Monday, September 1, 2008

The Real TVA Problem at Belleforte

Dan Yurman has an interesting account of the TVA Bellefonte units 1 and 2 story. Bellefonte 1 and 2 were reactors that TVA suspended construction on in 1988, and surrendered their construction license for in 2006. Now two years later TVA wants the NRC to reinstate the construction license for the two Generation II reactors. TVA in the mean time had filed a licensing application to build two new Westinghouse AP-1000s at Bellefonte. Clearly some explanation is in order.

Yurman explains that the cost od new reactor construction and TVA which was speaking confidently of reactor construction prices of $4.5 billion for the new AP-1000s. It was obvious at the time that TVA had made a major mistake in canceling its license or units 1 and 2. Unit one was 88% complete, and TVA was facing a future in which long term reliance of coal generated electricity could not be assumed. As it has turned out the cost of construction of new nuclear plants has risen dramatically during the last few years, and TVA which was talking confidently of building its new AP-1000's at Bellefonte for no more than $3 billion a unit, now is saying that the cost is going to run more like $4.5 billion each. Suddenly TVA's investment in the incomplete Belleforte Units, starts taking on real value. Dan Yurman suggest that it might cost TVA as little as 3.6 billion to complete the incomplete Bellefonte units. Thus completing the Belleforte units would cost TVA only 40% of what the New AP-1000s would cost. If we get a carbon tax, TVA will want all 4.

However there is more to the story. Power generating costs are rising dramatically. This is the case for both Nuclear facilities, wind generators, or solar facilities. Demand created by the Asian building boom is rapidly driving up the price of building materials. In addition, traditional reactor construction methods are inefficient, chaotic, archaic and expensive. This problem is imposed by reactor size.

Nuclear power construction costs can be lowered significantly if we introduce more efficient and safer reactor technology, build reactors in factories, build smaller size reactors, and take innovative approaches to reactor siting. In order to do so, there must be some government program to develop advanced nuclear technology. Unfortunately the government stopped supporting innovations in nuclear technology around 1969, and has left the task of technological innovation in reactor design to other countries. High reactor costs are part of the price of technological backwardness. And in terms of reactor technology, the United States is extremely backwards.

Given a commitment to the development of advanced reactor designs, the United States could very well now have safer, high performance, reactors that produce 1% of the nuclear waste of conventional technologically retarded reactors. The present love affair with renewable energy now is a factor in our technological backwardness. Democratic politicians are not supporting reactor research programs that will produce the sort of reactor we need, while the Bush administration, which in theory supports nuclear energy, is just as clueless about what should be done.

Energy pundits like Joe Romm, back renewables and the crazy idea that we really don't need much post carbon-electricity if we get efficient enough. Economists say that energy efficiency actually increases energy use, contrary to Romm's claim. Romm is a strident enemy of efficiency that involves new highly efficient, low cost reactor technology. Strident nuclear opponents, like Romm, who claim to be environmentalists, mindlessly oppose any advance in nuclear technology.

TVA faces a troubled future if it does not recognize its need to access new low-cost nuclear technology. Coal fired power plants may soon be taxed at the rate of $45 per ton of CO2, making fossil fuel generated electricity prohibitively expensive, and TVA owns caoa fired power plants rated at 15 Thousand MWs. TVA has built hydroelectric dams almost everywhere in the Tennessee River Valley. The Southeaster United States has very poor wind resources. In addition the Southeastern United States is often cloudy, making it a very poor candidate for solar generated electricity. Thus TVA needs to build reactors, but conventional reactors are growing very expensive. Hence TVA need a low cost alternative form of nuclear power.

The need for a low cost alternative form of nuclear power is not just a TVA problem, or even a national problem, it is a world wide problem. In fact, other nations, France, Japan, China and even South Africa have recognized the problem and started programs to develop advanced technology low cost reactors that can be built in factories. The United States, no longer a technological leader leaves it to others to solve its problems.


Warren Heath said...

Great Post, Charles. These pseudo-greenies like Romm & Lovins need to take a look at the EIA’s own projections, which put Coal Electricity Generation increasing by 822 TWhrs 2008 to 2030, with renewables only increasing by 258 TWhrs, most of that being the severely limited unsustainable, environmentally destructive Biomass. Nuclear projected to increase by 130 TWhrs with current lackluster Government efforts. Increasing the major non-biomass renewables much beyond that would require extraordinary Capital, Resource, Fossil Fuel Energy & both skilled and unskilled labor investment. That is simply infeasible – you can’t ramp up production of mines and factories that fast.

EIA 2008 Electricity Projections to 2030

As for Romm and Lovins support of Energy Efficiency - by far-and-away the biggest opportunity for energy efficiency is the electrification of transport and the use of series HEV’s with extreme efficiency Methanol Fueled engines – a six-fold improvement in transportation energy efficiency is possible by this means ( at typical gas fueled vehicle gets 0.6 miles per kwh fuel energy vs an EV gets 4 miles per kwh utility energy). Transportation uses 29% of US total energy. Lovins has been a strong supporter of the Hydrogen Economy Scam or Oil Industry Bait-and-Switch effort to misdirect support from EV’s to Hydrogen Fool Cell vehicles. Lovins belatedly jumped on the PHEV bandwagon, but with lackluster and impractical ideas about improving transportation efficiency. Romm has been less gungho about Hydrogen but still was involved in the misdirection of valuable EV funding to H2, during the Clinton administration. During Romm years in the Clinton administration, the publicly funded USABC and Auto/Oil interests were allowed to suppress the NiMH battery – the biggest opportunity for increasing the production of BEV’s and HEV’s as well as an extreme advantage with Solar PV and Wind Energy. They also allowed the automakers to suppress 70-80 mpg, full sized, diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, which the Big Three produced with public funds during the late 1990’s. Romm again has impractical and ineffective ideas about improving transportation efficiency.

Also Romm & Lovins have no ideas about how to significantly improve the efficiency of shipping, which uses a large portion of fossil fuel energy. Here changing to large Nuclear Powered Ships is about the only method of reducing the high shipping energy inputs. And Romm and Lovins Mega-Wind Energy Special will severely deplete resources that will be needed in electrification of Transportation. In particular, the newer, better Wind Turbines that use Permanent Magnet Synchronous Generators in place of Gearboxes and self-excited Generators. The rare-earth permanent magnets are already getting in short supply for EV and HEV motors.

Another point that has recently become apparent, is that the anti-nuclear Greens have actually pushed us much closer to Global Nuclear War or Armageddon. The Russians, with their invasion of Georgia, are now on a renewed Cold War Expansionist mentality. Flush with funds from its fossil fuel exports to Europe, especially anti-nuclear Germany, it is expanding its military and butting heads with NATO over its support of the new Democracies of Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia etc, who want nothing to do with the Soviet style dictators. France is the one European country that could tell Russia to stuff their oil & gas up their butts, and find someone else to sell it to. Curious how supposedly Green Germany, has been exceedingly reluctant to support Electric Vehicles, rather than importing Russian Oil & Gas. The most effective way to deal with Russia and Iran is to not import their Oil and Gas. We can’t do that, because we haven’t switched our energy consumption over to Nuclear, combined with Electrification of Transport and Methanol based fuels using North American Natural Gas. The end result of anti-nuclear campaigns will be the return of the Cold War, a dangerous Nuclear Armed Iran, financed by our Oil and Gas imports.

Warren Heath said...

I should have added that Mega-Wind and Mega-Solar will likely cause severe shortages of the Power Semi-Conductors that are absolutely critical to major increases in Electric and Hybrid Vehicles production. Note unlike Nuclear Turbine Generators, which produce AC power, Wind and Solar produce DC power which must use Power Electronics to convert into AC power for transmission.

And long range transmission of Wind and Desert Solar Power will require Massive Power Electronics for the conversion of the Wind/Solar DC to AC to HVAC to HVDC back to HVAC.

donb said...

Charles Barton wrote:
and TVA owns caoa fired power plants rated at 15 Million MWs

This should read:
"and TVA owns coal fired power plants rated at 15 Million kWs (or 15 thousand MW, or 15 GW)".

15 Million MW is more than the total generation capacity of the USA.


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