oil, hydro, gas, and have friends that work solar and wind. For a start coal, oil, and gas plants scare me to death. I hated working on them, extremely dangerous. Had a gas plant explode 5 miles from my house, 6 people killed. You want to talk about waste? Give me a nuke any day. 25 yrs of so called waste stored in one big room, coal mountains of coal ash and slurry. Don't get me wrong, I believe we need every type of energy available, wind and solar included but your misconceptions about nuclear are totally wrong. I had a nuke plant 10 miles from my house that was decommissioned and is now a green field. Entirely paid for by the fees charged during operation and nowhere near a billion dollars. The plant was paid for during the first year of operation, yes it was old and the newer ones are much more expensive but they are also hundreds of times safer. They do not emit lots of radiation daily, thats a myth. The majority of the radiation I am exposed to is the radon that comes out of the concrete the buildings are made of. The sensors are so sensitive that we some times have to wait hours to get our jackets out after a rain storm forces the radon out of the ground. The so called waste (spent fuel), I work with almost daily, its not scary and we can recover almost 95% of it if it were politically correct to do so. Wind and solar have their problems too. Extremely high maintenance costs for wind, lots of hazardous materials from manufacturing solar, not to mention the tremendous amounts of land both use. We cannot rely on just one or two forms of energy generation otherwise we would have to move back into caves. I know you are afraid of nuclear but if you really knew the truth and not what you see on tv or in the news you might have a different opinion. As for Hanford, leave weapons production out of a discussion on nuclear power, they are entirely different and the only thing they have in common is they started out with uranium. Besides Hanford was a government project and you know how they and screw up anything.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 7:15 PM, TMFmd19 wrote:

    Nice work Maxx!

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 8:41 PM, Jokers4 wrote:

    How soon till thorium available and Gate's Terrapower starts construction?

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 8:43 PM, moblackty wrote:

    And in conclusion we.............. and ..............! Not a very good article!

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 8:55 PM, SparkyRules wrote:

    We have a whole industry that does nothing but play the numbers, gambling if you will and most everyone has to pay a tribute to these "bosses". This is the insurance industry who does risk analysis. So if your going to compare Nuclear power you need to include its insurance cost. Oh wait, no one will insure nuke power in fact there are law which EXEMPT nuke power from any liability. So any real far comparison would be to figure what said insurance SHOULD cost ( like EVERY other industry has) as all else are NOT shielded from liability. I mean what could go wrong and how much could that cost? Figure in the cost of Fukusima (ALL the cost) and then get your insurance premium! So this is the problem the nuke folks want US to take the risk as in the Government has to take the risk while the nuke folks get the profit! So if we do allow nuke power it should ONLY be state owned run and any profits returned to the state OR be held liable for all damages and have insurance and a bond in place to prove it! Now is Nuke power really cheaper HELL NO, in fact it is only possible if we the people insure it for those big money wads to then charge us for the privileged of covering their rears ! I aint no fool!

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 9:18 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    "Catching a flight out of Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear disaster two years ago would have given you a larger dose of radiation than staying put.":

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729073.300-cancer-ri...

    In science I trust,

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 10:00 PM, Guest2424 wrote:

    Yeah nuclear is cheaper Ask those in tri cities.

    The estimated price tag is $114.8 billion for remaining environmental cleanup at Hanford, plus some post-cleanup oversight, according to a new Department of Energy report.

    That's an increase from the 2012 estimate of $112 billion.

    However, even the new $114.8 billion estimate might not be enough. It's based on annual budgets large enough to meet Hanford cleanup obligations, but those budgets are unlikely to be funded, and costs typically increase when projects are delayed.

    The DOE report, entitled "2013 Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost," includes annual budgets of more than $3 billion for five of the years between now and 2020. Two of those years, the budget figure is more than $3.5 billion.

    Hanford typically receives a little more than $2 billion annually for environmental cleanup. DOE has said it expects that level of funding for the foreseeable future.

    Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2013/02/22/2284650/estimated-c...

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 10:09 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @Guest2424

    Again, Hanford was for weapons production, not energy generation. For every kWh of nuclear electricity generation, $0.001 is set aside for nuclear waste and $0.00067 is set aside for nuclear decommissioning - hardly breaking the backs of customers. So, there is currently a $25 billion fund available for nuclear waste disposal and a similar $22.5 billion fund for decommissioning costs (67% of total estimated costs for U.S. reactors).

    Here's a state-by-state table of nuclear waste fund contributions:

    http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/nuclear...

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2013, at 10:59 PM, devoish wrote:

    "Let's see First Solar build one of those puppies in New England and keep electricity rates under $0.06 per kWh."

    As of right now on Long Island we have built a few experimental solar plants with a cost of .22 - .27 cents per kwh.

    But Nuclear will have a much higher cost here too so that is not really an equivalancy.

    "How expensive are new reactors? Very expensive. Southern (NYSE: SO ) is building two new reactors -- the first approved in the United States since 1978 -- at its Vogtle nuclear facility in Georgia for a cost of about $15.1 billion. The company received an $8.3 billion loan from the Department of Energy in 2010, which leaves ratepayers with the remaining $6.8 billion".

    This is not quite accurate. SO received an $8.3 bil loan guarantee, not a gift, to guarantee against default and is payable by taxpayers to its lender like the loan guarantee Solyndra had, but much more money. Ratepayers or taxpayers will be expected to pay back the full amount of $15.1bil.

    What is the expected cost per kwh to ratepayers for Vogtle?

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 1:07 AM, maguro01 wrote:

    Remarks about Plutonium and Hanford are irrelevant. They were weapons projects done in a WWI and Cold War context without the investigations and precautions that came to be realized were necessary.

    The only way to get rid of Plutonium or probably weapons grade Uranium is to burn it in a power reactor. Security needed to get it all there is very modest compared to the expense of security for tens of thousands of years. That would be the ultimate version of kicking the can down the road. Actually it's not even possible - no human society has ever or is likely to last that long.

    Activists do need Plutonium to try to reduce the population to trembling paralysis and fear. There are very few uses for it otherwise except nuclear batteries for the outer solar system. Burn it. Build the reactor closest to where the Plutonium is. The military transports nuclear weapons all the time, they can add Plutonium in containers to the list. One possibility would be to burn it in military reactors but that assumes that the ships would never be purposely sunk. Nuke submarines have been lost. Better a power reactor.

    As for everyday radioactivity, we get quite a bit from burning coal. We get a lot of radiation exposure from high altitude flight. Lower income people are exposed to cancer causing X-Ray exposure because they can't afford MRI's.

    If you want to really worry for the future, nuclear power isn't the most dangerous thing around anyway. Virus engineering is, along with ever cheaper real computer power. A high-end PC with a couple of graphics cards used for computing is as capable for a broad range of problems as a Supercomputer of not that many years ago. Genetic engineering has become an everyday industrial and research technology with economic benefits as well as research benefits. The dark side would be as dangerous to its makers as anyone else so normally it's not there. But what of the people who strap explosives on people and send them to a market? Since they can't win, they may decide no one will.

    Be careful of what you wish for.....

    (ref - Bill Joy's article Why The Future Doesn't Need Us in Wired Apr 4, 2000).

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 2:04 AM, seattle1115 wrote:

    As far as safety goes, nuclear power is a lot like air travel. Statistically, it's quite safe, but when there's a problem it makes headlines - and investors don't like headlines. I'm a bit of an anomaly among my tree-hugging liberal brethren in that I'm not averse to nuclear power per se; however, I'm also an anomaly among those who are reasonably comfortable with nuclear power in that I don't think it has a future. I think investors will avoid it in droves.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 7:54 AM, devoish wrote:

    "Catching a flight out of Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear disaster two years ago would have given you a larger dose of radiation than staying put.":

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729073.300-cancer-ri...

    In science I trust,

    --Maxxwell

    That's a surprise that warrants some investigation. The quick briefing you link to does not offer figures. In fact, it links to another article as its source, which in turn links back to the same one you link to, in a never-ending circle of zero data.

    Try this one.

    ( and remember, micro is smaller than milli)

    http://xkcd.com/radiation/

    40 microsieverts - Airplane flight from NY to LA ( 5hours)

    40 microsieverts - extra dose received in Tokyo in the weeks following the Fukushima accident

    100 microsieverts doasge received at Fukushima town hall in the two weeks after the accident.

    1000 microsieverts - dosage in 2 weeks following the accident in the Fukushima exclusion zone. (northwest side much higher)

    Best wishes,

    Steven

    PS.

    2 years is pretty quick to pass judgement -

    "These reassurances notwithstanding, the authorities will monitor the area for ongoing health risks. A study launched last year will track some 360,000 children from the Fukushima Prefecture over 20 years to look for long-term health effects. A thyroid-screening program has so far detected no malignancies that required additional examination. The prefecture's health officials have also created more comprehensive surveys to get a sense of the entire population's health and well-being."

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 9:39 AM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @devoish

    Yes, thank you for quoting approximate numbers as de facto ones (from a website that endorses the "Party Cat" cartoon nonetheless). My point is that Fukushima is not a nuclear wasteland as some have suggested.

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 1:40 PM, sailrick wrote:

    Matt Johnson.

    your comment about

    Obama and Solyndra is ill informed by propaganda

    95% of the clean energy loans were successful

    87% were for energy projects like solar and wind farms - low risk, because utilities already agreed to pay for them or the power from them

    The loan program set aside money for EXPECTED LOSSES, like there always are in innovative new industries.

    Those losses were $2 Billion LESS than Expected

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 2:49 PM, cm33 wrote:

    The fact that nuclear power is dangerous is enough to be concerned about even if it was the cheapest fuel on earth. That anyone would even consider it only based on costs shows that our business structure needs to be changed.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 3:09 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^ Danger is a relative thing.... in my 3 years on an operating nuclear attack submarine, I not only depended on the safe operation of a reactor, its reliable and effective operation was what my life and about 100 of my shipmates depended upon. Most of the above commentary if not all gets produced by those who have never operated any kind of reactor ever. I gave up trying to convince these folks on "facts" about 20 years ago. As for the waste, when my then commander in chief JCarter, so smart he was stupid, prohibited US from reprocessing spent fuel, he re-categorized a large number of valuable radioisotopes from useful specialty to "waste" your grandchildren will mine the waste for its unique and valuable components and laugh at us all.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 3:18 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    Maxx- an interesting article and even more interesting commentary. I am not sure but I don't believe your fuel cost table above accounts for conversion efficiency, which is quite critical. For instance Coal and Nuclear rely on Rankine cycle conversion, which at its best is only in the high 20's, say 27% fuel energy to electric conversion efficiency Modern Gas Turbine plants, use Brayton Cycle with conversion efficiencies much higher. Then there is capital cost, which is much lower for Gas Turbines. This quite often results in an equilibrium where Gas prices per unit are higher than coal or nuclear based on demand...the more efficient gas turbines which cost less to build get erected when gas prices are competitive and when gas escalates due to popularity, fewer get built. This is way to simple for the actual case, but the tendencies are common, at least when government and public perception don't intervene in perverse ways.....

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 3:51 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    @Skepikl

    No, the table purely accounts for fuel costs. You are right that natural gas turbines are becoming increasingly more efficient. Here's a look at overall efficiency rates for various sources of energy since 2001 that I stumbled across a few weeks ago:

    http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_01.html

    --Maxxwell

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 7:59 PM, devoish wrote:

    "Catching a flight out of Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear disaster two years ago would have given you a larger dose of radiation than staying put.":

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729073.300-cancer-ri...

    In science I trust,

    --Maxxwell

    @devoish

    Yes, thank you for quoting approximate numbers as de facto ones (from a website that endorses the "Party Cat" cartoon nonetheless). My point is that Fukushima is not a nuclear wasteland as some have suggested.

    --Maxxwell

    Maxwell,

    You are welcome.

    Defending your lack of numbers by calling mine "approximate" still leaves your statement weak and less substantiated by comparison.

    If you do not like the "party cat" numbers find better numbers, or any numbers at all before you go making claims about comparing flying exposures to Fukushima that are ridiculous on their face.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 8:01 PM, devoish wrote:
  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 11:48 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    @ devooish - unfortunately, its hard to vet trustworthy numbers on exposure and contamination. Generally speaking public numbers and those quoted by the press rarely cite actual measurements, and instead produce gross limitation "numbers" as well as boundaries established nearly always for extreme safety. Unless you are a health physics professional and carefully check the sources and measurements, it is nearly impossible to believe what is published. I freely admit that the actual data from published reports was so riddled with errors and ridiculous conflicts (wrong units, impossible facts etc) that I quit checking- it was a total waste of my time. I reckon in about 10 years, just like TMI the ANS and NRC will publish a well source checked and reliable report on Fukushima. Until then, as a formerly well trained nuclear operator, engineer and Radcon professional, I will not bother to fence with unarmed opponents. My advice to Maxx is do the same.

    On many occasions, just when I believe we have come a long way from Enrico Fermi sitting in the grandstands counting Neutrons whizzing by him from his graphite moderated reactor under the grandstands at the University of Chicago, I am disabused of that idea.

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