Is solar power cheaper than nuclear power?

Aug 09, 2010 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Image source: Wikipedia.org

One of the issues associated with shifting from using fossil fuels to alternative energy sources is the cost. While adherents of alternative energy tout its benefits, many are skeptical, pointing out that such alternatives are just too expensive. Advocates of nuclear power point out that it is less polluting (if you don't count storage of spent fuel) than fossil fuels, and that it costs less than alternatives like solar power.

A new study out of Duke University, though, casts doubt on the idea that is cheaper than . Using information from North Carolina, the study shows that solar power may be more cost efficient than nuclear power. With costs dropping on the production of photovoltaic cells, and with solar cells becoming increasingly efficient, it appears that -- in North Carolina at least -- solar installations offer a viable alternative to nuclear power, which is the source for about 20% of the electricity in the U.S.

The Energy Collective reports that some of the issues not addressed in the Duke study. Issues that may further support the idea that solar power could become a viable, cheap form of power in the not so distant future:

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine -Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.

Power costs are generally measured in cents per kilowatt hour - the cost of the electricity needed to illuminate a 1,000 watt light bulb (for example) for one hour. When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it “crossed over” the trend-line associated with nuclear power.

Of course, still represent about 70% of the electricity production in the U.S., and there is probably still some way to go before solar power (and other alternatives) reach a level of cost efficiency that would result in more widespread use. But perhaps this study offers encouragement -- and justification -- for using resources for further development of solar power technology.

Explore further: Shedding light on solar power

More information: Osha Davidson, "Study: Solar power is cheaper than nuclear," The Energy Collective (July 27, 2010), theenergycollective.com/oshada… ower-cheaper-nuclear .
John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham, "Solar and Nuclear Costs - The Historic Crossover", www.ncwarn.org/wp-content/uplo… larReport_final1.pdf

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User comments : 54

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snivvy
3.8 / 5 (12) Aug 09, 2010
Cost is one factor. Another is that nuclear power works all night long and when it's cloudy.
Jigga
2.3 / 5 (18) Aug 09, 2010
The cost of solar electricity can still be estimated if we consider the price of electricity storage. But nuclear plant isn't quite interruptible source and its nominal power cannot be changed - so we should consider the fact, every shut-down of nuclear plant costs money, too. In addition, solar energy is distributed source - it doesn't require so extensive infrastructure (you know - all these transformers and wires).
ArtflDgr
Aug 09, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.6 / 5 (11) Aug 09, 2010
The cost of solar electricity can still be estimated if we consider the price of electricity storage. But nuclear plant isn't quite interruptible source and its nominal power cannot be changed - so we should consider the fact, every shut-down of nuclear plant costs money, too.
Can you clarify what you mean by this? Most forms of nuclear power are shutdown very easily, simply allow the neutrons to shunt away from the re-enrichment process.
In addition, solar energy is distributed source - it doesn't require so extensive infrastructure (you know - all these transformers and wires).
Well that isn't true at all.
Jigga
2.3 / 5 (16) Aug 09, 2010
Well that isn't true at all.

Why not? Every house or village could in proper location could have it's own unit consisting of solar / wind plant, batteries and converters. It's feasible technology, it's just still too expensive.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.6 / 5 (13) Aug 09, 2010
Well that isn't true at all.

Why not? Every house or village could in proper location could have it's own unit consisting of solar / wind plant, batteries and converters. It's feasible technology, it's just still too expensive.

Solar or wind cannot be used as an individual powersource in all locations. Plus what if your array goes offline?

You require a grid, whether locally or nonlocally fed for peak consistency.

Would you care to clarify your stance on nuclear?
brianelegant
4.3 / 5 (7) Aug 09, 2010
Cost of solar electricity, Blackburn and Cunningham relied on reported offers of "commercial scale" solar electricity at a certain price to the grid supplier - without noting that those offers are on a strictly "when available" basis that is also take or pay. , Blackburn and Cunningham admit that certain solar electricity suppliers will actually be paid a "subsidized" rate of 19 cents per kilowatt hour, which is almost two times the residential retail price in North Carolina of 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Blackburn and Cunningham bury a few "minor" details about solar electricity real costs in an appendix. As they admit in a section that few people will read, the price that some installers are talking about charging utilities is the "net" price - after they receive and bank all currently offered payments from other taxpayers and after taxpayer subsidized 25 year amort, tax free loans.
http://atomicinsi...-on.html
brianelegant
3.8 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2010
For their nuclear power cost projections, the professor emeritus and his grad student relied on a 2009 cost projection paper written by a lone researcher named Mark Cooper, "Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis" for the Vermont Law School. His online bio states that he has a "PhD from Yale" (sociology). It indicates he is an "activist/advocate" with a rather wide range of interest areas including telecom regulations and energy consumer issues.

The paper ignores all other cost projections for nuclear.

•A 2003 study conducted by a multidisciplinary team at MIT titled The Future of Nuclear Power which was updated with new data in 2009.
•A 2005 report by the World Nuclear Association titled The New Economics of Nuclear Power
•A 2010 OECD study titled Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2010 Edition

Most new nuclear (75%) will be built outside the OECD in China, Russia etc... at a cost of $1500-2000 per KW.
CSharpner
3.1 / 5 (7) Aug 09, 2010
Solar is sounding better. Doesn't sound like it's quite there yet.

On a related note, we've all seen that decades old document on the procedures for changing a light bulb in a nuclear plant. I wonder what the cost of nuclear would be if only the /necessary/ red tape were left in place and the /unnecessary/ red tape were lifted.
Jigga
Aug 09, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.9 / 5 (11) Aug 09, 2010
There is no enough of uranium.
How about litium, thorium, radium, etc. Uranium is the poor man's nuclear fuel. Thorium, cesium, francium, etc can also all be used.

You don't really seem to understand current nuclear technology.
Jigga
1.2 / 5 (13) Aug 09, 2010
... radium ...cesium, francium, etc can also all be used.. You don't really seem to understand current nuclear technology...
Well, I feel like expert sometimes with you....
danman5000
4.4 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2010
There is no enough of uranium.
How about litium, thorium, radium, etc. Uranium is the poor man's nuclear fuel. Thorium, cesium, francium, etc can also all be used.

You don't really seem to understand current nuclear technology.

Francium has a maximum half life of only 22 minutes, for francium-223 (from the wiki page). How would it be used for nuclear power generation? I hadn't heard about such a system before.
LariAnn
3.7 / 5 (7) Aug 09, 2010
Perhaps one reason why the disparity between nuclear and alternatives such as solar is the assumption that the source of power must be a centralized megagenerator, while one of the attractions of solar is the degree of independence it imparts to the end user. IMHO, part of the problem is dependency on a centralized supplier, making the supply vulnerable to such problems as political pressure, terrorist attacks, etc. A true solution should move us towards individual as well as national energy independence, not an exchange of dependence on one exhaustible, vulnerable source for dependence on another.
trekgeek1
4.3 / 5 (8) Aug 09, 2010
Cost is one factor. Another is that nuclear power works all night long and when it's cloudy.


There are systems to store solar energy in molten salt systems. You just have to produce more power than you need during the day. Also, at night you don't need as much power when people are sleeping. At these off peak hours you can rely on wind, tidal or wave, existing nuclear, stored solar, etc. The distributed design is preferable too. You do need a grid, but solar allows for having the equivalent of thousands of nuclear plants spread out. This makes power transmission easier and a more robust system against damage, either intentional or not.
mdk
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2010
Why not pursue both? There are recent innovations with solar thermal (PETE) that purportedly raise efficiency to 50-60%, far higher than at present. But the process requires very high temps, up to 800C which is far higher than I'd advise in anyone's backyard. There are also new nuclear plants that are no bigger than a hot tub but can power 20,000 homes for 5-7 years before needing fuel replenishment. Nuclear for back-up and peak daytime periods with solar for the bulk of the daytime use and efficient energy storage for both systems. Of course someday we may adopt solar power satellites for the most efficient use of the output of our sun, provided our own media don't continue to frighten us with what-if scenarios that can be easily avoided.
moebiex
5 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2010
Maybe it would make sense to tally and objectively assess risks for "externalities" and make sure all operators are fully liable for any impacts of failure as part of the analysis of the various technologies.
Htamylop
2.8 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2010
Since 2003, I have presented analyses that show that solar is economical in sunny climes even when in direct competition with nuclear energy. In fact, nuclear energy requires economic manipulations in order to be economical in Arizona. These economics are discussed on the Rate Crimes blog: http://ratecrimes.blogspot.com
AeroEng2
3.8 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2010
Current nuclear power technology has come a long way from the technology in existing reactors. Generation IV reactors can run on a variety of fuels with NO risk of meltdown and at efficiencies of up to and in some cases above 50%. Fast neutron reactors (which have been around for decades) can also consume minor actinides which make up the long-lived radioisotopes that require long-term storage (thus reducing the waste problem). Several of these reactors can be mass produced and shipped, intact, to the power station. These designs have estimated costs of 5-7 cents per kWh.

Distributed grid would be great, but it cannot be the only solution, especially when relying on intermittent power like wind and solar. We should pursue baseload power from nuclear, preferential peak power from renewables (wind, solar, etc), and CNG to make up the difference.
Htamylop
2 / 5 (4) Aug 09, 2010
"How about litium, thorium, radium, etc. Uranium is the poor man's nuclear fuel. Thorium, cesium, francium, etc can also all be used.

You don't really seem to understand current nuclear technology."

You don't really seem to understand *current* nuclear technology.
JimHopf
4 / 5 (7) Aug 09, 2010
The article doesn't mention that this is an extremely politicized "study" put out by activist organizations vehemently opposed to nuclear power.

The study's intellectual dishonestly is breathtaking. The article fails to mention that the quoted solar cost is after state and federal subsidies that literally pay ~2/3 of the cost. Official US govt. (EIA) statistics show that solar PV costs 40 cents/kW-hr compared to 12 cents for nuclear. Solar thermal costs 26. And these costs don't even factor in cost related to intermittentcy.

http://www.eia.do...ion.html
Doug_Huffman
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2010
Ya can't beat that Solar Constant, ever.

Nuclear power is cheap and secure power.
Caliban
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2010
All that is really missing is for some group to offer a "Local Grid" configuration, build it at their own expense, and start feeding electricity into the grid.

Sadly, it's a -and I really hate to use the phrase-"if you build it, they will come" type of alternative, and either some independently-minded, enterprising people do it, or the the same old players will snatch it up and run with it just as soon as the critical point in the cost/benefit analysis is reached.

The only way to interrupt this scenario, as I've suggested elsewhere, is to Enact a new Development Authority, a la the TVA, to fund the R&D, and coordinate the development and deployment of the resources and technology.

Otherwise, it'll be the same story- the little, visionary guys will start it up, saturate the supply and flounder because of fierce competition,
the costs associated with re-tooling and reinvestment minimizing profitability, and then the Big Dogs will snap it up, and begin dictating rates
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (4) Aug 09, 2010
There is no enough of uranium.
How about litium, thorium, radium, etc. Uranium is the poor man's nuclear fuel. Thorium, cesium, francium, etc can also all be used.

You don't really seem to understand current nuclear technology.


Yeah, there is SO much Francium around.
Nyloc
5 / 5 (2) Aug 10, 2010
The advantages of the Solar Grid option over the Nuclear Plant option are similar to the advantages of the Web compared to a single Server. The internet is robust because it is distributed and networked. A single server may appear more powerful and simpler, but it is less flexible and not nearly as robust. When ever household and business produces power, interruptions are mitigated by others on the grid.

Electronic equipment evolves so quickly that solar cells will quickly become cheaper and more efficient. One need only to look at how rapidly computers have evolved to realize that once they are widely marketed, they will be preferable to 'dirtier' alternatives.

The waste from nuclear power plants must never be taken out of the equation. Every technology must be measured by it's cradle-to-grave costs. Downstream consequences must be factored in. Fossil fuels seemed great until CO2 was taken into account.
mrN
not rated yet Aug 10, 2010
Yeah, there is SO much Francium around.


My bad but I tought it was all about transformed nuclear waste?

Anyway seawater has lot of uranium. About 80000 years worth by curent use.

And about "the news" i won by it. Not yet at least. I belive in the next generation of solar panels.
Ulg
4 / 5 (6) Aug 10, 2010
You need at least 1 cubic mile of mono crystalline silicon cut into 350 micron slices to equate to a 200MW pebble bed reactor- that will require a minimum of 1.5-3 square miles to setup, and will requires hundreds of people doing constant maintenance, vs a reactor that can fit in a high school, be operated by hand full of people and works 24 hours a day. How on earth could it possibly be cheaper- unless regulation is the cause.

I think solar is fine for home, but residential uses a meager fraction of the total electrical power needed by the country. Its great that a home can cover itself but you have any idea how much space you need to cover a steel mill, or a plant that makes mono crystalline silicon? :)
Ulg
4 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2010

The waste from nuclear power plants must never be taken out of the equation.


I like how people think that nuclear waste is waste. It just means it is no longer efficient to use in the plant it came from. It may be sitting away under a mountain in a barrel but at 400-600C it is still pretty usefull, but not in a plant designed for 1200-1500C fuel. Pebble bed reactors have solved this issue, Once it can no longer adequately heat the gasses in those plants- you can take those old spheres and place them in a big steam boiler. No worry about not enough water, or the spheres breaking from temperature or pressure change. If anything our old waste should be encased and utilized immediately in low grade plants.
cmdrtobs
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 10, 2010
The argument about there "not being enough Uranium" is BS. Ofc any pre-fusion primarily nuclear energy solution for the future will use Breeder fuel. To simply ignore bred fuel and base figures on solely Uranium-235 fission is like assessing the viability of petrol as fuel without cat-cracking.
ForFreeMinds
3.2 / 5 (9) Aug 10, 2010
For an article to question which kind of power is cheaper, yet not even quote the costs, shows what a lousy article it is. See http://www.eia.do...2010.pdf to see that solar power is 2-4X more costly than nuclear power.
Bonkers
3 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2010
You need at least 1 cubic mile of mono crystalline silicon cut into 350 micron slices to equate to a 200MW pebble bed reactor- that will require a minimum of 1.5-3 square miles to setup

Rubbish, a cubic mile laid over 3 sq miles is 1/3 mile thick.
Assuming 10 hours illumination @1000W/m2 and 20% efficiency you need one square mile. That 840m of 1m2 silicon ingot, not including saw kerf, so one mile inclusive.
The cost at $4 per peak watt is $2 billion.

OK so the output is daytime only, where most demand lies, but can you really build and run a nucular (heh) plant for $2 billion?
Skeptic_Heretic
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 10, 2010
OK so the output is daytime only, where most demand lies, but can you really build and run a nucular (heh) plant for $2 billion?
Most demand exists in the winter at night actually, and China recently built 2 nuclear reactors on time and under budget totaling around 1.6bil each.

France and sweden commonly build reactors for less than 2 billion.
lengould100
4 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2010
http://www.nrel.g...4440.pdf

Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology Cost and Performance Forecasts - Sargent & Lundy LLC Consulting Group Chicago, Illinois, for NREL.

Bottom line on solar thermal - If we built the equivalent of a few nuclear reactors worth, the costs WOULD come down to 3.5 to 6.2 cents / kwh. Thermal storage adds nothing to the cost / kwh because only needs insulated tanks of cheap sand and gravel, and though collector area remains constant per kwh, required generator capacity and install cost is reduced (eg. a single generator running 24 hrs / day puts out a lot more kwh than one running 8 hrs / day).

Read the study. Very reputable engineering firm, have in past designed nuclear plants in Illinois, many other generating facilities.
Htamylop
1 / 5 (2) Aug 10, 2010
France and sweden commonly build reactors for less than 2 billion.


"EDF Said to Raise Flamanville Costs, Delay Reactor"
http://www.busine...tor.html

"In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble"
http://www.nytime...uke.html
Tesla444
2.3 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2010
Well, 'Skeptic_Heretic' - that doesn't usually happen in North America and their won't likely be any $2B reactors here. The Darlington (Ontario, Canada) reactors (4) cost ~$14Billion in 1990 & rising + operating costs and 1 of them is usually down at any given time -- and this doesn't count the decommissioning costs (Taxpayers are still paying for this debacle - now equivalent of $28B, and will be for decades to come - long after it dies). Of the eight Pickering reactors (a similar system) -- 3 are now down, indefinately, due to the high upgrade & re-start costs. Hydro power is still likely the most cost effective if you have the water source. We need a realistic assessment of ALL of these technologies (esp New solar, wind and nuclear designs) and develop a NA energy strategy that uses all of them.... and include 'utility' sized units as well as local (factory & household).... Let's stop arguing and JUST DO IT!
GaryB
2.8 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2010
In addition, solar energy is distributed source - it doesn't require so extensive infrastructure (you know - all these transformers and wires).


This is just the opposite. There is not enough energy falling on your home to power it. You need to go way out to open land, maybe way way out into the desert to get your solar fix, so the wiring infrastructure will be more with solar.
GaryB
3.5 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2010
I never trust what these cost articles. What solar vs what nuclear? Thorium thermal breeders ~may~ be much cheaper than current nuclear technology and doesn't have serious waste issues.

Solar has land issues and is only really good for about 6 hours a day. Factor that into its efficiency. The intense heat of Thorium reactors is also useful for industrial processes and treating salt or waste water. Solar is great, but we need both. Plus, thorium breeder thermal rockets ... "don't leave home without them".
ronaldwalt
Aug 11, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
wiyosaya
3 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2010
Well that isn't true at all.

Why not? Every house or village could in proper location could have it's own unit consisting of solar / wind plant, batteries and converters. It's feasible technology, it's just still too expensive.

Solar or wind cannot be used as an individual powersource in all locations. Plus what if your array goes offline?

You require a grid, whether locally or nonlocally fed for peak consistency.

Would you care to clarify your stance on nuclear?

I humbly suggest that you read "Wind Power" by Paul Gipe. Your suggestion that solar or wind cannot be used as an individual power source in all locations seems based on lack of information.
wiyosaya
2 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2010
Solar ... is only really good for about 6 hours a day. Factor that into its efficiency.

People who understand the problem do factor that into efficiency and the "abundance" of solar is where storage comes into play. Size storage properly, and you could go for days without full sunshine. Even during cloudy days, approximately 30% of the available energy gets through. I think it likely that the researchers took this into consideration.

I think this article's point is that technology is improving solar and wind as sources of alternative energy. Add to that improvements in storage are also in the works. With solar down to $0.16 /kWh it becomes cost effective. As future advancements hit the market, the cost will drop further.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2010
I humbly suggest that you read "Wind Power" by Paul Gipe. Your suggestion that solar or wind cannot be used as an individual power source in all locations seems based on lack of information.
Actually it's based on a greater consistency of information that you have.

How many wind turbines do you think could be supported in a city block? Do you think that would be enough to power the city block without subsequent feeding from nonlocal sources?

Hence why you need a grid. Seriously, use your head. For each turbine you put up you change the wind dynamics of the immediate area. You will require transformers, switching stations, and controllers. Individual homes will not run on wind or solar alone. It is not feasible for every individual to be the sheppard of their own power. We will always require a grid, regardless of what fuels it. GaryB is correct.

Let's stop arguing and JUST DO IT!
How about we do it properly.
Javinator
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2010
Most forms of nuclear power are shutdown very easily, simply allow the neutrons to shunt away from the re-enrichment process.


What does that mean?

How about litium, thorium, radium, etc. Uranium is the poor man's nuclear fuel. Thorium, cesium, francium, etc can also all be used.


Different fuels for different reactor types. When you speak of "current" technology it's a little misleading.

There are some pilot and research reactors out there, but Gen IV reactors aren't build for power yet. Countries currently building reactors require uranium. SOME current reactors can run on modified fuels that have recovered some of the U-235 or plutonium from used fuels, but the processing costs right now are HUGE. It's been shown that it can be done, but it's not commercially viable yet. As such I wouldn't deem it as current.

People talking about fast breeders and pebble bed reactors and other Gen IV designs need to realize that no one's building them for power yet.
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2010
In addition, solar energy is distributed source - it doesn't require so extensive infrastructure (you know - all these transformers and wires).


This is just the opposite. There is not enough energy falling on your home to power it. You need to go way out to open land, maybe way way out into the desert to get your solar fix, so the wiring infrastructure will be more with solar.

Personally, I think you are simplifying things too much. On a clear day, there's 1-kW / m^2 of solar energy. Appropriate sizing of the array is essential. With proper storage, I am willing to bet that most US homes could get by with a 5-kW array. A 10-kW array would likely be overkill for many homes, but would provide significant room to spare for most.
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2010
I humbly suggest that you read "Wind Power" by Paul Gipe. Your suggestion that solar or wind cannot be used as an individual power source in all locations seems based on lack of information.
Actually it's based on a greater consistency of information that you have.

I am not going to argue with you about it since it is clear that you are unaware that off-grid homes exist in the US. As one of many examples, see this site...http://www.off-grid.net/ and try this link, too http://www.bing.c...p;sc=8-0

People have been doing this for decades. GaryB is more likely an industry shill who expects people to take his non-evidence based authoritarian position at face value. Unfortunately, he is not presenting the full story.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2010
People talking about fast breeders and pebble bed reactors and other Gen IV designs need to realize that no one's building them for power yet.

The US and France built and used them for electricity before 1960 so I'm not sure where you've gotten that information. They are not widespread by any means, but your statement is incorrect.
Most forms of nuclear power are shutdown very easily, simply allow the neutrons to shunt away from the re-enrichment process.

What does that mean?
In the re-enrichment process if you shunt the neutrons away from the reactor core the reaction stops as it runs out of fuel. This is current reactor design, and it is not in service in the US.
I am not going to argue with you about it since it is clear that you are unaware that off-grid homes exist in the US.
I never said offgrid homes didn't exist. Find me a whole city block that is off grid and then your point can stand. Until then a grid is necessary.
Javinator
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
I'm not saying they've never been built for power, I said no one is building them for power. I meant more what's going on today. Power reactor designs being built today around the world today are usually quite similar in the way they produce power (Westinghouse's AP1000, Areva's EPR, CANDU reactors, etc.) There will be small differences such as heavy water vs. light water, operating temps, and fuel enrichments, but the power is generated using the same fission reaction with U-235 and the Pu generated from the U-238 absorbing neutrons.

In the re-enrichment process if you shunt the neutrons away from the reactor core the reaction stops as it runs out of fuel. This is current reactor design, and it is not in service in the US


I more meant what reactor type. I don't know what your terminology means in the context of how a typical fission reactor works (ie. re-enrichment, shunting of neutrons, and the reactor core "running out of fuel"). Always looking to learn.
Javinator
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2010
"Shutting down" a reactor just means that you're making the reaction subcritical so the heat being generated by the fuel is from the decay of fission prducts and not from fission itself.

Generally shutoff/control rods (made from neutron absorbing cadmium or cobalt) are used to control the neutron flux in a reactor. They absorb the neutrons in the moderator to prevent them from causing further fissions.

Some reactors also have "poisons" that are soluble and are injected into the moderator (if it is a liquid moderator) to absorb more neutrons (I think gadollinium is used for that).

Finally some will just dump the moderator (if it's a liquid moderator and not graphite). Dumping the moderator removes the moderator's ability to slow neutrons to the point where they'll cause a fission and will kill the chain reaction (since fast neutrons rarely cause fissions and cannot sustain a chain reaction). Often the moderator is the coolant though so it wouldn't work for all reactors.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2010
I more meant what reactor type. I don't know what your terminology means in the context of how a typical fission reactor works (ie. re-enrichment, shunting of neutrons, and the reactor core "running out of fuel"). Always looking to learn.
Ah apologies, I'm used to people who don't know the difference.
Basically all forms of Breeder require neutron re-enrichment. Primary ones that are feasible and in some cases are currently built or in process: ITER, IFR (SFR, GFR, LFR), TBR, and TWR. There are about 80 more acronyms I could toss out but those are simply modifications of these design types.
Javinator
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2010
Yeah that's why I was confused haha. I was thinking of conventional heavy/light water cooled/moderated reactors as opposed to fast breeders. I guess my mind is always in the commercial. When I hear "current technology" I don't think of what we could be doing, I think of what we are doing (ie. to me right now, "current technology" is Gen III+ reactors).

I'm looking forward to fast breeders and other Gen IV becoming the "current technology".
Javinator
3 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2010
K. Sorry I'm not looking this up myself, but you seem to know.

I really don't understand what neutron re-enrichment is. Are you referring to how in a breeder the material that is fissioning (either U-233, U-235, or Pu-239 generally) produces fast neutrons that are absorbed by the U-238/Th-232 to produce a fissile material (Pu-239 from U-238/U-233 from Th-232)? If the neutrons aren't coming from fission, where are they coming from?

I get the technology, I think the terminology is just throwing me right now.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
I really don't understand what neutron re-enrichment is. Are you referring to how in a breeder the material that is fissioning (either U-233, U-235, or Pu-239 generally) produces fast neutrons that are absorbed by the U-238/Th-232 to produce a fissile material (Pu-239 from U-238/U-233 from Th-232)? If the neutrons aren't coming from fission, where are they coming from?
Correct. The fission process produces neutrons that are redirected into the "spent fuel". To stop the reactor one merely needs to stop redirecting the neutrons back into the material and the fuel drops in temperature and subsequent reactions cease.
GaryB
not rated yet Aug 13, 2010
There is no enough of uranium.


Sea water dude, sea water. Uranium cost is a small fraction of the generation cost so it could go up quite a bit without huge effect. But, it does depend on getting a breeder reactor industry going. I'd go for thorium thermal breeders but wish Mr. Gates well with his traveling wave stuff.
jerryd
1 / 5 (1) Aug 14, 2010
Right now in the US recent nuke bids are $8.5k/kw. Recent PV bids for solar farms are $3-4/kw.

But home nuke is $.15-30kwhr in the US.. Home PV panels are under $2k/kw. So in home units, solar is cheaper than nuke.

Next solar happens when peak happens, thus far more valuable than nuke which many times has to about give it's power away.

Storage with lead batteries is $10/kwhr/yr. Thus buying cheap night power, selling it and solar in the day makes quite a profit today at time of day rates. !!
Burnerjack
not rated yet Aug 15, 2010
Admittedly, this is not exactly the forum for this question, but, concerning baseline power delivery,
What is wrong with geothermal? It would seem reasonable considering the large number of existing firms that have expertise in drilling and others in power generation. In theory, low quality thermal could heat municipal buildings etc. before recyling back down the "rat hole". 24/7 Power under our feet. It has been said in the past that dry oil/gas wells could be utilized to further reduce infrastructure costs. The heat is THERE, just how deep...
ssco00
5 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2010
I have visited a house using solar power due to being in a rural area with no electric lines, gas mains, water, sewer, telephone or cable. Living that way, you have to be pretty self-sufficient and handy enough to perform most of your own maintenance. I hope no one thinks that solar systems are maintenance free. I also point out that the large power users in the house, range, refrigerator, furnace, drier, and air conditioner were gas powered using propane that is trucked in. And I will add that this is Arizona where there is an abundance of sun. None of what that home owner did would be very practical in Ohio or Michigan where I lived in the past. Here many people use solar as a supplement to the grid, but not much more. System components do have finite life, require maintenance, and ultimately replacement. On a dollar basis, they rarely break even.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 16, 2010
Right now in the US recent nuke bids are $8.5k/kw. Recent PV bids for solar farms are $3-4/kw.
Not including maintenance or staffing.
But home nuke is $.15-30kwhr in the US.. Home PV panels are under $2k/kw. So in home units, solar is cheaper than nuke.
Try again, that is not a logical or apt comparison.

Next solar happens when peak happens, thus far more valuable than nuke which many times has to about give it's power away.
What?
Storage with lead batteries is $10/kwhr/yr. Thus buying cheap night power, selling it and solar in the day makes quite a profit today at time of day rates. !!

Except lead batteries have to be replaced every 3 to 5 years. Factor that cost in as they cannot be disposed of through traditional means.
Joey_English
not rated yet Aug 20, 2010
What about a combination of wind, solar & ground heat pumps? Heat pumps take heat from a large surface area of piping dug into the local property area, concentrates the heat which can be used to supply central heating & hot water for the property.

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