Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Micro grids are not a reliable substitute for nuclear base load generation.

We are seeing France proceed on reducing its nuclear generation capacity. This move has baffled most of us who see nuclear power production as a critical component of a low carbon base load.

Nuclear base load plants come with their share of issues

1) High capital outlays,
2) Need for "Spinning Reserves" (to hedge against loss of generation and accidents), and
3) Spent fuel related costs.

France is the world leader in nuclear electricity technology, and with the election of E Macron, most rational people were hoping for France to surge ahead on climate change issues. As the center of gravity of the world was shifting back to Europe and Asia. The French were supposed to be leading agents of positive change.

I am struggling to understand why the French chose to reduce their nuclear generation capacity.

One of things I have come across is a myth that is gaining ground among anti-nuclear renewable advocates.  The core of this myth embodied in several public articles [1][2] is that local generation and storage ("Micro grids") will reduce dependence on base load.

I call this a myth because while the economics of distributed generation are somewhat explored, the economics of distributed storage are a complete unknown. The whole micro grid concept is untested at scale. We have no idea what it costs to keep one of those operating for long periods of time.

FWIW - I favor smart compact grids that exploit all opportunities for localized generation and storage. I strongly support building scale storage like flow batteries and so on.

Where I am choking on this is the idea that this is somehow a dependable alternative to base load. 

Whatever you may feel about a nuclear power it is a much more survivable asset than a windmill or a solar panel. It is protected against earthquakes, hurricanes and so on.

Yes I know about Fukushima - but it was a f*cking Tsunami - nothing w survive that. But by the same token Japan's power grid has survived numerous earthquakes and typhoons - that won't be the case if it runs on windmills and solar panels.

Local generation options and small grids are not as survivable as base load power plants.

I feel like people are missing this dimension in their thinking.

What you are actually going to do by shutting down nuclear power plants is jack up your carbon emissions while exposing yourself to much greater amounts of catastrophic risk.

12 Comments:

At 3:08 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

in the US natural gas is killing nuclear and coal powered generating plants.

its so bad the illinois legislature. a notorious bankrupt governing body, has decided to subsidize the owner of the quad cities and clinton, illinois nuke plants to keep them from being shut down.

natural gas and a couple of g.e. 747 jet engines and you are in business. and it doesn't take long either unlike nukes.

as a college student I worked summers as a laborer on building the quad cities plant. it was masssive.

 
At 4:58 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I don't think the mix of renewables + NG fired plants is going result in lower carbon emissions. the reliability of renewables is sporadic and over dependence will lead to a shift between baseload and peak load.

Natural gas prices are artificially low right now owing to a glut of oil from the Saudis. If the Saudis cut back or lose out to the RU in terms of dominance on the oil market, the prices could gas rise significantly.

I feel it is foolish to shut down the nuclear power plant at this time. The jobs created in the nuclear sector will last much longer than jobs created in the natural gas sector.

We need jobs that last much longer in this country and ONLY nuclear can provide that.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

in texas, wind turbines produce more power than the nuclear plants. yes, texas has a huge coal generating capacity but still. I think the wind turbines help.

 
At 7:47 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

let's re-word that to "n texas, wind turbines produce more power than the nuclear plants located in texas".

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

a few subtleties about the present day trump supporters political base:

1. senior citizens medical care(medicare) is not under attack at this present time.

2. medicare pays for the first 90 days of nursing home/disabled care. after that, the patient must pay or if poor, medicaid will pay. most seniors in nursing homes seem to be on medicaid. That is what is under attack. Plus medicaid for the poor is under attack.

3. poor people for one reason or another are not a powerful political group.

4. senior citizens however are very powerful politically because they vote more consistently than other groups.

so this presents a political conundrum when analyzing why voter issues may or may not take hold.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger maverick said...

As someone who grew up in a country with no medicaid or medicare type options, the cost of aging relatives automatically fell to the younger generation. Kids would end up on the hook for their aging parents' medical expenses. This was a major draw on the spending pattern of a household.

In the US, most people can barely make the minimum payments on their personal debt. If at this point one takes medicaid off, then we are just pushing the next gen (Gen X) deeper into debt or worse pushing Boomer to an early grave.

This logic may be too complicated for Trumpers. They tend to be simple minded people - easily duped into believing whatever BS a man of the right skin color spouts.

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...

As NG fired electric supply plants go, I frankly find it criminal to burn natural gas when it has so many other uses. The kinds of plastics, carbon fibers etc... that we can make from natural gas have so much more value than burning it to make electricity.

Even if we insist on burning it, we get so much more by burning it for heat than to make electricity.

A criminal waste to burn it.

 
At 2:06 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

the GOPer health care attack is in complete disarray. sometimes democracy really works for the betterment of the poor and not the elite.

the problem w/democracy is that certain issues can attain perverse cult status such the repeal of obamacare and medicaid. or the insane worship of diversity at evergreen college where people are threatened and free speech is not allowed.

I think the salem witch trials of 400 years ago are most instructive about the negative aspects of democracy.

 
At 4:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I am skeptical that this Trumpcare thing is dead. It seems the GOP can bring it back to life.

The media machinery that promoted the repeal Obamacare viewpoint is the same as the one driving up angst over diversity issues and free speech.

This RW media machine seems to have a good idea of what gets older white citizens riled up and how best to use that to deflect their attention from issues that compromise their survival.

One would almost believe that this media machine was trying kill older white citizens in sufficient numbers to reduce the rising burden of entitlement spending from retiring boomers.

Only a most cynical combination of fiscal conservatism and opportunistic RW politics could explain this behavior.

If the GOP were sure that with Russian help, gerrymandering and voter suppression it would always secure a certain fraction of the vote - then it could ruthlessly implement policies that would secure extreme ideas of fiscal conservatism and crony capitalism without fear of consequences.

That seems to be where this is headed.

IMHO - it is not over yet. People haven't realized that we are facing a mortal threat to the country.

Hannity + DonJr + others attempting to normalize criminal collusion is a sign of what is to come.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

takes on same cult status in regards to modi in some instances. dear professor on the barf forum declared he was proud since the first time his ancestors were kicked out of varnasi 400 years ago upon the election of modi. great sentiment from a desi making his living in the US.
Jai guru deva om

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Yes, cults are problematic regardless of where they occur.

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

now what will happen is that rich conservative GOPer supporters will target those GOPer senators in the next election who who did not vote to repeal obamacare.

and so it goes......

 

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