Wednesday, April 3, 2013

30. Call Me "Johnny Atomicseed"

In addition to being something of a folk hero, "Johnny Appleseed" was an actual real-life pioneer who lived in the early days of America's existence. His actual name was John Chapman. American school children grow up learning that Johnny Appleseed traveled the American country-side in the pioneer days, planting apple seeds (or at least they learned that back in the late-1980's and early-1990's).
Depiction of Johnny Appleseed: If anyone has free time to create a Johnny Atomicseed logo, please do

So, I know you are asking "What does Johnny Appleseed have to do with Peaceful Atomic Energy?"

Nuclear power is an investment in future generations. It is an investment in technological progression. To oppose nuclear power is to be in favor of either a large amount of increasing combustion to meet energy needs or "Endarkenment" (Also: in favor of additional deaths in comparison to alternative means of cost-effective, reliable generation according to this recent study).

Like planting apple trees (or other fruit trees), building nuclear power plants is not an investment that pays off in the short-term. It is a long-term investment that provides benefits further into the future. You can't bake an apple pie next month from apples grown on a tree you decide to plant in your yard today. However, if you do decide to plant an apple tree today, 10 years or so from now (depending on many factors), you should have the benefit of some home-grown apples.

Nuclear power is not conducive to a mere quarterly financials-style outlook, which is far too common the default in today's society.

"How does building new nuclear plants pay off?" you ask. 

By providing the lowest life-cycle cost of electricity generation.

Even considering the massive investment outlay of roughly $14 Billion for the 2 new Westinghouse AP1000's being installed at Vogtle near Augusta, GA, the total life cycle cost of the electricity is estimated to be up to $4 Billion less than the next best generation option. The reason that number is uncertain and requires the words "up to" in front of the $4 Billion is primarily due to the volatility and future uncertainty of natural gas prices. From March of 2012 to March of 2013, the Henry Hub spot price of natural gas fully doubled from a low of under $2.00/MMBtu to over $4.00/MMBtu within the past few weeks.

For a similar real-world lowest-cost estimate, FPL/NextEra Energy estimates (per this fact sheet) that their Extended Power Uprate (EPU) projects at St. Lucie and Turkey Point would save their customers approximately $3.8 Billion for the time period of the remaining life of the 4 Units in comparison to other generating options.

Feel free to question these numbers from both Southern Company and FPL, but these 2 utilities are required to testify in front of public service commissions to justify that their costs for adding this new generation are reasonable and prudent, and they wouldn't have undertaken these projects if they didn't trust their own math.

The same FPL fact sheet linked above mentions that 2 new AP1000's at Turkey Point (Units 6 and 7) would save customers $58 Billion over their operational lifetimes. That even almost sounds absurd to me right off hand before giving it much thought. If you actually stop to consider that 2 AP1000's will generate 1100 MWe each, should be fully capable of operating for 60-80 years, and that the residential price of electricity in the presently nuclear generation-free Los Angeles area is about $0.23/kW-hr, the $58 Billion savings number starts to actually make a decent amount of sense. Would anyone want to sell me any natural gas futures with a 2030 delivery date at even $6.00/MMBtu?

Even further into the future

So far, I have only referred to conventional Gen II and III light water reactors (LWRs). Plenty of potential exists in the future for Generation IV reactor designs with many, many improvements over Gen II and III designs, particular in terms of the utilization of natural Uranium. Nuclear power being allowed to continue to progress will "plant seeds" for future generations to properly utilize the naturally-occurring 0.7% of Uranium that is fissile U-235 to be the seeds for virtually unlimited power by way of breeding fertile Thorium and the 99.3% of natural Uranium that is U-238, while reducing other potential impacts to levels below even the minuscule impacts of the present generation of light water reactors.

Nuclear power is an investment in the future. From my viewpoint of knowing a great deal about it, and about its potential for even further future improvements, I think nuclear power is THE investment in the world's future. A new nuclear power project started today won't pay dividends next quarter, but over the next 60-100 years, it will help make the world a better place by helping more people get close to a situation of having Energy Abundance.


Disclaimer: I did notice when I Googled the terms "Johnny Appleseed" and nuclear, that A.Q. Khan popped up several times with people calling him a nuclear Johnny Appleseed due to his role in past weapons proliferation, but that was not even close to the point of my post. Here at Entreprenuclear, I prefer to stick to talking about the benefits of peaceful atomic energy. So, I will  

2 comments:

  1. This is an very informative article, especially for schools -- which such has a chance of appearing in like a cold day in Hell. Features as this are useless if the Word doesn't get out of niche blogs or the web and into TV and newspapers! Forget Arnie and Helen, I'm tired of seeing Bill Nye and Doc Kaku trash nuclear on every History/Discovery/Science Channel! ! I'd like to see you investigate just why it's SO hard for the nuclear word to crash the media ceiling and what it'd take to get the nuclear word in a positive way for once out to the general public! Name names and news sources and media with anti-nuclear sympathies! Some "fair" and "balanced" news!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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  2. The author made a grave error presuming that first product of nukes is energy. It is not. As any advanced technology, nukes of this generation produce in first place a know how for the nukes of the next one; electricity is just an spin-off. And that is their main advantage. Nukes produce progress, fossil-burners and windmills produce technological (and mental) retardation.

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