Green New Deal vs Nuclear New Deal

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    While I agree with the sentiment, I take issue with the idea that we need to run with what we’ve got. A big focus of current innovation is A) making reactors modular and easy to manufacture Assembly Line style; and B) moving away from pressurized boiling water reactors.

    So first we need a new, safer class of reactors approved for use, then we can do this. And that requires getting that new class of reactors approved, which Brother Michael will tell you, is not something that will happen easily.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David
      Ignored
      says:

      My takeaway was that while we need the new, assembly-line type reactors, we also, in the meantime need to get the current ones going at full potential and keep them there as long as possible.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        Almost every reactor that has applied for a license extension has been granted an additional 20 years. Many of them have had their allowed maximum output increased.

        OTOH, Congress and the FERC have largely mandated a particular market structure. Many nukes simply aren’t competitive in that market.

        A few cases are different. San Onefre in California is shut down because somehow the owners and Hitachi managed to screw up the replacement steam tubes. It was cheaper for the owners to buy electricity from other sources than to lay out the cost to replace the steam tubes again (sometime down the road after the courts had affixed blame). Diablo Canyon in California will be shut down fundamentally because of global warming: proliferating jellyfish periodically block the cooling water intakes, and the plant no longer meets the discharge temperature requirements. Fixing either problem would run to a few billion dollars and higher operating costs.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain
      Ignored
      says:

      Assuming things hold up in court, there will be a modular reactor test. The NRC has licensed a NuScale reactor (60 MWe) to be installed at the Idaho National Labs funded by a group of small Utah utilities. Can this be reproduced? Putting it on DOE property bypasses the problem that very few (maybe no) states have issued new business licenses for commercial reactors. Putting it on DOE property allows the project to preempt Idaho water law and take cooling water from the over-committed Snake River. One of the court cases (there may be several, ultimately) will raise the question of whether producing commercial power spent fuel at the INL site violates DOE’s legal agreement with Idaho to not bring any additional spent fuel into Idaho until the existing mess at INL is cleaned up.Report

  2. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m 100% down with the sentiment though I feel like they shortchange the possibility of new technology. I mean the current fleet is running on, what, 70 year old technology?Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    It’ll create jobs that will need to be done? Well, we’d better start importing people who can do them. That’d be a lot cheaper than training people in the US and it’ll help keep the prices of energy low.

    (Maybe we could make the plants in Canada and they could send the power down to the US? There’s an exchange differential that we could take advantage of.)Report

  4. Avatar Philip H
    Ignored
    says:

    Both short and medium term, nuclear will have to be part of the solution. That said, we don’t have much nuclear capacity left in the US, and the investment needed to get it going won’t come from the private sector, no matter how many tax breaks you give them. We also lack a cohesive and robust grid to move electricity – look at what California had to do earlier this summer to keep from setting more fires caused by overloaded power lines.

    And tat’s because we STILL have no national strategy for disposal of spent fuels. My understanding is the kind of reactors that Andrew and Oscar are discussing will crate less of a fuel burden, but with Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Hanford Nuclear test site warped into modern civic discourse (and all three badly and without regard for the actual truth), having a “safe place” to put spent fuel is really important.

    I also think we some more plainly written economic studies of costs and payoffs to see whether nuclear really makes sense with advances in Wind, solar, and hydro power.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t see any way that the Eastern Interconnect gets to no-carbon electricity in anything like the time frames tossed around without nuclear. OTOH, the Western Interconnect has, according to a lot of work done at the national labs, a pretty good chance of being able to do it with just renewables. Intentionally or not, the WI states have committed to that path. It remains to be seen if the federal government allows those states to take the steps necessary to accomplish it.Report

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