Wednesday, April 07, 2010

An Economic Argument for Nuclear Power

As David Schlageter pointed out in EnergyPulse (2008)[3], “Renewable energy sources only supplement the electric grid with intermittent power that rarely matches the daily electrical demand.” He continues by saying that “In order for an electric system to remain stable, it needs large generators running 24/7 to create voltage stability. Wind and solar generation are not on-line when needed to meet energy demand, and therefore to help decrease system losses.” In the promised land of wind energy, Denmark, voltage stability is attained by drawing on the energy resources of Sweden and Germany (and perhaps Norway). The Danes pay for the imported electricity, but not for the stability – which they would do in the great world of economic theory.
Energy economist Ferdinand Banks argues in Energy Tribune that nuclear power is the best all around energy source for growing economies.
There are occasionally long discussions of the cost of nuclear relative to the cost of renewables in the technical literature. An item that frequently appears is the capacity factors of windmills and solar generators. In simple terms, the capacity factor gives the amount of energy (in e.g. kWh) that is actually obtained, as compared to that made available if maximum output (nameplate capacity x time) were realized. It appears that in the U.S. wind generation works at maximum efficiency about one-third of the time, but this is confusing. With capacity factors between 0.25 and 0.35, the energy actually obtained as a percentage of maximum energy is less than one-half for many long periods.

It might also be useful to cite some figures for the cost of nuclear relative to gas and coal. The Economist (July 9, 2005) presents estimates from several sources for average electricity costs. For German utilities the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) gives $0.015 per kilowatt-hour for nuclear, $0.031 to $0.038 for gas, and $0.038 to $0.044 for coal. Similarly, they give $0.017/kWh for nuclear in the US, $0.02 for coal, and $0.057 for gas. The International Energy Agency (IEA), employing a discount rate of 5%, argues that nuclear is $21 to 31/MWh, while gas ranges from $37 to 60/MWh.

... In these circumstances, it might be argued that France’s total acceptance of nuclear power makes a great deal of sense. As noted in the Financial Times (October 6, 2006), nuclear power has provided “an abundance of cheaply-produced electricity, made the country a leader in nuclear technology worldwide and reduced its vulnerability to the fluctuations of the turbulent oil and gas markets.” France can also supply some electricity to neighbouring countries, which helps counterbalance the short sighted and unthinking foolishness being promoted by the European Union’s directors and its Energy Directorate.

Perhaps the clearest argument for nuclear power has been presented by Rhodes and Beller (2000)[5], which is similar to the basic contention of this article. They say that “Because diversity and redundancy are important for safety and security, renewable energy sources ought to retain a place in the energy economy of the century to come.” The meaning here is clear, especially if you add that we probably will never possess what is known in intermediate economic theory as the optimal amount of nuclear power. But they do state that “nuclear power should be central….Nuclear power is environmentally safe, practical and affordable. It is not the problem – it is one of the solutions.” _EnergyTribune

France also makes sure to store "spent" nuclear fuel in such a way as to be accessible in the future, when new technologies make it easier to re-use spent nuclear fuels. Fortunately, several new breeder technologies and accelerator-based technologies are on the way -- including the Traveling Wave reactor backed by Bill Gates.

The US government, under the control of the Obama - Pelosi regime, is currently uninterested in allowing for plentiful energy and economic growth. It is anticipated that the economic disaster resulting from the Obama - Pelosi policies will lead to a more business-friendly and economically realistic US regime in the future. Of course, by then the debt burden the US will be under, will make life more difficult for most US residents who are not tied in to the ruling class.

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