Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear energy’

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Comparison of Arizona Nuclear and Solar Energy

December 9, 2015

Let’s compare and contrast solar energy and nuclear energy in Arizona. There is only one nuclear power plant in the state, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Tonopah. There are several solar energy sites, so we will pick the Aqua Caliente Solar Project because it won the Renewable Energy World Solar Project of the Year category in their 2012 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards.

Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station

This nuclear plant consists of three reactors with with a total nameplate capacity of 3,937 MW. If these reactors ran for 24 hours day for 365 days a year they would yield 34,500 GWh (gigawatt hours) per year. The actual output is about 31,300 GWh per year (2010). This means they have a capacity factor of about 90%. Averaged over time Palo Verde yields 3,543 MW.

Palo Verde became operational in 1988 and is currently approved to operate until 2047, giving a lifetime of nearly 60 years.

Palo Verde’s construction cost was $5.9 billion in 1988 ($11.86 billion in 2015 dollars). Its operating costs for fuel and maintenance were about 1.33 cents per kWh in 2004 (1.67 cents in 2015 dollars.)

Based on an average power yield of 3,543 W and a cost of $11.86 billion (in 2015 dollars), the construction cost per watt for Palo Verde was $3.34 per Watt (in 2015 dollars).

Agua Caliente Solar Project

This 9.7 square kilometer solar energy farm has a nameplate capacity of 290 MW peak.  Its first year of full operation was 2014. If it were able to produce its nameplate capacity of 290 MW continuously for one year the energy output would be 2540 GWh. The energy output was 741 GWh in 2014, which means a capacity factor of 29%, an excellent result for solar energy. Averaged over time, this solar farm yields 84.6 MW.

Construction cost for Aqua Caliente was $1.8 billion.

Based on an average yield of 84 MW and a construction cost of $1.8 billion, the construction cost per watt for Aqua Caliente was $21.43 per Watt.

Comparison

The cost per kilowatt hour of energy for either of these sources is combination of the construction cost and the operation, fuel and maintenance cost.  The longer the facilities are in operation the lower the fraction of construction cost per kilowatt hour.

The operation, fuel and maintenance cost for the Palo Verde Nuclear plant were about 1.33 cents per kWh in 2004 (1.67 cents in 2015 dollars.)  The great advantage of the Agua Caliente solar farm is that its fuel cost is zero, and we will assume for the sake of argument that its other operation and maintenance costs are also zero.

The following chart shows various costs per kilowatt hour for each of the facilities for various lifetimes.

spreadsheet

1.  $0.0133 per kilowatt hour in 2004.  Converted to 2015 dollars.
2. 2013 energy output.
3. $5.9 million construction cost in 1988 dollars.  Converted to 2015 dollars.
4. 2014 energy output
5. $1.8 billion construction cost in 2014.
6. (GWh/year) x (number of years) x (1,000,000)
7. (Construction cost) / (kilowatt hours produced over lifetime)
8. (Construction cost per kWh) + (operating cost per kWh)

Two blocks of data are highlighted in yellow.  These are the most likely lifetime scenarios for each of the power generating plants.  The Palo Verde nuclear plant has had its license extended to 60 years.  Aqua Caliente solar farm is made from First Solar CdTe modules that have a 10 year material and workmanship warranty and a  warranty of 80% of the nominal output power rating during twenty-five (25) years.  It is reasonable to hope that it will last 40 years

There is one more thing to be considered.  We have assumed so far that the yearly output of each of these power generating stations it the same year after year.  That is not entirely correct.  Historically, the Palo Verde nuclear plant has increased its capacity factor through time as operations have become more efficient.  Whether that trend will continue is unknown.

Solar modules tend to slowly degrade with time.  The First Solar CdTe modules that are used at Aqua Caliente will likely decay at about 0.5% per year. The chart above gives a best case estimate for Agua Caliente and does not compensate for this degradation.

Based on the highlighted sections of the above chart, Aqua Caliente Solar Farm will likely cost about 2.5 times more per kilowatt hour than the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant over the course of their lifetimes.

One more point.  Aqua Caliente requires 9.7 square kilometers to generate an average of 84.6 MW.  Palo Verde Nuclear Plant generates and average of 3,543 MW.  So it would take 41 Agua Calientes to equal the power of Palo Verde.  That would require about 400 square kilometers.

Energy is the lifeblood of civilization.  The pursuit of energy abundance is the pursuit of healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle for greater numbers of people.  I present this data to help inform the choices that need to be made in that pursuit.

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November 17, 2013

Nuclear Roundup 11/17/13

If you are worried about CO2 (I’m not), then you should be pro-nuke (I am).

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Japan

Japan slashes climate reduction target amid nuclear shutdown

Japan had previously pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions to 25% below its 1990 levels in a (misguided) bid to battle global warming.  Now it is likely that there will be no reduction below the 1990 level because they have pulled back from nuclear power and have re-embraced fossil fuels 

According to  BBC Asia, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said “Our government has been saying… that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn’t feasible.”  Japan’s chief negotiator at UN climate change talks in Warsaw, Hiroshi Minami, said “The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level.”

BBC Asia points out…

Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been forced to import huge amounts of coal, liquid natural gas and other fuels.

Reuters reports

“Given that none of the nuclear reactors is operating, this was unavoidable,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.

Japan’s 50 nuclear plants were closed on safety concerns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima reactors northeast of Tokyo. Nuclear accounted for 26 percent of Japan’s electricity generation and its loss has forced the country to import natural gas and coal, causing its greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket.

Natural-gas consumption by Japan’s 10 utilities was up 8.4 percent in October from a year earlier and coal use was up 4.4 percent as the companies used more fossil fuels to compensate for the nuclear shutdown, industry data showed on Friday.

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United States

As nuclear is shut down in California, CO2 emissions rise.

From Bloomberg

Greenhouse-gas emissions from power generators, oil refineries and other plants in California climbed in 2012 as a nuclear plant shutdown and low hydropower supplies increased the state’s reliance on natural gas.

Power-plant releases rose 35 percent to 41.6 million metric tons last year, according to data posted today on the state Air Resources Board’s website. Total emissions were 437.8 million metric tons, up from 429.3 million in 2011. Edison International (EIX) shut the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California in January 2012, and the state that year faced one of the lowest snowpack levels on record.

“The rise in total emissions is primarily due to emission increases from California electricity generation using natural gas as a fuel,” the board said. “The majority of this additional natural-gas electricity generation is due to a decrease in available hydroelectric generation for 2012 and a reduction in nuclear generated power.”

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Movie – Pandora’s Promise

This is a documentary featuring prominent environmentalists that are pro-nuclear.  It is soon to be released by Netflix

Netflix description…  

Former antinuclear activists and groundbreaking scientists speak out in favor of the much-maligned energy source in this provocative documentary that explores the history and future of nuclear power.

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Nuclear roundup

October 21, 2013

Japan

Abe looks to retain nuclear power in nation’s basic energy policy

Before the LDP [Liberal Democratic Party] returned to power last December and its leader, Shinzo Abe, became prime minister, many members of the committee under the predecessor government, led by the DPJ, had called for the country’s dependence on nuclear power to be phased out.

After Abe and the LDP took over, subcommittee members were reshuffled and there have been no demands from new members for an immediate end to nuclear power.

The existing basic energy policy sees nuclear power as a key source of electricity and has a goal of increasing the proportion of energies that do not emit carbon dioxide, including atomic and hydraulic power, to some 70 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

Read more at Japan Times.

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Hungary and South Korea

Hungary, South Korea sign nuclear energy cooperation agreement.

[Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martony] and his South Korean colleague signed a new bilateral agreement on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Read more at Politics.hu (Hungary’s non-partisan international political daily)

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Great Britain

Building to commence on Britain’s first nuclear power station in 20 years

The new reactors, which will cost £14bn, are due to start operating in 2023 if constructed on time and will run for 35 years. They will be capable of producing 7% of the UK’s electricity – equivalent to the amount used by 5m homes.

Read more at The Guardian

David Cameron