Climate Progress

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Achtergrond: Jay Huang (cc)
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After Fracking Ban, France Turns to Offshore Wind. But a Nuclear Phase Out? Sacré Bleu!

Could France, the world’s nuclear leader, be considering a transition away from nukes? Judging from a few recent pieces of news coming out of the country, it’s a distinct possibility.

Earlier this month, the French Parliament voted to ban fracking, a controversial drilling method that has enabled a global boom in natural gas. Now, the country is turning its attention to offshore wind – opening up a bidding program for five marine zones that could host up to 3 GW of projects. The first round of bidding is part of an effort to build 6 GW of projects from 2015 through 2020.

These two developments come as officials in the country are openly considering a long-term energy plan that would phase out nuclear power over the coming decades. Considering that France gets around 75% of its electricity from nuclear – the highest penetration in the world – this announcement, as reported by Reuters, is significant:

Energy Minister Eric Besson announced on radio Europe 1 the launch of a study on Friday on the country’s energy mix by 2050, with options including a complete exit from nuclear production, a cut in the share of nuclear to 50 percent and a progressive reduction of total electricity production in France.

“We will study all possible scenarios for what we call the energy mix,” he said. “It will be done with total objectivity, in full transparency, without avoiding any scenario (…) including the scenarios of a nuclear exit.”

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Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve?

‘Forgetting by doing’?
Real escalation in reactor investment costs

Drawing on largely unknown public records, the paper reveals for the first time both absolute as well as yearly and specific reactor costs and their evolution over time. Its most significant finding is that even this most successful nuclear scale-up was characterized by a substantial escalation of real-term construction costs.

Fig. 13. Average and min/max reactor construction costs per year of completion date for US and France versus cumulative capacity completed

We’ve known for a while that the cost of new nuclear power plants in this county have been soaring (see Nuclear power: The price is not right and Exclusive analysis: The staggering cost of new nuclear power).

Before 2007, price estimates of $4000/kw for new U.S. nukes were common, but by October 2007 Moody’s Investors Service report, “New Nuclear Generation in the United States,” concluded, “Moody’s believes the all-in cost of a nuclear generating facility could come in at between $5,000 – $6,000/kw.” That same month, Florida Power and Light, “a leader in nuclear power generation,” presented its detailed cost estimate for new nukes to the Florida Public Service Commission. It concluded that two units totaling 2,200 megawatts would cost from $5,500 to $8,100 per kilowatt — $12 billion to $18 billion total! In 2008, Progress Energy informed state regulators that the twin 1,100-megawatt plants it intended to build in Florida would cost $14 billion, which “triples estimates the utility offered little more than a year ago.” That would be more than $6,400 a kilowatt. (And that didn’t even count the 200-mile $3 billion transmission system utility needs, which would bring the price up to a staggering $7,700 a kilowatt).

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Climate change creates new flooding risks for U.S. nuclear reactors safety

Een bijdrage van Sargasso gastblog Climate Progress: “A Project of Center for American Progress Action Fund”

Extreme weather disasters, especially floods, are on the rise (see Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding). Last year, we had Tennessee’s 1000-year deluge aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’. And Coastal North Carolina’s suffered its second 500-year rainfall in 11 years.

Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year” (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).

A couple weeks ago, I asked how many U.S. nuclear plants are vulnerable to a tsunami and/or a 500-year 100-year flood? Here a very initial treatment of the flood vulnerability issue.

The following article by Sean Pool, Elaine Sedenberg and Matt Woelfel is cross-posted at Science Progress.

As the situation at Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility continues to worsen, policymakers in the United States are taking the opportunity to review the safety policies for our aging nuclear reactors.

Japan’s recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it caused together killed 9,737 people and left an additional 16,501 missing. The destruction left millions homeless and caused almost $200 billion in damage.

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Selective use of science “as bad as racism”

UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser criticizes “journalists wilfully misusing science, distorting evidence by cherry-picking data that suits their view, giving bogus authority to people who misrepresent the absolute basics of science, and worse”

Government Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington is stepping up the war on pseudoscience with a call to his fellow government scientists to be “grossly intolerant” if science is being misused by religious or political groups.

In closing remarks to an annual conference of around 300 scientific civil servants on 3 February, in London, Beddington said that selective use of science ought to be treated in the same way as racism and homophobia. “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality…. We are not—and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this—grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method,” he said.

Beddington said he intends to take this agenda forward with his fellow chief scientists and also with the research councils. “I really believe that… we need to recognise that this is a pernicious influence, it is an increasingly pernicious influence and we need to be thinking about how we can actually deal with it.