EIA - Annual Energy Outlook 2023 - Forecasts nuclear power as stagnant or declining from now to 2050:

Executive Summary

Our Annual Energy Outlook 2023 (AEO2023) explores long-term energy trends in the United States. Since last year’s AEO, much has changed, most notably the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Public Law 117-169, which altered the policy landscape we use to develop our projections.

Renewables are increasingly meeting power demand throughout the projection period (Figure 2). Natural gas, coal, and nuclear generation shares decline. Renewable power outcompetes nuclear power, even in the Low Zero-Carbon Technology Cost (ZTC) case, which evaluates the impact of more aggressive cost declines for nuclear and renewables than the Reference case. Most natural gas-fired generation comes from combined-cycled power plants as opposed to simple-cycle combustion turbines. Uncertainty in natural gas prices across cases leads to various projections for combined-cycle units in the short term, but in the long term, natural gas demand from the electric power sector stabilizes across all cases.

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Leaves us desperately seeking as much renewable energy as possible.

The massive plus it is a deflationary energy policy.

EIA article shows that all those people who voted that nuclear power will increase in the next 10 years in my recent poll were wrong.

Don’t we need to wait for 10 years? Or are you from the future?

JimA

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I put my money on the educated analysis of EIA rather than on uneducated guesses. I would not invest my money on nuclear power. I invest in renewables and energy storage.

That wasn’t your poll question (“nuclear power will increase in the next 10 years in my recent poll”) - so I think we need to wait 10 years to see who is right. Of course, I will be correct in any case as I voted both ‘no’ and ‘yes’ - as allowed by the poll!

JimA

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Wrong - go back to my poll and see that it only asks the following question:
“Will US nuclear power increase in the next 10 years?”
People could have looked up the answer on EIA before guessing. I voted NO because I knew EIA was forecasting that nuclear power would decline in the US in the next 10 years.

You can’t look up an answer to a poll!! (Poll: record the opinion or vote of respondents) - but I have no idea what you were trying to achieve. Perhaps you could have just posted: “hey everyone, the EIA says US nuclear power will decline in the next ten years.” Even then, we will have to wait 10 years to see if they are correct.

JimA

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I suspect you will be right over the next 10 years but I think wrong over the next 25.

That’s because the Idaho National Laboratory will be field testing over a dozen advanced reactor technologies. Good chance that a couple will be commercially viable.

Also should probably put this issue in a global context. The International Atomic Energy Agency has been increasing its projections of global nuclear power generation, with a 24% increase from 2022 levels likely by 2030 and a doubling by 2050 now considered plausible. China currently has 21 nuclear reactors under construction. That alone is an additional 20 gigawatts coming soon.

I don’t think one can say that nuclear energy is in decline.

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Nuclear power facts about China:
55 nuclear power plants operating and generating 5% of all electricity in China.
23 nuclear power plants are in construction

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We will know in the next few years if any of these are commercially viable. They may be viable in vey remote locations, they will not be connected to the grid. The micro reactors may be viable in remote locations or for military purposes, but they will not have any effect on the grid or national electricity supply.

There is probably no way for them to be commercially viable.

The inflation rate on large one-off projects is 6-7%. They are undoable without huge government inflows of capital. The private sector in the US learned that the hardway.

I am unsure one single utility company in the US would want to build a US nuclear power plant. It would ensure losses happen going forward.

In 2022 some money was set aside for nuclear programs but that might have been the politics of not offending. Costly as that was. There was no way to get the IRA or whatever energy bill it was that had that spending through congress without placating some representatives.

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But it isn’t in ascendency either. Here’s the problem, and it is a two parter: First, it is really hard to come up with a net zero grid without nuclear. So the US government is throwing huge amounts of money at it trying to make it work.

Here’s the second part of the problem: Nuclear takes a long time to build and costs an epic amount of money, so even if there is a nuclear solution out there somewhere, it almost certainly won’t arrive in time.

And a secondary problem of Part I, is that the global nuclear fleet is aging. In the US that means throwing lots of money at existing reactors to extend their lifespans. If an anti-science administration is elected that certainly won’t continue. Which brings us to a secondary problem of Part II. There’s nothing the bullpen. If we started building new nuclear right now, we’re a minimum of 10-20 years out. And nothing is in the works right now.

I’m just the messenger.

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I think you said he is wrong twice. That goes beyond anything he knows about. There is no wrong there.

Good idea to indemnify yourself. Do you have life insurance if it comes to that?

This article craps all over small reactors and China’s ambitions.

snippet

Small modular reactors are more energy efficient than their larger counterparts and easier to transport and install, Luk said. He said the fourth-generation technology now being tested by Tsinghua University in Beijing replaces water coolant with helium, which is more heat resistant, reducing the risk of an explosion.

But a study from Stanford and University of British Columbia found that these reactors, touted as the future of nuclear energy, can produce more radioactive waste than conventional ones.

My comment there is more and it is not pretty.

I’m speaking globally. Nuclear power is accelerating in China, India, and other non-OECD countries. IAEA Annual Projections Rise Again as Countries Turn to Nuclear for Energy Security and Climate Action | IAEA

That’s why the US is moving to small modular nuclear reactors with, as I mentioned earlier, over a dozen being field tested over the next decade. In principle, these can be constructed much faster than the old designs. But that’s just the U.S. Small nuclear reactors are already being deployed by other countries.

Furthermore, the battle against global warming will be mostly fought in the developing nations that are currently very coal dependent. China is the most aggressive exporter of nuclear plant technology to these countries and they can build a reactor much faster and cheaper than we can. They have an established supply chain and scale.

On a global scale, nuclear energy is definitely in ascendancy.

I can see large industrial energy users moving to microreactors as a more secure and perhaps even cheaper option than being on the grid. That would reduce demand on the grid.

Conventional nuclear has pretty much failed in the US and other western countries. But it is hard to get to a net carbon free grid without nuclear so SMRs are the next best hope.

But there are some problems with SMRs and they are big problems. Small reactors have been around as long as there have been reactors, but for an enormously long list of reasons, it makes more financial sense to build a big reactor instead of a small one.

SMRs promise some design changes that make them simpler to build (this was a key promise of the AP 1000, by the way), but fundamentally, they pose all the same challengers as large conventional reactors only without the economy of size. The NuScale project in Idaho was looking at Vogtle-like capacity costs before they even started construction.

It can’t just be small, it has to be modular too. If there were a single standardized design, and there was set of factories supporting a supply chain of manufactured parts and equipment for the SMRs, then in theory the assembly would be quick and cheap enough to overcome the scale problem. The modular part is key to the whole thing.

But now we have a chicken and egg problem. Before you can build out the SMR supply chain–which is the requirement for modular–you need firm orders for a number of SMRs. I don’t know how many, 20, 30? Because without enough orders that investment in factories and and supply chain doesn’t makes sense. But without the supply chain in place, SMRs don’t make sense.

Right now there are no SMR prototypes under construction in the US. When there are some designs up and running then maybe SMRs can get some traction. But it is easy to see that will be a long time in the future, if ever.

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I completely disagree. Nuclear is the largest producer of low carbon electricity in the US, and the second largest producer overall. Nuclear generates more electricity than coal, more than wind, more than hydro, more than any other single source of power except natural gas. How long will natural gas prices remain as low as they currently are? Who knows? But those fracked gas wells aren’t going to last forever.

Would you like for me to compare electricity pricing in Europe for the umpteenth time? Electricity in nuclear powered France is much less expensive than, say, Germany with its Energiewende renewable energy policies. Or maybe lets look at the carbon dioxide intensity (grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour) of the various European countries. Would you call France a failure with 68 grams of CO2 per kwh, while Germany is at 366 grams? If you ask me, it is Germany which has failed with its grand “green energy transition”.

  • Pete

I actually don’t disagree with any of your points, but I think the conclusions suffer from only dealing with conditions as they are today.

The intermittency of renewable can really only be dealt with by establishing smart grids where software (perhaps even AI) distribute power in real time from where it is generated to where it is stored and to where it is needed. These high tech grids become increasingly vulnerable to technical failures, bad weather, and tampering. My guess is that we will adapt to this need to improve grid resiliency through the establishment of microgrids that are self-contained energy networks that can connect or disconnect from the grid as needed.

I can see where microreactors powering microgrids will first be deployed in protecting the growing number of data centers and computer servers, then spreading out to power emergency services.

Universities are also becoming significant players in the deployment of microreactors. The University of Illinois has plans to start one up by 2028, so the lead time for this technology is not all that long. The financials of nuclear microreactors are apparently affordable for the larger universities. https://thehill.com/homenews/ap/ap-science/ap-several-universities-to-experiment-with-micro-nuclear-power/

Posts can go by fast, and context can get lost. You are actually agreeing with me even though you didn’t intend to. The question we were discussing is if nuclear is in ascendency. I said it isn’t, which @btresist disagreed with. Taking the last part of your post first:

This is exactly what I’m talking about. Germany shutting down nuclear is clear evidence of nuclear power not being in ascendency.

There is no utility scale nuclear planned in North America that I’m aware of. There is a bit planned in Europe. We recently discussed the Hinkley Point reactors that EDF is building. The project is delayed by years and the costs could reach $58 billion. It isn’t a success if you can’t afford to build it.

While I’ve got you here…

Yes, you post this quite often. I don’t believe I’ve ever commented because I don’t quite see how it is relevant in general (for reasons below) and in this case definitely not relevant to anything I said in my post. But since you brought it up again…

…As your link clearly states, retail prices include taxes, fees, and in some countries subsidies. So it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to look at retail prices. Wholesale prices are what producers are actually paid.

It turns out wholesale prices in France and Germany are about the same and recently wholesale prices in Germany have been a bit cheaper.

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Bruce Power in Ontario, Canada is planning to build up to 4.8 gigawatts of new nuclear generation.

4.8 GW is a large amount of power, and could be met with a new generation of large CANDU heavy water plants, as they like to build in Canada.

Elsewhere in Canada, plans are well underway for one or more General Electric-Hitachi BWRX-300 plants.

In the US, TVA is planning to build at least one SMR at Clinch River in Tennessee.

There are other projects in the pipeline, some of them mentioned by another poster, at the Idaho National Lab, for instance.

  • Pete
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