# Nuclear energy vs. renewable energy

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"A small mistake during the reassembly caused 50 gallons of thin, flammable, corrosive oil to go spraying everywhere. Another time, the control room people goofed and shut a massive valve to the cooling tower before turning off the pump. The resulting pressure caused the pipe to burst, and we had ourselves a man-made geyser. Of course, this was in the winter, so the whole thing then froze solid. Yes, I realize I'm painting a very Homer-Simpson-ish portrait of the operation. But to be extra clear: None of that put the public in danger. These are expensive problems, but not dangerous ones." - Alex Dolphin

I'm not making any claim either way on whether or not to believe the author; Cracked's articles are vetted, but their quality control isn't quite foolproof.

However, if nuclear energy, and the inevitable screwups therein, are so expensive, this leaves a question; how much money could've been saved, in the long run, if we had just switched to the presently* available set of renewables?

I'm thinking especially of solar, as theoretically a bunch of reflective surfaces arranged in a concave shape, however much initial investment may cost, (couldn't a bunch of used aluminum foil be donated and washed/flattened or something, though?) should theoretically be low in maintenance costs and eventually pay for itself, if not in direct energy, then in the added benefit of taking solar radiation that would've otherwise hit the surface and putting it to human use, cooling the desert and offsetting the CO2-induced warming of the surface. What exactly is holding solar back at this point? Surely a return on investment, even financially, should be not a matter of if but of when.

However, I'm of course also thinking of hydroelectric, wind, or tidal. I know with moving parts these will probably require more maintenance than solar. The only question is how much. Are they comparably expensive, in maintenance dollars per kilowatt-hour, to nuclear energy?

*As opposed to the hypothetical "alternative" renewables I came up with in prior threads, though if you are interested feel free to search them. (Hurricane, forest fire, and volcano, to be precise.)

Edited by ScienceNostalgia101
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If they can reasonably accurately recognize and quantify the benefits and harm to the public, why should it not be within their mandate to put in place reasonable taxes and/or incentives, and allow th

Toyota recently announced plans to release cars soon using a solid state battery to replace lithium ion. These types of advances surely help.  https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Technology/Toyota-s

Here is the way I envision it working. The nuclear power plant is sized to provide a median output, between the low draw periods ( like at night ), and the peak draw periods ( during the day ). T

24 minutes ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

However, if nuclear energy, and the inevitable screwups therein, are so expensive, this leaves a question; how much money could've been saved, in the long run, if we had just switched to the presently* available set of renewables?

I'm thinking especially of solar, as theoretically a bunch of reflective surfaces arranged in a concave shape, however much initial investment may cost, (couldn't a bunch of used aluminum foil be donated and washed/flattened or something, though?) should theoretically be low in maintenance costs and eventually pay for itself, if not in direct energy, then in the added benefit of taking solar radiation that would've otherwise hit the surface and putting it to human use, cooling the desert and offsetting the CO2-induced warming of the surface. What exactly is holding solar back at this point? Surely a return on investment, even financially, should be not a matter of if but of when.

Time travel isn’t possible. You couldn’t opt out of 40 year-old nuclear technology for presently available solar. You would have to have used 40 year-old solar. Less efficient and more expensive than today’s. Solar recently achieved grid parity, but until the push to develop it in the last decade or so, there wasn’t much in the way of economy of scale driving the price down

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43 minutes ago, swansont said:

Time travel isn’t possible. You couldn’t opt out of 40 year-old nuclear technology for presently available solar. You would have to have used 40 year-old solar. Less efficient and more expensive than today’s. Solar recently achieved grid parity, but until the push to develop it in the last decade or so, there wasn’t much in the way of economy of scale driving the price down

I'm not referring to how much we "would have" saved if we started on solar sooner; I'm talking about how much we "could" save if we invest in setting up the concave arrangements of mirrors, starting today, instead of investing in more nuclear energy that'd continue to be expensive in maintenance cost.

Am I correct in assuming that thermal!solar is less expensive, as far as maintenance goes, than nuclear energy?

Edited by ScienceNostalgia101
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1 minute ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

I'm not referring to how much we "would have" saved if we started on solar sooner; I'm talking about how much we "could" save if we invest in setting up up the concave arrangements of mirrors, starting today, instead of investing in more nuclear energy that'd continue to be expensive in maintenance cost.

OK, but that’s different.

You said “how much money could've been saved, in the long run, if we had just switched” is a backward-looking statement.

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My apologies, I forgot I had worded it that way.

. . .

I really need to make a point of re-reading stuff I typed before going to the pharmacy and back. In the meantime, is there any way to edit the post to reflect the present tense? I must've forgotten mid-typing whether I intended to go for the hypothetical past or the money that could be saved in the future. (Earlier on I was considering asking both, but they are distinct questions, if somewhat related, and I consider where to go from here the more important one.)

Edited by ScienceNostalgia101
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How much is currently being invested in Nuclear ?
As far as I know, while Nuclear power output has increased over the years through efficiency gains, new power plants were only constructed again starting in 2013.
A 34 year break since the 1079 Three Mile Island incident.

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11 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

My apologies, I forgot I had worded it that way.

. . .

I really need to make a point of re-reading stuff I typed before going to the pharmacy and back. In the meantime, is there any way to edit the post to reflect the present tense? I must've forgotten mid-typing whether I intended to go for the hypothetical past or the money that could be saved in the future. (Earlier on I was considering asking both, but they are distinct questions, if somewhat related, and I consider where to go from here the more important one.)

This is fine. You've clarified it.

12 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

What exactly is holding solar back at this point? Surely a return on investment, even financially, should be not a matter of if but of when.

Companies have a limited amount of money on hand, and there is finite capacity to make solar cells. In the US, solar is being rolled out but it's mostly displacing coal plants that are being shuttered, as well as adding new capacity. So it is a matter of when. The US has been adding > 10 GWp of solar PV per year for the last several years. The general trend has been an increase (in 2010-2011 it was about 1 GWp) but solar  still only represents <2% of electricity generation.

To go faster requires money and solar cell production capacity. Capacity won't expand unless there's a demand. Companies won't shutter production unless they can replace the capacity, and not lose money.

Other countries have done better with solar installation, because there is political will to do so.

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53 minutes ago, swansont said:

Other countries have done better with solar installation, because there is political will to do so.

I hope so you will join us after 20 January..

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J Biden has promised to rejoin the international community in the fight against increased GHG emissions.
Whether that's done with renewable energy sources, or some other technologies ( one such being increased nuclear ) is to be decided.

I personally don't like Governments 'picking' winners and losers in technology and industry, by financial incentives like rebates/grants or fines/taxes.
That is not a Government's mandate.
The Government should simply set rules/targets and it is up to technology/industry to meet them.
I would not care if industry continued using fossil fuels, as long as they could meet reduced emission standards through scrubbing/containment ( or other ) technologies. If the cost of these containment technologies becomes increasingly high, and has to be passed on to consumers, THEY are the ones who will choose which industry thrives, and which goes extinct.

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2 hours ago, Sensei said:

I hope so you will join us after 20 January..

Our problem on this issue in the US isn’t so much with the president. It’s with the Congress.

9 minutes ago, MigL said:

personally don't like Governments 'picking' winners and losers in technology and industry, by financial incentives like rebates/grants or fines/taxes.
That is not a Government's mandate.

But it is what happens in the US which has subsidized fossil fuels for decades, and still does so today.

I appreciate your central point regarding limited government intervention in the markets, but believe this particular issue of climate cancer / voluntary increases in drought, flooding, famine / avoidable extinction events, etc. is much better framed under the umbrella of public health, a remit very much within the appropriate control of legislation and enforcement.

Edited by iNow
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I understand your point, and agree that

8 minutes ago, iNow said:

But it is what happens in the US which has subsidized fossil fuels for decades, and still does so today.

is totally wrong. As is bailing out Big Banks and GM ( but not people ), because they are 'too big to fail'.

But if there was a technology that would result in zero GHG emissions ( if that is the target set ), I would not have a problem using fossil fuels.
Why should the Government have any further say in that ?

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6 minutes ago, MigL said:

Why should the Government have any further say in that ?

In my mind. I’ve already addressed this with comments on public health. How much say the government has is where the conversation can be interesting, but suggesting it’s a binary yes/no all-or-nothing doesn’t allow progress.

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29 minutes ago, MigL said:

J Biden has promised to rejoin the international community in the fight against increased GHG emissions.
Whether that's done with renewable energy sources, or some other technologies ( one such being increased nuclear ) is to be decided.

I personally don't like Governments 'picking' winners and losers in technology and industry, by financial incentives like rebates/grants or fines/taxes.
That is not a Government's mandate.
The Government should simply set rules/targets and it is up to technology/industry to meet them.
I would not care if industry continued using fossil fuels, as long as they could meet reduced emission standards through scrubbing/containment ( or other ) technologies. If the cost of these containment technologies becomes increasingly high, and has to be passed on to consumers, THEY are the ones who will choose which industry thrives, and which goes extinct.

A big problem here is when there is a gap between what industry can do, and what the government or country needs them to do.

It costs money to develop products. There is risk involved. The government can mitigate this risk by subsidizing (sometimes at 100%) the companies doing the research and development. Companies aren't going to do that work on their own when the risk of failure is large. There's only so much unsuccessful R&D you can do before you go out of business.

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4 minutes ago, MigL said:

But if there was a technology that would result in zero GHG emissions ( if that is the target set ), I would not have a problem using fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are now, tomorrow will be gone. It's a thing that will run out sooner or later.

Transfer from fossil fuels usage to renewable fuels must be done before they run out.

The deeper you have to dig to get them, the more expensive energy will be for end users and the less competitive the country's business will be.

7 minutes ago, MigL said:

Why should the Government have any further say in that ?

In democratic country politicians think only about the next elections and how to not get ejected from politics..

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Summarized: The government needs to subsidize green energy for the same reason it subsidized covid vaccine developments. Not a perfect analogy, the the overlap is significant (even though on a different time scale).

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1 minute ago, swansont said:

It costs money to develop products. There is risk involved. The government can mitigate this risk by subsidizing (sometimes at 100%) the companies doing the research and development.

..then they can simply tell any price for it they want.. and government (=citizens) will pay for it..

2 minutes ago, swansont said:

Companies aren't going to do that work on their own when the risk of failure is large. There's only so much unsuccessful R&D you can do before you go out of business.

..therefore majority of R&D should be done by Universities with help of students.. and not "for money" but "for good of humankind"..

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3 minutes ago, Sensei said:

The deeper you have to dig to get them, the more expensive energy will be for end users and the less competitive the country's business will be.

Exactly.
When the cost of the technologies to clean fossil fuel emissions becomes too high, consumers will no longer be willing to use them.
And they decide when to switch, and to which new technology.
no need for the Government to be involved in picking winners and losers

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So, government has subsidized fossil fuels for decades. They continue subsiding them today, but you’re suggesting that in order for green energy to take hold moving forward and help humanity ward off the rapidly growing problem of global climate disaster that NOW is the time to stand firm on the principle free markets and small government? Sounds rather like our chats on reparations and overcoming centuries of systemic white privilege, but that’s off-topic.

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8 minutes ago, iNow said:

The government needs to subsidize green energy for the same reason it subsidized covid vaccine developments. Not a perfect analogy, the the overlap is significant (even though on a different time scale).

Governments haven't favored vaccine developers, They have actually hurt them ( in a capitalistic way ).
Can you imagine if only one company had developed a vaccine on their own?
Can you imagine the price and bidding wars by Governments trying to secure vaccines for their people?
They would become the biggest, most profitable company in the world, overnight.

4 minutes ago, iNow said:

Sounds rather like our chats on reparations and overcoming centuries of systemic white privilege, but that’s off-topic.

Exactly.
And also like the example of 'extra' votes for under-representation in the past, which you are against.
Did you misunderstand the point I was making with that post about unequitable voting rights to combat PAST inequitable voting rights ?

Saying that something was wrong in the past, and using the same mechanism to 'fix' that past wrong, is still wrong in my opinion.

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22 minutes ago, Sensei said:

..then they can simply tell any price for it they want.. and government (=citizens) will pay for it..

But there's no guarantee you will be able to develop the product. What if you spend $10 million and your new widget doesn't work? Nobody will pay for it. Quote ..therefore majority of R&D should be done by Universities with help of students.. and not "for money" but "for good of humankind".. Who do you think pays for university research? And what class of research do they do? In the US: "The Department of Defense divides development further, giving each category a code: 6.1 is Basic Research, 6.2 is Applied Research, 6.3 is Advanced Technology Development, 6.4 is Advanced Component Development and Prototypes, 6.5 is System Development and Demonstration, 6.6 is RDT&E Management and Support, and 6.7 is Operational Systems Development" Universities do mostly 6.1 and 6.2 research. They don't really have the capability of doing much of anything further along the chain. Pharmaceutical companies leverage university research, but doing the development and the drug trials is expensive and well beyond what a university could do. And to use a recent example, a lot of COVID vaccine research relied on government support, incentives and/or guarantees. I don't really have a problem with the government picking winners in fighting against COVID. ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites 32 minutes ago, MigL said: Governments haven't favored vaccine developers, I commented on the massive investment made to speed development and address the need on a timeline the free market could not. My comment was accurate. Quote The federal government has allocated more than$9 billion to develop and manufacture candidate vaccines. More than \$2.5 billion more has been earmarked for vials to store the vaccines, syringes to deliver them, and on efforts to ramp up manufacturing and capacity.

And they're not done yet.

So far, the largest sums have gone to pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and a collaboration between Sanofi and GSK, as well as biotech firms Moderna and Novavax – all of which have candidate vaccines being tested in people.

One can be opposed to this for ideological reasons, but we know it works, we know it helps, and we know it could also benefit humanity overall in context of climate cancer solution development and deployment.

32 minutes ago, MigL said:

Can you imagine the price and bidding wars by Governments trying to secure vaccines for their people?

I don’t have to imagine it. It’s already happening right now as I post this, and this process is just a larger example of the free market principles you appear to advocate. The government is the customer, so according to you the richest countries really should get all of the vaccines at the expense of making them unavailable to residents of less wealthy nations.

I don’t mean to drag us off-topic on to vaccine distribution. It was meant only as a comparison to suggest our principles about markets seem malleable and context dependent. We should sometimes consider adjusting them based on the scale of the problem. Climate change dwarfs all other problems in terms of scale.

Edited by iNow
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I'm not suggesting the free market should be the sole arbiter, but it is one of them.
And you've answered every other question except the most pertinent one to this topic.

If a company came up with a zero emission scheme for burning fossil fuels, would you still object to it out of purely ideological reasons, and do you think Governments should try to make it less attractive to consumers by fining its users, or rewarding users of other energy sources ?
Or do you think that is a 'decision' for the markets to make ?

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3 hours ago, MigL said:

If a company came up with a zero emission scheme for burning fossil fuels, would you

It’s hard answering hypothetical questions. It sort of depends on how they achieved those zero emissions. Where are the carbon and related pollutants going? Into the ground near food crops? Into the water system in Flint, Michigan? Into the tuna surprise served in the caterer is at a local elementary school?

The details of this “zero emission scheme” clearly matter, but no. I wouldn’t reject it outright nor for ideological reasons (at least not consciously or with awareness that’s what I was doing).

3 hours ago, MigL said:

do you think Governments should try to make it less attractive to consumers by fining its users, or rewarding users of other energy sources ?

Since in our current reality today we’re nowhere even remotely in the vicinity of zero emissions, yes. I do think the onus is on the government to make fossil fuels less attractive and to reward folks who use clean energy sources. It’s the only way to address this problem at the scale required. Absent that, most solutions reliant on individual choice are akin to pissing in the ocean.

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5 hours ago, MigL said:

If a company came up with a zero emission scheme for burning fossil fuels, would you still object to it out of purely ideological reasons, and do you think Governments should try to make it less attractive to consumers by fining its users, or rewarding users of other energy sources ?
Or do you think that is a 'decision' for the markets to make ?

Fossil fuels have very little radioactive Carbon C-14. It should not be wasted..

Tree in forest does not bother about where is coming from CO2 which let it grow.

Human in contrary should bother whether the food they eat comes from an "open space" with availability of Carbon C-14 from air, or from "fossil fuels" without C-14.

Lack of C-14 in food (directly in plants, indirectly in livestock) means less mutations, and less cancers.

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11 hours ago, MigL said:

J Biden has promised to rejoin the international community in the fight against increased GHG emissions.
Whether that's done with renewable energy sources, or some other technologies ( one such being increased nuclear ) is to be decided.

I personally don't like Governments 'picking' winners and losers in technology and industry, by financial incentives like rebates/grants or fines/taxes.
That is not a Government's mandate.
The Government should simply set rules/targets and it is up to technology/industry to meet them.
I would not care if industry continued using fossil fuels, as long as they could meet reduced emission standards through scrubbing/containment ( or other ) technologies. If the cost of these containment technologies becomes increasingly high, and has to be passed on to consumers, THEY are the ones who will choose which industry thrives, and which goes extinct.

If they can reasonably accurately recognize and quantify the benefits and harm to the public, why should it not be within their mandate to put in place reasonable taxes and/or incentives, and allow the industries to compete on that basis, and essentially pick winners and losers on that economic market basis? Why should clean energy have to compete evenly against a dirty one barely meeting some arbitrary target, if the difference can be fairly and efficiently quantified?

Edited by J.C.MacSwell

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