Replacing coal with nuclear - thermal re-power project

OVERKILL

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Cliff notes:

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (the former who is heavily invested in the Natrium reactor through TerraPower) are working on re-powering a coal plant, using all of the existing generating bits, but changing the power source to a high temperature MSR nuclear unit.

The unit will provide a nominal output of 345MW, with the ability to ramp up to 500MW for peaking purposes.

While the exact plant is yet to be chosen we can expect the selection of a 500MW nominal coal-fired unit as the logical choice (given peak output) which, when utilized in this manner will allow load following. This is a 1:1 replacement, recycling existing generation components but changing the power source and is a game changer for the industry.

If successful, existing coal plants could be readily converted to run on small nuclear reactors, retaining jobs, and power output, while reducing direct emissions to zero.

China is also in the process of pursuing a similar endeavour, however, if this project sticks to its timeline, the US will likely beat China to the first successful demonstration.
 
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Despite a near worldwide reluctance to construct new nuclear plants, we are going to have to learn to love atomic power. There really is no other way to say it. We can get quite technical, but the bottom line is that the possibility of a future world powered only by renewables (solar, wind, hydro) will indeed be a dark future. The absurdity of it all is that there is no shortage of energy what so ever. There are precious few people that understand this and who understand how to manage energy properly.

A quick google search provides this gem of utter nonsense: "Nuclear energy has no place in a safe, clean, sustainable future. Nuclear energy is both expensive and dangerous, and just because nuclear pollution is invisible doesn't mean it's clean"

I'd counter with the fact that we can fully and abundantly power innumerable future generations with the atom. The promise is that great.
 
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OVERKILL

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I'd counter with the fact that we can fully and abundantly power innumerable future generations with the atom. The promise is that great.

Yup.

My go-to is that Bruce will see every person who has ever opposed it buried. It was the first plant in the world to generate 1 petawatt hour and may be the only plant that ever generates more than 2 petawatt hours. At approaching 40 years old, it generates more power than it ever did when it was young. Bruce will generate more in a couple of years than every turbine in Ontario's 5,000MW wind fleet will produce over their lifetime collectively. It will have seen every wind turbine under the GEA erected and removed. It will see every solar panel placed and landfilled and it will do so while quietly sitting on the shores of Lake Huron producing more than 30% of Ontario's electricity.

Plants like Bruce are a testament to man's capability to engineer something so well that everything else simply fails to compare. Like the SR-71 Blackbird, sometimes you just get things so right that "out of the park" doesn't even being to describe the success.

What is unfortunate is that we'll likely have to continue to play-out this expensive sideshow for the immediate future, an unnecessary waste of time and money until the majority finally comes around.
 
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A little off topic, but my weather app has “fake ads” and this one popped up, I thought you’d appreciate it.
29643199-4D28-4021-B20A-0C17DD18CED7.jpeg
 

blupupher

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I know both the nuclear plants in Texas had plans to expand their facilities (2 new reactors in both) back in the late 2000's.
The plans have been put on indefinite hold due primarily to cost, secondary was the Fukushima disaster in 2011 took the little wind left out of their sail.
Plans are still there, but nothing being done on them.
 

OVERKILL

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I know both the nuclear plants in Texas had plans to expand their facilities (2 new reactors in both) back in the late 2000's.
The plans have been put on indefinite hold due primarily to cost, secondary was the Fukushima disaster in 2011 took the little wind left out of their sail.
Plans are still there, but nothing being done on them.

Yes, STP was I THINK supposed to get AP1000's? Perhaps when Vogtle actually comes online there might be a revisit.
 

blupupher

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Yes, STP was I THINK supposed to get AP1000's? Perhaps when Vogtle actually comes online there might be a revisit.
No idea on any details, just what little research I have done on it from the interwebs.

I do know if they had invested in nuclear in 2010-2015 instead of wind, Texas would have 4 more reactors putting out an additional 40,000-45,000 GWh a year instead of inconsistent 30,000 GWh nameplate capacity from wind.
There are many times turbines are shut down because we don't need the power they generate, but when we need it, there is no wind available to meet the need.
 
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I do agree with the nuke being expensive part due to NIMBY and red tape, and you know, in developed nation everything has red tape. Plus the resistance to nuke from the oil industry, etc. The only way nuke was saved was due to the alliance with the weapon program's protection.

Safety wise, it is typically due to human error and we pretty much overbuild the safety to provide redundancy to human error to a certain extend, which means it is going to cost way more than a natural gas plant that needs to be build just enough. Same for waste disposal, someone somewhere somehow will cut corner and get bribed, then dump the waste into the middle of the ocean instead of a hole in a stable geo formation that needs to be closely guarded.

Same for any tech progress in nuke, leads to more progress in nuke, and then leads to a potential concern of proliferation when everyone and their neighbor knows how to design a nuke plant and build a warhead. I think this is the biggest resistance to nuke power: to avoid a cheap nuke arm race, let's keep it expensive and hard and bury all progress so we won't start the movement.
 

OVERKILL

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I do agree with the nuke being expensive part due to NIMBY and red tape, and you know, in developed nation everything has red tape. Plus the resistance to nuke from the oil industry, etc. The only way nuke was saved was due to the alliance with the weapon program's protection.

Safety wise, it is typically due to human error and we pretty much overbuild the safety to provide redundancy to human error to a certain extend, which means it is going to cost way more than a natural gas plant that needs to be build just enough. Same for waste disposal, someone somewhere somehow will cut corner and get bribed, then dump the waste into the middle of the ocean instead of a hole in a stable geo formation that needs to be closely guarded.

Same for any tech progress in nuke, leads to more progress in nuke, and then leads to a potential concern of proliferation when everyone and their neighbor knows how to design a nuke plant and build a warhead. I think this is the biggest resistance to nuke power: to avoid a cheap nuke arm race, let's keep it expensive and hard and bury all progress so we won't start the movement.

The thing is, the nuke weapons programs are typically completely separate from the nuke power programs; zero overlap. If you look at North Korea, they have no nuclear power, but they of course do have nuclear weapons.

All you need for an arms program is a gas centrifuge and a source of uranium (and of course somebody with a rough understanding of what they are doing).
 

blupupher

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That's wind power in a nutshell right there.
I also love the answer to this problem, batteries to store the "unused" energy for a later time.
Yes that is a great idea that would work, but the solution has multiple problems, namely cost and environmental impact of obtaining materials, creating the batteries, and disposal of batteries.
 

OVERKILL

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I also love the answer to this problem, batteries to store the "unused" energy for a later time.
Yes that is a great idea that would work, but the solution has multiple problems, namely cost and environmental impact of obtaining materials, creating the batteries, and disposal of batteries.

Pumped hydro really is the only storage resource that could be scaled to the level required and the cost of doing so is astronomical. Trying to store two weeks of wind output in order to try and eliminate standby gas would cost hundreds of billions of dollars just to firm 5,000MW nameplate. It's a non-starter.

There are already numerous locations that are approaching the level of diminishing returns. They are market-driven systems with enough VRE capacity that they drive the market price negative, so nobody makes any money, and then when that capacity buggers off, the price soars so the gas peakers can be profitable. The bigger these swings and higher the penetration of VRE resources, the less money they are able to make because the ultimate value of their contribution declines in-step with the installed capacity. This also eats into the periods where the gas plants are able to contribute, which drives up the value of their contributions. The "edge of the blade" here is when firm resources are pushed out of the market, destabilizing the system. When this happens, the operator has to do something to prevent more of these resources from retiring or risk blackouts. This means they have to allow them to make more money, usually by increasing the market ceiling price (if there is one) or paying them some premium to be on standby, which of course is a cost ultimately borne by the consumer.

The other issue with the above is that there is significant risk in resources not being sufficiently maintained because of the razor-thin profit margins. As a resource fights to have the lowest possible OPEX to stay viable they may defer or skip things they would otherwise do that would keep the plant more reliable/available. Then you end up with unplanned outages and when this spans multiple resources, you get blackouts and risk total grid collapse.

None of this produces cheap electricity for the consumer. You end up with massive transmission costs for all of these disparate resources and less stability. Building a Rube Goldberg around massive amounts of intermittency in an attempt to stabilize it has no chance of being cheap, even if the resources themselves provide the appearance of being so because they have low procurement costs. You are simply moving the cost from the asset to the system, increasing complication and ultimately making things more fragile.

Meredith Angwin has written an excellent book on this subject called "Shorting the Grid" which is worth the read if this subject interests you.
 
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Pumped hydro really is the only storage resource that could be scaled to the level required and the cost of doing so is astronomical. Trying to store two weeks of wind output in order to try and eliminate standby gas would cost hundreds of billions of dollars just to firm 5,000MW nameplate. It's a non-starter.

There are already numerous locations that are approaching the level of diminishing returns. They are market-driven systems with enough VRE capacity that they drive the market price negative, so nobody makes any money, and then when that capacity buggers off, the price soars so the gas peakers can be profitable. The bigger these swings and higher the penetration of VRE resources, the less money they are able to make because the ultimate value of their contribution declines in-step with the installed capacity. This also eats into the periods where the gas plants are able to contribute, which drives up the value of their contributions. The "edge of the blade" here is when firm resources are pushed out of the market, destabilizing the system. When this happens, the operator has to do something to prevent more of these resources from retiring or risk blackouts. This means they have to allow them to make more money, usually by increasing the market ceiling price (if there is one) or paying them some premium to be on standby, which of course is a cost ultimately borne by the consumer.

The other issue with the above is that there is significant risk in resources not being sufficiently maintained because of the razor-thin profit margins. As a resource fights to have the lowest possible OPEX to stay viable they may defer or skip things they would otherwise do that would keep the plant more reliable/available. Then you end up with unplanned outages and when this spans multiple resources, you get blackouts and risk total grid collapse.

None of this produces cheap electricity for the consumer. You end up with massive transmission costs for all of these disparate resources and less stability. Building a Rube Goldberg around massive amounts of intermittency in an attempt to stabilize it has no chance of being cheap, even if the resources themselves provide the appearance of being so because they have low procurement costs. You are simply moving the cost from the asset to the system, increasing complication and ultimately making things more fragile.

Meredith Angwin has written an excellent book on this subject called "Shorting the Grid" which is worth the read if this subject interests you.

This is the fundamental of all deregulations, not just the electric grid. All you guys who vote for market economy and capitalism over central planning needs to study this well and take notes on it because this is "what you wish for".

In order to not have waste we have to reduce the spending on the "worst case scenarios", this means those, whether it is the electric grid, human lives, roads, etc, sometimes need to be given up. Some situations will have blackout instead of electricity oversupply, some people will die in traffic accidents because we cannot mandates too much safety rules or road improvement, some people will be in traffic jams because it is not worth making billion dollar changes, etc.

As we have seen in Texas this is one extreme scenario, that's really the cost of going full market economy with no central planning on worst case scenario. The opposite could be bad too, Hong Kong for example almost never had power grid failure but the electric rate is almost always near the highest among developed nations standard. They just overbuild and then sell the surplus to China at a loss.

The bigger picture problem I see is not really solar + wind + battery vs nuke + gas, I am always wondering why nobody tries to tackle the demand side of the equation. Maybe not possible for residential scale back then without smart meter, but I think it is time to think about it other than just charging EV. If we can find a way to time shift AC or heat pump efficiently it would probably solve most of our problem.
 
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The bigger picture problem I see is not really solar + wind + battery vs nuke + gas, I am always wondering why nobody tries to tackle the demand side of the equation. Maybe not possible for residential scale back then without smart meter, but I think it is time to think about it other than just charging EV. If we can find a way to time shift AC or heat pump efficiently it would probably solve most of our problem.
I hinted at the unnecessary waste above. But the fact remains, some substantial energy waste will always exist.

just a quick set of notes: there is no shortage of energy AND heat pumps, while an efficient use of electricity, don’t really use less NG than simply burning NG in a furnace.

Nor does charging an EV result in lower energy consumption per mile when compared to modern hybrids. Regardless of today’s EV narrative
 
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This is the fundamental of all deregulations, not just the electric grid. All you guys who vote for market economy and capitalism over central planning needs to study

If we can find a way to time shift AC or heat pump efficiently it would probably solve most of our problem.

There are ways but inevitably the utility waters down the cost benefit in such a way that most folks figure time shifting wasn’t worth the effort

In this area due to our area being a net exporter of power with hydro as our baseline meant power between 10pm-4am was negative in value
The result was 1.X cent electricity at night if you accepted the fact that daytime was expensive but not terrible with brief bursts of $3+/kwhr electricity that you had to have electronic equipment to avoid.

Even though ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAS CHANGED in the time of use in this area the utility has watered it down so there are only a few hours of “slightly” less expensive (33% savings) with all other hours being on tiers from slightly more to astronomical along side these hours rotating around by season.
Because the hours you save do not match the oversupply times and because the possible savings is so small almost no one uses the program, even those on solar.

Historically you could simply work 2nd shift to get a real benefit from emergency response off peak plans using your heat, appliances and hot water at night, but now it rolls around so much there is no economical way to use the program even though the utilities need for time shifting is higher than ever before.
 
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I hinted at the unnecessary waste above. But the fact remains, some substantial energy waste will always exist.

just a quick set of notes: there is no shortage of energy AND heat pumps, while an efficient use of electricity, don’t really use less NG than simply burning NG in a furnace.

Nor does charging an EV result in lower energy consumption per mile when compared to modern hybrids. Regardless of today’s EV narrative
Heat pump do use less energy than burning NG as is, but it may be more expensive because of electricity cost being volatile and capacity limited. "no shortage of energy" is really a relative term as you have no shortage of natural gas and oil in Texas whereas you may need to liquify them in the middle of an offshore field and ship them to china. What does it mean when we have no shortage of energy when you do not consider the location.

At least in California I think we are generation capacity and grid limited, not energy source limited. Having too much at some time yet not at another is the biggest problem or we won't have duck curve. Comparing EV to modern hybrid really is comparing apple to orange, as both electricity and oil have volatile prices and have different benefits. $5 gas is real as is 60c/kwh here, as is $3 and 21c/kwh, how are you going to compare and say one is good for the next 10 years? In the ideal world Chevy Volt would be the right car for everyone, but of course it isn't cheap or sexy compare to a Tesla.

For simplicity I would think ice based commercial AC being a good way to shift some worst case grid around. It cost money to keep a box of ice with copper coil inside but IMO they should last a long time, eco friendly, and is future proof.
 
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OVERKILL

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This is the fundamental of all deregulations, not just the electric grid. All you guys who vote for market economy and capitalism over central planning needs to study this well and take notes on it because this is "what you wish for".

In order to not have waste we have to reduce the spending on the "worst case scenarios", this means those, whether it is the electric grid, human lives, roads, etc, sometimes need to be given up. Some situations will have blackout instead of electricity oversupply, some people will die in traffic accidents because we cannot mandates too much safety rules or road improvement, some people will be in traffic jams because it is not worth making billion dollar changes, etc.

As we have seen in Texas this is one extreme scenario, that's really the cost of going full market economy with no central planning on worst case scenario. The opposite could be bad too, Hong Kong for example almost never had power grid failure but the electric rate is almost always near the highest among developed nations standard. They just overbuild and then sell the surplus to China at a loss.

The bigger picture problem I see is not really solar + wind + battery vs nuke + gas, I am always wondering why nobody tries to tackle the demand side of the equation. Maybe not possible for residential scale back then without smart meter, but I think it is time to think about it other than just charging EV. If we can find a way to time shift AC or heat pump efficiently it would probably solve most of our problem.

Yes, but with a market + variable sources that are not dispatchable, it's even worse ;)

Quebec, which is fully vertically integrated and publicly owned, has the cheapest electricity in Canada at around $0.07/kWh. Ontario used to be VERY similar before deregulation, then the GEA Gong Show, and now we are paying $0.148/kWh for wind contracts and $0.48/kWh (average) for the solar FIT contracts while the nukes are $0.09/kWh (which includes a profit) and hydro-electric is $0.068/kWh.

The actual COST of running Darlington, our newest nuke, is less than $0.04/kWh. We pay Bruce $0.077/kWh, which includes their ongoing $12 billion refurbishment, profit, decommissioning, waste management...etc. The same money gets socked away for OPG's Pickering and Darlington stations, but OPG is trying to pay off their refurb much faster, which is why the overall blended rate is higher.

Without the GEA, Ontario could have had retail rates of about $0.08/kWh.

A vertically integrated publicly owned utility has proven to be the most cost-effective model. It's not trying to turn a profit, it doesn't have shareholders to keep happy, it's job is to provide the lowest cost reliable electricity it can to the ratepayer. There have been several that have pitched that Ontario should reverse course, buy back the half of Hydro ONE that was privatized and recreate Ontario Hydro. Logistically, with all the private wind, solar and gas contracts, that would be extremely difficult, but it would ultimately likely be in the best interest of the ratepayer.
 
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Yes, but with a market + variable sources that are not dispatchable, it's even worse ;)

Quebec, which is fully vertically integrated and publicly owned, has the cheapest electricity in Canada at around $0.07/kWh. Ontario used to be VERY similar before deregulation, then the GEA Gong Show, and now we are paying $0.148/kWh for wind contracts and $0.48/kWh (average) for the solar FIT contracts while the nukes are $0.09/kWh (which includes a profit) and hydro-electric is $0.068/kWh.

The actual COST of running Darlington, our newest nuke, is less than $0.04/kWh. We pay Bruce $0.077/kWh, which includes their ongoing $12 billion refurbishment, profit, decommissioning, waste management...etc. The same money gets socked away for OPG's Pickering and Darlington stations, but OPG is trying to pay off their refurb much faster, which is why the overall blended rate is higher.

Without the GEA, Ontario could have had retail rates of about $0.08/kWh.

A vertically integrated publicly owned utility has proven to be the most cost-effective model. It's not trying to turn a profit, it doesn't have shareholders to keep happy, it's job is to provide the lowest cost reliable electricity it can to the ratepayer. There have been several that have pitched that Ontario should reverse course, buy back the half of Hydro ONE that was privatized and recreate Ontario Hydro. Logistically, with all the private wind, solar and gas contracts, that would be extremely difficult, but it would ultimately likely be in the best interest of the ratepayer.
Yup, some traders win, you guys lost.
 
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Heat pump do use less energy than burning NG as is,
Only under tightly controlled conditions and ambient outside temperatures above a certain limit. That limit often being 32F or 40F. The conditions require a combined cycle power plant, without the use of NG peaker plants.

During colder temps, such as during a northern night, and when peaker plants are used, there is no advantage to heat pumps. Furthermore, once the resistance heat strips come on, 'fuel consumed vs heat produced' drops to abysmal levels.

So, if you live in Virginia, have a combined cycle power plant and no combination of inefficient electrical power generation, heat pumps do "rule".

It is interesting to note that a residential combined heat and power setup can achieve stunning efficiency. Such a setup includes a small and efficient generator, using the engine's heat and exhaust heat to directly heat the home, and the generator output to power the heat pump. The result is amazing and can be over unity.
 
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Only under tightly controlled conditions and ambient outside temperatures above a certain limit. That limit often being 32F or 40F. The conditions require a combined cycle power plant, without the use of NG peaker plants.

During colder temps, such as during a northern night, and when peaker plants are used, there is no advantage to heat pumps. Furthermore, once the resistance heat strips come on, 'fuel consumed vs heat produced' drops to abysmal levels.

So, if you live in Virginia, have a combined cycle power plant and no combination of inefficient electrical power generation, heat pumps do "rule".

It is interesting to note that a residential combined heat and power setup can achieve stunning efficiency. Such a setup includes a small and efficient generator, using the engine's heat and exhaust heat to directly heat the home, and the generator output to power the heat pump. The result is amazing and can be over unity.
Of course you have to factor the running condition in place, this is pretty obvious.

Running a natural gas heater on a Hawaiian Island would probably be stupid when they have to import natural gas on a boat, despite heat pump having to use the backup heat strip below 32F (which Hawaii will never be in). Your assumption of "only under tightly controlled condition" is also misleading as most homeowners are smart enough to install the right thing for their climate. I think you should turn it around and say heat pump is not more efficient "only under tightly controlled conditions".

Most heating run at moderate / non severe weather conditions, so even if you are running heat strips as backup in the worst case you will average out with more efficiency (not cheaper, they are different) on average.

Anyways, I do agree that trading a "storable" source of energy like NG to a not storable one like electricity is really iffy. Even when the efficiency is higher you are still trading some certainty for uncertainty, and it may not be worth it. I have seen people around here taking out their heat pump and replace it with gas furnace, because gas is 2x to 5x cheaper but not 2x to 5x worse in efficiency, so cost per joules / therm / kwh is still better in gas heating.
 
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