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Wednesday
Sep282016

Nuclear Power: Game Over -- new analysis

Professor Derek Abbott, a physicist and electrical engineer at the University of Adelaide, Australia, shows why the pipe dreams of the pro-nuclear propagandists are precisely that. Using a wealth of empirical data illustrating global trends, he also ably debunks the pro-nuclear arguments. Read the full article, written in accessible, lay language. 

Among the points Prof. Abbott makes: 

On China: "Nuclear apologists point to China as a role model that is actively building a number of NPPs. The fact is that China has built $160 billion in overcapacity of coal plants that are unused. Will their NPPs, which are presently under construction, become similarly redundant? . . . By contrast, in 2015, China invested five times more in renewables than nuclear power. Those nuclear projects will take many years to complete, whereas renewables are deployed and put to immediate use."

Getting uranium from seawater "is a fruitless suggestion as the uranium concentration is tiny, at 3.3 parts per billion. The energy it takes to lift a bucket of sea water 50 metres is equal to the energy you'd get from the uranium."

Nuclear vs. renewables: "Nuclear power is large and centralised, with enormous entry and exit costs. By contrast, renewables are made up of small modular units that yield a faster return on investment. The revolution we are witnessing is akin to the extinction of big powerful dinosaurs versus resilient swarms of small ants working in cooperation." 

Nuclear can't solve renewable intermittency: "Generators designed for constant baseload operation are exactly what uncontrollable renewable generators don't need. Uncontrollable renewables need flexible controlled sources of power such as hydroelectric power, pumped hydro, waste biofuels, solar thermal, and solar generated hydrogen or syngas to provide power when generation from intermittent renewable sources is insufficient to meet demand. Nuclear power plants work best when they provide constant power output and they lack the agility to follow the variability of renewable generators."

Nuclear is not needed to solve grid instability: "First, nuclear power is not needed because controllable renewable sources. . . already stabilise the grid. It is true that other renewable sources do give rise to grid management issues, but this is bread and butter for grid engineers. There are numerous research papers by grid engineers developing solutions for increased renewable penetration and none are suggesting the need for nuclear power."