Tag Archive | renewables replacing nuclear power

The Case against North Anna 3

This letter to the editor was not printed by the Richmond Times Dispatch

Sadly, I will not be able to attend this year’s shareholders meeting for Dominion Resources on May 11th in Columbia SC. Were I there, I would be asking out-going CEO Tom Farrell some difficult questions about the proposed North Anna 3 reactor.

“The estimated cost of building the new reactor at North Anna is $19 billion. Dominion paid $192 million for the Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin. You ran this reactor for 5 years and were not able to make it be profitable. Dominion closed Kewaunee in 2013. How can Dominion expect to run the North Anna plant profitably, if it is 100 times more expensive than one it has already closed for economic reasons?”


“Dominion has already put over $1 billion into the rate base for this project it claims to have not yet decided on, making this one of the most expensive non-decisions in history. Now Dominion wants to spend in 2016 over half a billion dollars (the cost of a very large solar array) to wait another year to decide on North Anna, while the clean energy regulations are being litigated. Why not invest this money is solar PV which could be generating cheaper electricity, without toxic radwaste, at a lower price, even factoring in the cost of batteries?”

The global investment for renewables new capacity exceeded investment in fossil fuels (including fracking) and nuclear combined in 2015. Is Dominion just unable to find capable people to tap into this clear emerging market? Dominion has a fairly small fraction of its capacity in high profile renewables.

renewables better than reactors

Dominion is fundamentally failing to become a forward thinking utility and instead depends on its comfortable relationship with the state government to push off the costs of its mistakes (like North Anna 3) onto ratepayers and taxpayers. Wise investors would recognize that this is not a sustainable investment strategy.


Paxus Calta

Louisa, Virginia


When they tell you “Renewables aren’t ready”

i barely follow the renewable energy scene.  People often send me news articles they think are interesting.  i feel like this part of the revolution is actually progressing quite well, so it needs less of my attention.  Something which did catch my eye was a recent EcoWatch story called: 25 Top Companies Investing in Solar  This quote caught my eye:

Combined, these blue chip companies have deployed 569 MW of solar capacity at 1,100 locations—a 28 percent increase over a year ago and a 103 percent increase since 2012, when the first report was released.

569 MW installed capacity is less than 1/6 of a reactor (with 35% capacity factor for the PV).  But what is important here is that these are non-utility players and that the amount doubled in two years.  That would be 5 reactors worth in the next 10 years (the same as the current expected amount of nuclear power that will come on line in the US is all the utility based reactors under construction are completed on time – which is quite unlikely).

25 biggest corps chart of solar

But doubling is crazy fast.  At this rate by 2025 we will have replaced all the reactors currently running in the US with non-utility renewables power.  And by 2030 (in this very unlikely scenario) we will have a fully renewable grid nation wide.  Even if the nuclear industries most ambitious plans are realized, we will only have a twenty new reactors in this period, failing to keep up with the retirement of aging ones in the US fleet.

So the next time someone tells you that renewables can’t ramp up fast enough, you should observe nuclear power cant even replace it’s dead.

World Wind exceeds US Nuclear

The United States is by far the global leader in nuclear power plants with technically 100 operating reactors (though if you remove Crystal River, two San Onofre units and Kewaunee from this list you only have 99 reactors).  France is a distant second with 58 operating reactors.  So it was with some pleasure that i read that the global fleet of wind turbines had reached the 300 GW level, which is equivalent to 114 nuclear reactors*.

Future so bright, i've got to wear shades

Future so bright, i’ve got to wear shades

Also heartening is that in the first 5 months of this year the US built 29% of it’s new capacity in renewables.  This is even with historically very low natural gas prices.  Renewables installed capacity is more than twice the new coal capacity.

* Remember installed capacity is the maximum amount of power a generator can produce, to get the actual amount of power produced you need to multiply by the capacity factor.  For wind turbines this is about 35%, because they do not run all the time.  Nuclear reactors run about 90% the time.  A typical reactor is around 1 GW capacity.

Solar aint dead

i comment on lots of articles about renewables and efficiency and clean energy solutions and against reactors.  With some regularity i end up in debates with people who are pro-fossil fuel or pro-nuclear folks, who have recently been happily chirping that the biggest solar factor in China has gone bankrupt and solar is dead.


While i have more than my share of problems with industrial capitalism, after the industry shake up, it is choosing a rebound in total global installed solar photo voltaic panels from 31 GW in 2012 to an estimated 53 GW in 2015

In other renewable news, nuclear power continues its decline in the fraction of the total primary energy it produces in the US with 8.0 quadrillion BTUs in 2012, while renewable energy continued to increase its share and outstrip nuclear at 8.8 quadrillion BTUs.

Scotland (above) and Germany both get over 25% of their electricity from renewables

Scotland (above) & Germany get over 25% of their electricity from renewables

CitiBank and General Electric are already claiming on shore wind power (where not endlessly delayed by bureaucracy) is already the cheapest form of energy on earth.

I can hear solar whispering the words of Mark Twain after hearing of his obituary in the New York Journal.

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”

The last two nails in nuclear powers coffin

Two recent news items should be enough for serious investors to short sell nuclear power stocks.

The first piece is a cheery story from Germany.  Germany produced 22 gigawatts of solar power that were fed into the national grid on Saturday that met 50% of the nation’s midday electricity needs.  This is more electricity than 20 nuclear reactors at full production.  Germany only has 17 reactors total, 8 of which were closed after Fukushima, the rest of which will be shuttered by 2022.

Perhaps LA and Houston could follow Berlins lead?

Please remember that according to Whole Earth Catalog editor and heretic green guru  Steward Brand there are 4 reasons why renewables sources can not replace nuclear power:

  • Baseload: Wind and photovoltaics can’t keep the lights on because they can’t run 24/7.
  • Footprint: Photovoltaics need 150 times, and wind farms over 600 times, more land than nuclear power to produce the same electricity.
  • Portfolio: We need every tool for combating climate change, including nuclear power.
  • Government role: The climate imperative trumps economics, so governments everywhere must and will do what France did — ensure that nuclear power gets built, regardless of economics or dissent.

Germany is proving  these all wrong.  Clever Germans have optimized their power grid so it can handle up to 50% feed in from a completely intermittent source.  I’ve read several articles by critics of the German renewables strategy, none even mention footprint, this is a non-issue.  At these levels Germany can look seriously at wind and solar as dominant players in their energy portfolio.  And clearly the governments role by legislating the highest electricity prices in the world, including Feed In Tarrifs (FIT) to level the playing field for solar, is having the desired climate change effect.  Even with nuclear rapidly declining.

Also remember that despite the dismal colors on the above map:

It is worth talking about FIT a bit, because it is the strongest argument against solar.  German power users pay about $6 billion a year in solar subsidies.  The Japanese are looking at easily $250 billion for the cost of Fukushima.  That is all we really need to say  about Feed In Tarrifs.

The other piece of news is far less cheery, but possibly more important, despite being hidden away on the technology pages of most newspapers.

The Japan’s #3 cell phone maker, Softbank, has announced a mobile phone which detects and maps radiation.

This will map the demise of nuclear power

What the articles about these phones does not say, but is the clearly blaring future technological reality, is that this type of phone will spawn a social network.  In this new network there will be a tremendous independent shared data set about nuclear hot spots.  These phones, with casual and dedicated users will map millions of hot spots and long term uninhabitable locations.

Imagine yourself as an affluent retired Fukushima refugee.  Someone who can never go home, but still has money and anger.  What might you do?  You might start scowering the country side for hot spots.  You might even think “i will sacrifice my own long term health so my grandchildren know where this invisible poison is”  The more lethal locations show up, and there are already some mapped, the less likely it will be that the 50 closed reactors in Japan will ever re-open.

Imagine yourself the mom of a young child, you will network with your other mothers to find safe spaces for your kids to play and go to school.  And one day a bad storm blows in a bunch of radioactive debris and you have to leave your town which has been safe before.  Because it turns out fallout is just that fickle, only we did not watch it before.

Simply put, these devices combined with social networking will begin to map the real effect of Fukushima and when the world sees it, it will be very hard to build more reactors.

Japan just instituted their own renewable feed in tarrifs, they are twice as lucrative as Germany’s