The Political Sabotage of Nuclear Power

“According to Dawson, nuclear power is “the most scalable, reliable, efficient, land-conserving, material-sparing, zero-emission source of energy ever created.” Wind and solar aren’t as reliable because they depend on intermittent weather. They also require much more land than nuclear plants, which use about 1 percent of what solar farms need and 0.3 percent of what wind farms require to yield the same amount of energy.
The economics of nuclear power are undoubtedly challenging, but its advocates say that’s primarily because of its thorny politics. The headache of building a new power plant is vividly exemplified by Georgia’s Plant Vogtle. The first U.S. reactor built from scratch since 1974, the project turned into a nightmare scenario: It took almost 17 years from when the first permit was filed for construction to begin, it cost more than $28 billion, and it bankrupted the developer in the process.

Nuclear regulation is “based on politics and fear-mongering and a lack of understanding,” explains Indian Point’s vice president, Frank Spagnuolo. If they aren’t shut down, he says, power plants such as Indian Point could safely continue to provide clean energy for decades. ”

The great American natural gas reckoning is upon us

“Whether LNG is better for the climate than other options is a topic of intense debate. If it replaces coal, then in general, yes. Since it’s made mostly of methane, it burns more cleanly than coal, producing roughly half of the greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s still a fossil fuel that contributes to warming, and every new gas terminal, transport tanker, and power plant implies these emissions will continue for decades more.
By one estimate, US LNG shipments to China reduced the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions — the amount of greenhouse gases released per unit of energy — by as much as 57 percent. Other analyses have also found that countries that import LNG produce power with lower emissions than with local coal. Another advantage is that gas produces fewer air polluting substances like particulates, so turning away from coal has immediate health benefits. And having more cheap gas on the global market could undermine the case for new coal power plants in some countries, if they can secure a reliable gas supplier.

But some environmental activists say this paints too optimistic a picture. For gas importers like the United Kingdom, LNG has a greenhouse gas footprint four times larger than gas extracted locally. Methane is itself a heat-trapping gas, about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so small leaks from gas infrastructure — as little as 0.2 percent — can quickly overwhelm any environmental advantages. The added steps of chilling and shipping gas create even more opportunities for LNG to escape, and the industry has done a poor job of tracking its fugitive emissions. In addition, some LNG exports will simply fill in existing gas needs, as they do in parts of Europe, so the climate impact overall is at best a wash, though likely worse than more locally produced gas. At the same time, renewable energy is already the cheapest source of electricity in many parts of the world, and climate activists argue that gas no longer serves as a bridge to a low-carbon world.”

The US power grid quietly survived its most brutal summer yet

“Part of the reason that Texas sometimes struggles to make enough electricity is that it has a freewheeling power market with fewer interventions from regulators than those in other states. The priority is to sell electricity in real time at the lowest possible cost, with little backup margin, although that’s starting to change. Spurred by the 2021 blackout in Texas from Winter Storm Uri that cut off power to 4 million customers and killed at least 246 people, ERCOT implemented rules to encourage more reserve power on its grid.”

Is the future of energy … pouring water on hot rocks in the ground?

“If the economics can be made to work, geothermal would provide a renewable energy source that’s always on, and that employs plenty of ex-oil and gas workers, to boot. That has been its promise for decades. Maybe the 2020s will end up being the time that promise is finally fulfilled.”

Why ultra-green Germany turned its back on nuclear energy

“the White House has invested heavily in sustaining the country’s nuclear infrastructure, and President Joe Biden has also touted nuclear as an important component in the country’s quest for carbon neutrality. Many countries are following the same path based on similar climate calculations, and some experts support this position. “Nuclear is actually one of the cleanest and safest energy sources,” Kharecha says. For countries that want to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution, he says that nuclear energy should be embraced — at least until better options come along.
But environmental advocacy groups and left-leaning American voters have traditionally opposed nuclear power. And, despite the president’s efforts, recent Gallup data suggest this is still the case: Less than half of Democrats back nuclear, compared to 62 percent of Republicans.”

“The Chernobyl meltdown captivated and horrified many Americans. But while the US shuddered, Germans suffered directly from the disaster’s fallout. It wasn’t just a question of tainted milk. Radioactive particles drifted across much of the German landscape. Sandboxes were nicknamed “death boxes.” Contamination turned up in meat, vegetables, fruits, and foodstuffs produced all over the country, and frightened parents didn’t know what to feed their children. Some experts estimated that hundreds of thousands of people on the continent would eventually develop Chernobyl-related cancers. That didn’t come to pass, but recent government analyses of German wild mushrooms found that 95 percent of samples still contained radioactive contamination from Chernobyl, and the residue of that disaster has likewise soaked deep into the nation’s views on nuclear power.”

“There are some unimpeachable justifications for opposing nuclear energy. There’s the risk of a catastrophic accident, first and foremost, and also the problem of storing or disposing of nuclear waste.

“From our point of view, it’s not right to say nuclear is a sustainable technology,” says Kopf, the Greens politician. “You need uranium, which is not extracted in an environmentally friendly way, and there is no real solution for nuclear waste.”

However, when making energy trade-offs, these risks must be balanced against the harms associated with the use of non-nuclear energy sources — such as air pollution and CO2 emissions produced by fossil fuels. According to estimates from Our World in Data, nuclear is cleaner and safer than any power source apart from solar. The number of deaths caused by either accidents or air pollution as a result of nuclear power is estimated to be just 0.03 deaths per terawatt-hour of energy produced. That is far, far below the 18 deaths and 25 deaths per terawatt-hour associated with oil and coal sources, respectively.”

The first US nuclear reactor built from scratch in decades enters commercial operation in Georgia

“A fourth reactor is also nearing completion at the site, where two earlier reactors have been generating electricity for decades. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday said radioactive fuel could be loaded into Unit 4, a step expected to take place before the end of September. Unit 4 is scheduled to enter commercial operation by March.
The third and fourth reactors were originally supposed to cost $14 billion, but are now on track to cost their owners $31 billion. That doesn’t include $3.7 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid to the owners to walk away from the project. That brings total spending to almost $35 billion.

The third reactor was supposed to start generating power in 2016 when construction began in 2009.

Vogtle is important because government officials and some utilities are again looking to nuclear power to alleviate climate change by generating electricity without burning natural gas, coal and oil.”

4 winners and 1 loser in the EPA’s historic move to limit power plant pollution

“The proposed rules are a less elegant and splashy solution than the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, but the complex set of proposals also stands a better chance of withstanding court scrutiny. The EPA breaks down requirements based on the type of plant, its size, and how often it is in use. Utilities, working with states, would ultimately decide how to meet the EPA’s emissions rates by choosing among available technologies. Coal plants, for instance, could fire less carbon-intensive fuels such as hydrogen and gas, to supplement coal. Coal and gas plants can also install carbon capture and storage or sequestration, a technology that removes carbon dioxide at the smokestack to eventually store it underground. Or a plant could bypass all this if it sets a retirement date in the medium term.
As a result, existing coal plants would cut their carbon pollution 90 percent by the end of the decade, unless a plant sets a retirement date before 2040. Existing gas plants get more leeway — only the largest gas plants, less than a third in operation, will have to slash their pollution by 90 percent by 2035.

The EPA makes a dent in coal pollution especially, but it doesn’t eliminate power plant pollution entirely. It leaves a mixed bag of winners and losers.”

New Study: Nuclear Power Is Humanity’s Greenest Energy Option

“The European researchers behind the new study do an in-depth analysis of how much land and sea area it would take to implement the Net Zero by 2050 roadmap devised by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2021. The IEA outlines an energy transition trajectory to cut global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels to zero by 2050. The Net Zero goal is to keep the increase of global average temperature below the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the late 19th-century baseline. “This calls for nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport and consume energy,” notes the IEA.
The Scientific Reports study finds that implementing the IEA’s roadmap requires that much of the world’s agricultural and wild lands be sacrificed to produce energy. Biofuels, both liquid and solid, are especially egregious destroyers of the landscape. On the other hand, the energy source that spares the most land is nuclear power. In addition, electricity produced by fission reactors is not intermittent the way that vastly more land-hungry solar and wind power are.”

“wind and solar projects occupying massive amounts of land increasingly get NIMBY pushback from disgruntled neighbors. Energy analyst Robert Bryce, author of A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations (2020), has compiled a database showing that nearly 500 renewable energy projects have been rejected or restricted over the past decade.

The European researchers calculated that nuclear power plants sited on just 20,800 square km (8,000 square miles) of land could supply all of the carbon-free electricity demanded in 2050. That’s less land than is occupied by the state of Vermont.

Over at Tech Xplore, study co-author and energy conversion researcher at Norwegian University of Science and Technology Jonas Kristiansen Nøland points out that “the spatial extent of nuclear power is 99.7% less than onshore wind power—in other words, 350 times less use of land area.” He adds, “An energy transition based on nuclear power alone would save 99.75% of environmental encroachments in 2050. We could even remove most of the current environmental footprint we have already caused.””

Biden rule tells power plants to cut climate pollution by 90 percent — or shut down

“The Biden administration is announcing a climate rule that would require most fossil fuel power plants to slash their greenhouse gas pollution 90 percent between 2035 and 2040 — or shut down.”