US nuclear plant starts up for first time

The turbine-generator at Vogtle Unit 3 was synchronized to the grid earlier this month, and started producing electric power. It took about four weeks between initial criticality of the reactor and the plant producing electric power. It will probably be several more weeks before the reactor is brought up to full power and the plant generates its full 1100 megawatts.

Meanwhile, Unit 4 at Vogtle is currently undergoing hot functional testing of its reactor coolant system. These tests bring the reactor system up to normal operating temperature and pressure, to ensure everything works prior to loading in the uranium fuel.

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A bit of trivia…
The Vogtle nuclear power station was named after Alvin Vogtle, a former president of Southern Company. Earlier in life, Vogtle was a fighter pilot in World War II. He got shot down, was captured by the Germans, but eventually escaped to Switzerland. Alvin Vogtle was the inspiration for the Steve McQueen character in the 1963 movie The Great Escape.

  • Pete
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Vogtle 3 is now at full power output, and will soon enter commercial operation.
Unit 4 should be loading in the initial uranium fuel in a few months.

NRC plant status report:
https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/reactor-status/2023/20230530ps.html#R2

  • Pete
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Many (many) years ago I was an economics student at a British university where there was a project looking at input/output analysis of a nuclear power station. The outcome ‘proved’ that nuclear power was inefficient in that, over its lifetime, it consumed more power than it gave out. The reason being that the nuclear waste needed to be stored and guarded for such a long time that the cost of this (converted to energy) made the power station inefficient.

Basically, we got cheapish energy now while pushing costs to countless generations who would be getting no energy for their efforts.

Like so many other things in economics it was just a case of kicking the can down the road :slight_smile:

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Very interesting study.

But for my own sake even if it is only my life on the line I will kick my own can down the road. Better than getting it all to simply stop rolling. Ya know?

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That is a common belief, but is not even close to being true. Storage costs are very minor.

The link below contains a summary of another analysis. Several such studies have been performed, with similar results. The energy returned (output) compared to the initial energy investment (input) is somewhere around 50 to 70 X. This is much better than solar PV, for instance, which has a return of around 10X or less.

  • Pete
6 Likes

It’s an absurd and untrue belief that’s been spread very widely among the misinformed.

Perhaps the only thing that this (net negative energy) would apply to is using ethanol in gasoline. But if you include political energy then it (ethanol) obviously beats almost all other energy related things. :joy:

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Interesting study. But did they also study the other energy costs for other forms of energy? Such as the cost of the air pollution caused by coal, oil, NG? Or the long term cost/energy of cleaning up the CO2, mitigating climate change, etc?

Mike

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I would say it also applies to hydrogen production, at least the hydrogen produced from electrolysis of water. The 2nd law of thermodynamics must be obeyed. In other words, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Batteries are another example, but batteries are not even an energy source. Batteries are just storage devices, and you can only get 80% of the energy out that you put into them.

  • Pete
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How much of a bet Jaak shows up with the facts that contradict this?

Unlike the first claim it is not the grandkids. It is one thousand years down the line and beyond. Yeah how could that ever add up? Meanwhile what do we have, “Energy Return on Investment” counting ten years of storage of nuclear waste? if at all? How many years Waterfell?

On the other hand, batteries allow you to time shift electric production. Electricity is an odd energy source, as it generally must be used as it is produced. Storing electricity allows you to produce it now and use it later. That is not an insignificant benefit, even if you don’t get all of the energy back out.

–Peter

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It looks quite a complicated process, and not only do you need to store it (100,000 plus years?) you need to protect and defend it against terrorists, etc:

Hydroelectric dams are really just storage devices as well. As you point out, the time shifting ability is very important because demand isn’t constant.

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Yes and no. A scientist would say that it stores potential energy.

But a typical hydroelectric dam doesn’t really store electric energy for time shifting the way a battery does. It produces it on demand. It only becomes an energy storage system similar to a battery if it incorporates pumping, so that electricity produced elsewhere is used to pump water up into the reservoir and then converts that electric energy back into electricity at a later time.

There are very few such sites, and they are typically created specifically for that purpose, not the dual purpose of damming an existing river AND serving as the storage for a pumped storage system.

To be clear, the on demand production capability of a dam is a benefit. But many dams serve the dual purpose of flood control and electric generation. It’s not unusual for a dam to flow some minimum amount of water to support the river down stream. That flow happens whether the electric generation is needed or not - and can happen without generating electricity. There are also times when such a dam MUST flow larger amounts of water to reserve capacity in the reservoir for flood control, often well in excess of the ability of the power station to generate electricity, using spill ways instead of sending the water through a power house.

Operating a dam is a complex administrative process, incorporating lots of projections and balancing the needs of multiple objectives. Electric production is but one of those competing objectives.

–Peter

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Good post.
But there is also the third purpose…storing water for later use (irrigation, drinking, etc.) regardless of any flood control, electrical power generation or even any mechanical water wheel.

Mike

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Quite correct. I can’t believe I left that purpose out. Particularly as a resident of CA where our extensive system of dams includes that as a major purpose.

–Peter

1 Like