Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I think a main problem for nuclear power now is economics. Within the electricity market as it is constructed today, nuclear has a problem.

Gas or hydro or whatever is used as topload, is turned on when prices are high and of when prices are low, so they get the high rates. Nuclear and wind and solar are price takers, they run normally as much as they can (which for nuclear is static (or down for maintenance) and for wind and solar is variable).

So nuclear competes within the same market segment as wind and solar which has extremely low marginal costs in operation, and is cheaper to install. Absent massive subsidies or a re-worked market structure new nuclear isn't economically viable.

Of Sweden's twelve reactors, two were closed by political decisions - Barsebäck in 2005 - and of the remaining ten, four is either closed or are shutting down because they are not commercially viable and the cost of getting them up to date was prohibitive. The last six - the newest ones - have undergone extensive renovation.  The closed ones couldn't compete with wind power as investment, and this was already existing plants were, although a lot would be replaced, the site and the plant itself already existed, and the company was renovating other plants.

by fjallstrom on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 08:45:29 AM EST
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In the US, at least, nukes are considered part of the "base load" supply. It is not the reactor that is the problem, it is the boiler and the piping and the turbines that do not like to be thermally cycled. And those parts are pretty much the same in a coal or nuclear plant.

Solar and wind can be curtailed, but are not counted as "dispatchable" power because they cannot be turned on at any time (solar, only in the day; wind, only if it is windy). A gas-turbine can be started from cold in a few minutes.

I think there are some terminology problems, but that is how they are categorized in the US industry.

by asdf on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 06:24:10 PM EST
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The terminology is fine - topload, baseload, intermittent.

As a note: The technologies used as topload can for practical purposes also be used as baseload, and if overbuilt, technologies normally placed in the baseload bin or the intermittent bin can be used to load balance if you set up the system to spill power. And a large enough intermittent grid would go towards a pretty stable average. But let's stick with the conventional terms for now.

Even though the grid is built for baseload plus topload the market, at least in EU, is built around getting paid (and paying) per kWh, with the price set by demand and supply at each moment. And in such a market baseload has no advantage on intermittent, they both simply get the average price over time, so the difference is on the cost side where wind now has the advantage.

The external costs of adapting the grid is laid at the feet of the entity responsible for the grid, but then again they tend to have monopolies, so they manage.

At least in Sweden, we have had this market system since the early 90ies, so my guess is neoliberalism + EU. Other markets are possible, we had a very different energy market before the 90ies, but I don't think a fundamental reform is likely.

by fjallstrom on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 08:57:45 PM EST
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