[ RadSafe ] World's Biggest Wind Park -Capacity Factor vs. Nuclear

Dukelow, James S Jr jim.dukelow at pnl.gov
Thu Feb 23 15:42:11 CST 2006

James Salsman wrote:
-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
Behalf Of James Salsman
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 10:13 AM
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] World's Biggest Wind Park -Capacity Factor vs.

Jim Dukelow wrote:

 > Another mitigating factor: On many days the wind will be sporadic.
 > With the wind turbines spread over hundreds of square miles,  >
sporadic wind means some of the turbines are delivering power all  > the

The means of compensating for sporadic wind power output, called
shaping, is well understood, usually just involving a large national
grid, but in isolated areas it can be done with pumped hydro storage
alone.  Shaping adds about 20% to the cost of wind power.

New wind power installations with shaping currently cost, on a
per-kilowatt-hour basis, about the same as new coal plants, within a

Both wind and coal are substantially less expensive than new nuclear
plants on a cents/kWh basis, in some cases by half, and that's not even
counting the externalities of Price-Anderson indemnification, toxic
waste storage, and toxic byproduct disposal.

The choice is clear.

James Salsman


There are some problems with Salsman's assertions.

It is not easy to chase down reliable information on costs of generating
electricity using different technologies and fuels (in fact, I think the
goal of the US DOE's Energy Information Administration is to obfuscate
such questions).  A 2004 report for the Royal Academy of Engineering has
such data.  Some excerpts:

Cost of generating electricity (pence/kwhr) with no cost of CO2
emissions included

Pulverized coal plant -- 2.5 pence/kwhr

Coal-fired circulating fluidized bed steam plant -- 2.6 

Coal-fired integrated gasification combined cycle -- 3.2

Nuclear fission plant -- 2.3

Gas-fired (base loaded) plant -- 2.2

Gas turbines (base loaded) -- 3.1

Gas turbine (peaking duty) -- 6.2

Poultry litter-fired bubbling fluidized bed plant -- 6.8

Wave energy generation -- 6.6

Onshore wind farm -- 3.7 and 5.4 (including cost of standby backup

Offshore wind farm -- 5.5 and 7.2 (including cost of standby backup

A +/- 20% change in fuel cost causes a roughly 10% change in cost of
coal generation, 15-20% change in cost of natural gas generation, a 2-3%
change in cost of nuclear generation, and no change in wind and wave

Chinese figures for cost of coal and nuclear are essentially equivalent
to the numbers given above.

New nuclear plants are designed to cost less to build and operate and to
use passive safety features rather than active engineered systems to
manage plant upsets and accidents.

Price-Anderson is certainly a subsidy to the nuclear industry, but
rather similar to indemnification of vaccine manufacturer and government
loan guarantees for various kinds of investment.  Utilities are required
to carry $200 million dollars of private insurance on each plant.  For
events costing more than that, all utilities must pitch in up to $85-$90
million per plant.  The federal government will pay any costs greater
than the $9 billion or so covered by the utility industry.  To date the
government has paid out no claims under Price-Anderson and has received
a few tens of millions of dollars in premium payments.

Essentially all of the toxic effluents of nuclear plants are sequestered
in one or another fashion.  Essentially all of the toxic effluents of
fossil-fueled plants are released to the atmosphere and surface waters.

Best regards.

Jim Dukelow
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richland, WA
Jim.dukelow at pnl.gov 

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