PowerGen pros and cons - an honest discussion

OVERKILL

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Here is a shot of Indian Point Nuclear facility. Unit #2 was shut down last year and Unit #3 is supposed to be shut down this April. Number one was shut down long ago.

View attachment 49641

Oh, I know. A lot of US pro nukes that I associate with on twitter have been trying to save Indian Point. It's sad, the plant isn't that old, all things considered.

Just glancing at the Wiki on the plant:

Unit 1 was commissioned in 1962, shutdown in 1974 (12 years old)
Unit 2 was commissioned in 1974, shutdown in 2020 (46 years old)
Unit 3 was commissioned in 1976, slated to be shutdown in 2021 (45 years old)

Pickering just celebrated 50 for the A units. Bruce A units 1 and 2 were commissioned in 1977 and the Bruce facility is slated to be run to 2064+.

Of note, Indian Point 1 was a 275MW design originally slated to run on Thorium, but that didn't go well and it spent most of its brief life on traditional uranium. I twas decom'd instead of having its safety systems updated. Units 2 and 3 were much higher output (1,032MW, 1,051MW).
 

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In the long term it looks like Quebec Hydro may get linked up to New York City but it could years.

That's being opposed, IIRC. But Quebec doesn't have 2,000MW of firm hydro to export, they import from Ontario in the winter during periods of peak demand at present, so even if it does displace gas in NY during the warmer summer months, come winter, they will be burning gas.
 
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I think the federal government should send out to every pet owner a generator wheel to be attached to a grid. The pet runs in the wheel one hour a day to contribute power to the local grid.

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Oh, I know. A lot of US pro nukes that I associate with on twitter have been trying to save Indian Point. It's sad, the plant isn't that old, all things considered.

Just glancing at the Wiki on the plant:

Unit 1 was commissioned in 1962, shutdown in 1974 (12 years old)
Unit 2 was commissioned in 1974, shutdown in 2020 (46 years old)
Unit 3 was commissioned in 1976, slated to be shutdown in 2021 (45 years old)

Pickering just celebrated 50 for the A units. Bruce A units 1 and 2 were commissioned in 1977 and the Bruce facility is slated to be run to 2064+.

Of note, Indian Point 1 was a 275MW design originally slated to run on Thorium, but that didn't go well and it spent most of its brief life on traditional uranium. I twas decom'd instead of having its safety systems updated. Units 2 and 3 were much higher output (1,032MW, 1,051MW).
OKill, one of the reasons we heard that San Onofre was being **** down was neutron embrittlement.

Wouldnt that be a "thing" everywhere with every pressure water reactor if that was the case?
 

OVERKILL

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OKill, one of the reasons we heard that San Onofre was being **** down was neutron embrittlement.

Wouldnt that be a "thing" everywhere with every pressure water reactor if that was the case?

Embrittlement is definitely a thing, it's the reason we have to re-tube (refurbish) our CANDU's, as the tubes grow (elongation) and suffer from neutron flux embrittlement. However, predicted life has been WAY off, so while it is something to monitor you can't simply go by projections, inspections and measurements are absolutely required to determine the extent to which this has occurred.

If you look at the US reactor fleet, we've seen license extensions to 80 years for plants that were originally expected to last 30 or 40 based on projections for pressure vessel life.

Also, pressure vessels can be annealed to deal with this and extend life:

Which isn't the case for CANDU pressure tubes, which can simply be replaced (and this was designed into them).

I expect this was just an excuse to shutter SONGS, just like they are using the once-through cooling argument as the basis to shutter Diablo Canyon despite the gas plants being allowed to do it with impunity.
 

OVERKILL

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San Onofre has been a clown show since 77 when they installed the reactor backwards.

I see a few parallels between SONGS and Indian Point. Both are/were three unit sites with the first unit being much older and lower capacity than the subsequent two. Looking at SONGS, 2 and 3 came online in '83 and '84, the fact that plant is shuttered is insane. Pickering A broke ground in 1966...

The ~2,200MW the units provided was significant, even if the operating record for the plant was spotty at times. Sounds like the SG replacement was the big issue for the facility, as it appears it might have been botched. That should have been a vendor issue and the plant should have been returned to service, but I understand loud anti-nuke voices won out in the end.

Interesting note: Darlington is NOT getting its SG's replaced during its refurb (while Bruce is). This is likely why Bruce is slated to run at least a decade longer (2064+ vs mid 2050's).They were inspected and deemed to be suitable for continued use based on the expected operating life of the plant. Darlington 2 came online in 1990, only 6 years after SONGS 3.
 
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I see a few parallels between SONGS and Indian Point. Both are/were three unit sites with the first unit being much older and lower capacity than the subsequent two. Looking at SONGS, 2 and 3 came online in '83 and '84, the fact that plant is shuttered is insane. Pickering A broke ground in 1966...

The ~2,200MW the units provided was significant, even if the operating record for the plant was spotty at times. Sounds like the SG replacement was the big issue for the facility, as it appears it might have been botched. That should have been a vendor issue and the plant should have been returned to service, but I understand loud anti-nuke voices won out in the end.

So cal had a very hard time making up the base load it got from san onofre.
 

OVERKILL

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So cal had a very hard time making up the base load it got from san onofre.
Yep, and it will be even harder with Diablo Canyon. There is a lot of shooting in the foot taking place here, as both of these shutdowns increase emissions intensity.
 
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Yep, and it will be even harder with Diablo Canyon. There is a lot of shooting in the foot taking place here, as both of these shutdowns increase emissions intensity.
I wonder if the EV guys take any of this into account. As we electrify our nation and the demand for power increases, Natural Gas seems to be the energy source of choice. Add in a thousand or so peaker plants to cover solar/wind inconsistencies and natural gas use is trending up.

I guess the holy grail is battery storage and maybe that will be viable in the future. Lots of promise here, not all that much storage capacity in the real world though.

As always, we can perform simple math, using battery cost, capacity and lifespan to come up with a 'real-world' cost per KWH 'out' of the battery. At the moment, it's not very cost effective.

 

OVERKILL

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I wonder if the EV guys take any of this into account. As we electrify our nation and the demand for power increases, Natural Gas seems to be the energy source of choice. Add in a thousand or so peaker plants to cover solar/wind inconsistencies and natural gas use is trending up.

I guess the holy grail is battery storage and maybe that will be viable in the future. Lots of promise here, not all that much storage capacity in the real world though.

As always, we can perform simple math, using battery cost, capacity and lifespan to come up with a 'real-world' cost per KWH 'out' of the battery. At the moment, it's not very cost effective.

Exactly!

And yes, there's a group of EV proponents (or perhaps a clutch) that are mindful as to the origins of their power, but I'd say that most are not. There's a virtue signalling aspect for sure.

On the battery storage front, one need look only at Hornsdale to see how that doesn't scale cost effectively. You are hundreds of billions of dollars to try and store even just a moderate amount of power and its output is dwarfed by even the smallest nuclear units which don't only produce for the whopping 90 minutes it's capable of discharging for.
 
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On the battery storage front, one need look only at Hornsdale to see how that doesn't scale cost effectively. You are hundreds of billions of dollars to try and store even just a moderate amount of power and its output is dwarfed by even the smallest nuclear units which don't only produce for the whopping 90 minutes it's capable of discharging for.
I have to wonder why we've not implemented micro nukes. It seems they might be a possible solution to the issue. I thought NuScale had a fast ramp up (load following) mini unit in development that was about ready to go.
 
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OVERKILL

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I have to wonder why we've not implemented micro nukes. It seems they might be a possible solution to the issue. I thought NuScale had a fast ramp up (load following) mini unit in development that was about ready to go.
There are quite a few of them in various stages of development. The first step, after the licensing, is the EA, and then after the EA the FOAK builds happen, which will suss out issues not found during the VDR and licensing process.

One of the very small design, the GFP/USNC MMR, sponsored by OPG here in Ontario, is in the EA phase, so they are very close to building the first unit.
 
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Overkill,

Your knowledge and deductions are very impressive. I worked in the Power business for 45 years starting with submarine nuclear power and ending with retirement from the NRC. I was licensed to operate several commercial nuc plants and with the NRC I trained our folks and others from around the world in the safe operation of various nuclear designs. Use to work with the Canadian folks some on training and testing of Operators. Not much I can add to the discussion at this point.

Every country has different scenarios based on their degree of development. America is not going to be able to add much Hydro and will actually probably lose some of that capacity. “Green” energy can get very political so I probably won’t say much about those. If you look at the entire cycle of most green energy it is not so green.

I will say there are some misconceptions about most of the well know accidents like TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima. We actually had some of our folks over at Fukushima for over a year.

Anyway great discussion of a very complex scientific and political problem.
 
Indian Point #3 in New York is supposedly getting shut down this month. This article says everyone will be laid off May 20.

F3819583-ACC4-447B-908B-24F4ED538C70.png
 
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MolaKule

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Some recent back-and-forth's seemed to hint at the idea that we might want to discuss power generation in a bit more depth given the push for electrification and confusion surrounding some of the terminology. I'll preface this with the fact that I'm personally very pro-nuclear and pro-hydro but they each have their own merits and detractors just like any other source.

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In terms of actual thermal plant operation, @Shannow has likely forgotten more about this topic than I know, but I don't think we need to get that deep.

First off, before getting into the sources themselves we should clarify some language that is regularly used and that quite often, the media uses incorrectly, swapping MW for MWh and similar.

Nameplate Capacity: Often abbreviated to just "capacity". This is the installed capacity for a specific source, typically in MW. It can apply to a single unit or as a whole, so a wind turbine can be 3MW or wind capacity can be 5,000MW speaking as to all units as a collective on a given grid, farm...etc.

Output: This is the amount of power a facility or generation unit produces, expressed typically in kWh, MWh, GWh, TWh. So, for example, a 1,000MW Nuclear reactor could theoretically produce: 1000x24x365=8,760,000MWh; 8,760GWh; 8.76TWh a year.

Capacity Factor: This is the amount of output, relative to Nameplate Capacity, that a facility or unit actually produces. So, that 1,000MW unit above, US nuclear units have an average CF of 93%, so in terms of Capacity that means 930MW, or in terms of Output 8.15TWh a year.

Each source we are going to discuss has wildly different capacity factors, which in turn means that their Installed Capacity (Nameplate) will not align with their relative contribution. This creates a lot of confusion particularly when we bring in things like Anticipated Capacity, which is essentially just a snapshot of CF for a specific period rather than the whole year.

Getting into the sources themselves now:

1. Nuclear
Pros:
- Very high Capacity Factor (highest of any source)
- Very predictable output
- Excellent baseload generator
- Small footprint
- Very cheap fuel
- Very low fuel consumption (refuelling period is typically every 18-24 months for a US PWR/BWR)
- Very high fuel security (fuel is stored on-site, so not vulnerable to supply disruption issues)
- Hardened and secured facilities are typically less vulnerable to weather related issues

Cons:
- Extremely high CAPEX (expensive to build)
- Relatively high OPEX (nukes have a considerable amount of staff)
- Poor load following capability (nukes can load follow, see: France, but economics are impacted, and fuel cycling becomes more frequent, lowest OPEX is baseload)
- Large unit size means that a single unit trip results in considerable capacity disappearing
- Long-term management of waste/used fuel, despite small footprint, will be required post-decommissioning

2. Hydro
Pros:
- High capacity factor (usually 60-80%)
- Very predictable output
- Excellent baseload generator
- Excellent load-following generator
- Excellent peaking generator
- Zero cost fuel
- Extremely low OPEX
- High fuel security (draughts that impact hydro output are reasonably rare)
- Hardened and secured facilities (dam operation centres are often inside the dam or in robust buildings nearby. The units themselves are contained.)

Cons:
- High CAPEX (expensive to build)
- Geography dependant (cannot be built everywhere)
- Extremely large footprint (reservoir setups)
- Large environmental impact for reservoir setups (run of river is better, but has no reserve capacity)
- Vulnerable to long-term supply shortage, IE, rare draughts that reduce water availability
- Cannot run at 100% constantly due to water flows/reservoir capacity
- Permanent landscape/nature/water disruption even after facility is EOL

3. Coal
Pros:
- High capacity factor (usually next after nuclear)
- Excellent baseload generator
- Decent load-following generator
- Low OPEX
- Low CAPEX
- Good fuel security (coal is stored onsite)
- Relatively self-contained facilities are typically very low in terms vulnerability to extreme weather-related issues

Cons:
- Poor peaking generator (slow ramp)
- Relatively high footprint if significant coal is kept onsite or plant is adjacent to mine
- Very high emissions footprint (highest of any source)
- Extended supply disruptions could impact generation (if coal is shipped or brought in by rail)

4. Gas
Pros:
- High capacity factor (particularly with steam thermal plants and baseload CCGT's)
- Excellent baseload generator
- Excellent load-following generator (GT/CCGT)
- Excellent peaking generator (GT/CCGT)
- Small footprint
- Low OPEX
- Low CAPEX
- Relatively self-contained facilities can be setup to be of low vulnerability to weather events

Cons:
- High emissions footprint (lower than coal, but that's not setting the bar very high)
- JIT delivery of fuel means extremely vulnerable to supply disruptions

5. Wind
Pros:
- Extremely low OPEX
- Extremely low CAPEX
- Small footprint (per unit)
- Low lifecycle emissions (similar to nuclear)

Cons:
- Tends to produce out of phase with demand
- Variability means it must be backed 1:1 relative to nameplate, typically with gas
- Susceptible to extreme weather (extreme heat w/no wind, extreme wind: turbines shut down, extreme cold w/no wind...etc)
- Medium-low capacity factor (~30-40% depending on location)
- Susceptible to seasonal variance not reflected in overall CF (summer CF can be quite low depending on geography, in the order of 12-15%)
- Short lifespan (~20 years)
- Diffuse (multiple generators must be installed over a large area to prevent shadowing and achieve significant installed capacity)
- Significant transmission requirements due to the above

6. Solar
Pros:
- Relatively low CAPEX
- Extremely low OPEX
- Reasonably low lifecycle emissions (about double that of hydro)
- Output tends to align with a large portion of daytime peaking requirements during the summer months
- Can be roof-mounted

Cons:
- Low density
- Large footprint (commercial, 10MW nameplate can take up almost 200 acres)
- Extremely low capacity factor (12-24% depending on latitude)
- Even lower winter capacity factor
- Short lifespan (~20-25 years)
- Susceptible to extreme weather (hail damage for example)
- Variability in output means it must be backed with either storage to cover the morning/evening ramps or 1:1 capacity in the form of gas


I'm sure there are some I've forgotten.

So, let's say we want to replace 5,000MW of baseload coal with wind.
- We would not install 5,000MW of wind, because on average, at say 33% CF, that 5,000MW of wind would produce 1,650MW.
- We'd install significantly more nameplate wind capacity than the coal capacity we want to replace to give us our average of ~5,000MW, on the order of about 15,000MW, which would provide similar annual output to the coal plant.
- We'd firm it with fast-ramp GT gas capacity of ~5,000MW nameplate that would fill for when it isn't windy. We'd also be able to export wind when output was higher than planned capacity, or curtail it if nobody needs it, at low cost.

The above is how you get into a situation where in terms of installed capacity, wind is one of the largest generators, but in terms of actual sources of electricity, may be quite a ways down the list. I'll use Ontario as an example, from this page:

You can see that wind, at 12% of installed capacity accounts for 8% of power generated (most wind is exported, not reflected in these diagrams) yet nuclear at only 34% of installed capacity produced 60%, and that's despite being down two units for refurbishment last year. Nuclear output in Ontario can approach 100TWh with all units online.

View attachment 46026 View attachment 46027

Gas capacity, which is primarily used for load following above the capability of hydro and peaking is the least utilized.

So in a very gas/wind heavy grid, gas being displaced by wind will result in a similar situation where the wind share of total output is lower than installed capacity might suggest but gas nameplate is higher than its output might suggest, because of that displacement.

Nukes are typically, as the Ontario data shows, on the other end of the spectrum, run typically in 100% baseload and satisfying a larger share of the annual demand than one might think.


Please discuss! (nicely!) and if you have questions on any of the above, I'll try and answer to the best of my ability. These are generalized so there are of course certain statements that exceptions may apply to. I've also not included more niche generators or ones that are going out of popularity like oil, geothermal...etc for the sake of keeping this brief, nor have I included massive pumped storage projects, as they mostly fall under the hydro category, but in a more limited capacity.
Thanks for introducing a factual and scientific discussion on energy production for the "Grid."
 

MolaKule

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Just means more gas. Anti-nukes that describe themselves as "environmental activists" are a special type of stupid.
I think this delves into an area of a philosophy called, "The Precautionary Principle."

The Precautionary Principle essentially states, “if something ‘might’ happen then let’s do this regardless as to whether or not there is any valid or unequivocal scientific data to support these claims." In effect, this is another "guilty before proven innocent" situation before the scientific Jury has deliberated.
 
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Just means more gas. Anti-nukes that describe themselves as "environmental activists" are a special type of stupid.

NIMBY runs strong in the US with regards to the transportation of nuclear waste. I'm surprised that the US never developed a system like the French when it came to reprocessing fuel.
 

wwillson

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NIMBY runs strong in the US with regards to the transportation of nuclear waste. I'm surprised that the US never developed a system like the French when it came to reprocessing fuel.
 
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