Thursday, February 14, 2008

A letter to Dave Walters

Dave, Our current 104 nuclear plants produce 20% of American electricity. Thus 400 more plants of the same size would produce 100% of our current electrical demand. I have argued that with the new MIT fuel technologies it will be possible to increase the power output of PWR's by 50% and BWR's by 30%. Hence it mayl be possible to uprate the AP-1000 reactor design to about 1.8 GWs power and the ESBWR to close to 2 GWs rated output. These up rates in new reactors would not add greatly to their costs or construction times 200 new reactors in the 1.8 to 2 GW range would basically replace all American fossil fuel plants. Another hundred would supply the electricity to electrify the transportation system. This fix would cost 1.2 trillion in 2008 dollars, but it would also save a lot of money.

First, it would dramatically reduce health costs associated with air pollution from burning of fossil fuels. Secondly, it would save hundreds of billions annualy for the importation of fossil fuels. Thirdly, the electrification of transportation would dramatically lower transportation costs, because electricity is cheaper than gasoline, and trains burn far less fuel than trucks, to transport the same amount of freight. These savings then will at least partially pay for the cost of building new reactors.

Also many older coal fired plants are worn out and inefficient. They are due for replacement. The replacement costs of older coal fired plants could be counted against the cost of building new reactors. Finally we should moniterize the carbon savings of new nuclear plants.

As I have indicated to you, I still see MSR as the best possible option. I believe that through use of mass, assembly line production, it might be possible to build small but highly efficient MSR's for as little as $1 billion per GW overnight costs. Not only would this cut nuclear costs in half, but it would insure that a nuclear future would be sustainable.

jmuckerheide commented on my blog yesterday:

"The consistent 3.3 ppb U in seawater is in chemical equilibrium. If it were being depleted, we would expect that additional U would be leached and put in solution from ocean bottoms, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, and terrestrial sources (primarily through tidal pumping on the continental shelves, with some from rivers and other discharges). If we extracted a billion tons over hundreds of years, it is more likely that the oceans will contain nearly 4.5 billion tons than be reduced to 3.5+ billion tons.

Is this a "renewable" energy source?"

It would appear to be. Thus with MSBRs, we would be assured with power on a sustainable basis. Thus given the overwealming advantages of MSRs over LWR's, we ought to get them into volumn production as soon as possible. - Charles


Fifi said...

Quibble, quibble.

If 104 nuclear power plants with about 100 GW capacity produce 20% of our electricity, 400 more nuclear power plants will NOT produce 100% of the required electricity.

Charles, you know well that production is not proportional to capacity because you cannot store produced electricity. Otherwise, wind farms would be humanity's savior :)

According to the EIA, the US had about 986 GW net of summer generating capacity, pretty much all of it online at peak time. So it would take about 880 more 1GW reactors to support peak load.

I'm all for it! At $2.5B/GW, that's about $2.1 trillions. Just take 50% of the DoD budget for 9 years or 25% for 18 years and it's all paid for!

And, as it's always better to run nuclear power plants at constant 100% rated power, there'd be plenty of interesting things to do with the excess electricity generated off peak hours. Plenty of things like charging plug-in hybrids at night time, like generating electrolytic hydrogen to boost synfuel production from coal or biomass...

Charles Barton said...

You are quite correct. My calculation was based on the fact that 104 reactors product 20% of Us power. What i failed to notice is that those reactors produce base power, and so run all the time. I failed to take into account what I should have, that is demand changes dramatically, and increases in on hot summer days.

Back to the drawing board for peak demand.

David Walters said...

Great ideas! The point is "we can do it!" should be our mantra.

Charle's plan in his letter to me is a great start. Please, folks, read Alvin Weinbergs 'grand plan' that Charles posted here last week.

These plans will lay out a *vision*, a truly *national vision* for our future fission economy.

David Walters

Fifi said...

Absolutely, David, we can do it with nuclear power. And it's not even that expensive.

Going 100% nuclear 0% carbon for electricity would cost in the order of $2 to 2.5 trillions over one or two decades. And after that, all the energy cost is O&M and uranium cycle. No more coal, no more gas, no more heavy oil.

When compared to the economy as a whole, 2 to 2.5 trillions over or 20 years is a pretty small price tag, less than 1% of the GDP over that period. And as I mentioned, with 1000 GW of nuclear capacity on line, you have a lot of off-peak hours electricity available at very low marginal cost to do other things.

Now, anyone can come up with other ideas - renewables, etc. - but any option has do at least as good, as reliable and as cheap as the 100% nuclear option. And if they can't, we have a legitimate right to tell them to pack off.

TMSG said...

Leave hydro where it is.

There might be other cases where peak load aligns better with another system. Phoenix/solar (no clouds and peak is during the day, AC). There could be areas where peak is heating only in bad winters and only for a couple weaks (this would be good for low capital / high fuel costs).

But yeah, nuke is the way to go for the general base load.


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