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French Utility to Deny Italians Participation in New Nuclear Construction.

by NNadir Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 04:30:36 PM EST

(I haven't been diligent about crossposting here, but I wanted to be sure to crosspost my most recent post at DailyKos, because it is is European in focus.  The original with poll can be found  Here.  The poll is in the original.)

Not so long ago, it was very fashionable in Europe to be anti-nuclear.   Countries whose governments announced either "nuclear phase outs" or "moratoriums" on new nuclear construction include Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

In addition Norway and Denmark have declared that they will not allow nuclear capacity.

Interestingly Norway, which until recently was really powered 100% by renewable energy (hydroelectric) has just built its first fossil fuel powered electrical plant.

Only one country, Italy, had nuclear power and shut all of its plants.   (It is ironic that the first man to build a nuclear reactor was an Italian, Enrico Fermi.)

Decisions about a national anti-nuclear policy always involve the participation of Greenpeace, Greenpeace being an international religious cult that, much as certain religious sects deny evolution, denies that the only alternative to nuclear power is to burn more fossil fuels.  

There is always a vast amount of discussion of the wonders of renewable energy accompanying the "nuclear phase out" mantra, in spite of the fact that it is immediately obvious that the "solar, wind, blah, blah, blah..." praying always omits reference to the fact "solar, wind, blah, blah, blah," (with the exception of things that burn and geothermal) is obviously intermittent, while nuclear is continuous.

Now, speaking only for myself, I find it unsurprising that prayer does not affect physical events.   If you release a lead weight you are holding, it is my opinion that it will always fall no matter how much you pray for it to rise.   Similarly when you shut down nuclear power, it is always the case that the shutting party begins to burn more fossil fuels to replace the nuclear power.   The recitation of 50 expiatory "Hail Solars" and 25 "Our Winds" will not change this fact.

Thus we see that the latest "nuclear phase out," the German one, supervised by a new member of the board of directors of Gazprom - the Russian natural gas consortium - has resulted in new German plants for expanded coal capacity and expanded natural gas imports.  (The member of the Board of Directors of Gazprom is none other than Gerhard Schroeder.)

The result of these new German fossil fuel plants will be to dump dangerous fossil fuel waste indiscriminately into the atmosphere, the most dangerous of these dangerous wastes being carbon dioxide.

But the Germans aren't there yet.   Big nuclear plants still run in Germany.

Italy however, the only country that actually acted on its policy has no such luck.   Italy depends overwhelmingly on fossil fuels and suffers from the highest electricity rates in Europe and, of course, dumps tremendous amounts of dangerous fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere.

Talk in Italy of reopening the shut nuclear plants in Italy has been dead ended by the plants owners who say that the plants were obviously not maintained and that any way, all of the expertise for running the plants is gone.

The Italians, unlike the Dutch, unlike the Swiss, unlike the Swedes, but like the Germans, has not reversed its official anti-nuclear policy, but they are very actively mulling the matter over.   A few days ago the Italian Foreign Minister moderated a pro-nuclear discussion.   For the short term, in a classic case of NIMBY run wild, the Italians have been begging the French - who never even thought of a "nuclear phase out" to let them help build the new French nuclear plant at Flamanville.   (Italy also buys a considerable amount of Slovenian nuclear power.)

Initially EDF, the French nuclear utility agreed to let Enel, the Italian utility participate.   In this way the Italians hoped to rebuild some expertise that was lost with the shutting of the Italian nuclear plants.

Well, the French changed their minds:

Electricité de France (EdF) has said it will take all the output from the forthcoming Flamanville 3 reactor, going back on an understanding to supply 12.5% of the power to Italy's largest utility, Enel.

In May 2005 chiefs from EdF and Enel met in Rome to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to the effect that Enel would participate in the Flamanville 3 project and take 200 MWe of the unit's 1600 MWe output. Furthermore, Enel would participate in the design, construction and operation of the unit, and have the opportunity to exercise the same involvement in the next six such reactors built in France. At the time, Enel CEO Fulvio Conti said: "This agreement... will enable us to recover our skills in nuclear energy with a project that puts us at the cutting edge of technology."

However, EdF CEO Pierre Gadonneix recently said that EdF would take Flamanville 3's entire output and that the project represents an opportunity for France and EdF to renew its skills for export to other countries...

 Italy's Enel Disappointment.

It is important to keep in mind that nuclear technology depends on intellectual expertise and experience.   Maybe someone should gently break this to the Germans before it is too late.

to find a single piece of news in French on this, as of tonight. Will try again tomorrow.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 07:14:17 PM EST
My source is the World Nuclear News.
by NNadir on Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 08:39:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is just off the cuff but as I recall the nuclear plant in Italy was closed through a national referendum before it was fully operative in the 80's. However Italy had always had a substantial share in the superphoenix and perhaps other French ventures.

The irony was that Italy was working in a nuclear plant just across the border all the time.

There have been talks of bringing the issue up again after this 20-odd year moratorium.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 03:40:24 PM EST
As far as I can see the problem is a hell of lot more complex than what you depict. The Finland plant will not be operative until at least 2010. That's 13 years to build a plant. Nuclear plants appear to be high financial risks because of the variations in costs of energy. According to Steve Thomas of the University of Greenwich a plant has to run 60 years at 85% capacity to repay itself at a stable cost of kilowatt-hours. France's EdF can write off losses to consumers while in Finland the shareholders are the major consumers. Sort of captive markets. In Britain the government had to bail out British Energy in 2002 to avoid bankruptcy.

As for the EdF-Enel accord, it dates back to 2005 and seems nothing more than a classic business operation, certainly not "begging." There is a hell of a lot of under-the-table kicking in the story that involves protectionist actions first by the Italians against EdF on the Italian market and recently by the French in the Gaz de France-Suez merger. That Edf reneged on Flamanville is news to me, nor have I found anything in the press on it.

Enel did buy 66% of Slovenske Elektrarne which has nuclear plants in April 2006.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 05:11:57 PM EST
for 60 years to pay themselves, off.

I have no idea who Steve Thomas is, nor do I really care.   Many people are wrong about this subject.

According to the Tarjenne study, nuclear power is the most competitive choice for Sweden.

I note that the grand renewable future has been under discussion since the early 1970's and still has not produced 5 exajoules of primary energy on the entire planet as a whole.   So if long time periods are critical issues, we should immediately give up on renewable energy on the grounds that it is a failure.

The ground breaking on the EPR in Finland.

I don't know how addition and subtraction is done in Europe, but the plant was ordered in 2003, and thus if it comes on line in 2010, that will be 7 years and not 13.

Each subsequent reactor may take far less time as procedures are streamlined.

Finally this plant is subject to FOAKE (First of a Kind Engineering) delays.   These are hardly catastrophic, certainly not as catastrophic as the German failure to address the growth in their energy consumption by posturing mindlessly about wind and solar power.

by NNadir on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 06:00:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To the best of my knowledge the Finnish EPR Olkiluoto3 project dates to 1997. If a cornerstone was laid in 2005 that's fine with me.

It's interesting to note that Finland's European Pressurized Reactor is a joint French-German project (Framatone-Siemens) with the participation of some 26 nations. The water-cooling system is Italian. Some 60 companies, mostly foreign, are lined up to buy the energy produced.

So despite local political choices, Europe has certainly not abandoned nuclear power. In fact the Council of Economic Cooperation which unites some 100 companies of the "Latin" members of the UE strongly reccomends it.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 06:11:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Every single power option, from natural gas plants, to coal plants, to nuclear plants is subject to debate.   To assert that this is only true in the nuclear case is exceptionalism.

The actual construction started in 2005, and is now 2 years under way.


I am happy that all of Europe is participating in the construction of this plant.   This bodes well for the future of Europe.

by NNadir on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 03:07:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 05:00:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 France's EdF can write off losses to consumers while in Finland the shareholders are the major consumers.

EDF is the most profitable company in France (it has had a bigger operating profit than Total, the oil company, for the past two years, despite the fact that its turnover is less thna half Total's). That reflects the fact that its production costs are the lowest, by far, in Europe.

And not that this is not the reuslt of past subsidies. EDF has been paying money to the French government for the past 25 years, not the other way around. And French electricity prices are the lowest in Europe (escept for a couple of Scandinavian countries that have access to plenty of hydro power).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 06:26:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EdF has a monopoly contrary to the situation in Italy and GB. When there was a monopoly in Italy there was an item on every bill, a surcharge to every single consumer, because Italy no longer allowed nuclear energy as of 1987. In a monopoly the consumer has no choice but to pay the bill.

I should have used "could" instead of "can" since apparently the case has never occurred, unlike the case in England in which the government had to take action.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 05:38:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by NNadir on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 03:13:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Total Cost of an energy plant is:

Cost of Build + Cost of Operation (Fuel plus Maintenance/Management) + Cost of Decommissioning

"Fuel" costs for renewables like tidal, wind and solar are zero: costs of Operation are also minimal.

Now it seems to me that not only is the fuel cost of nuclear non-zero, but that it can only go one way - particularly in terms of the "energy cost" of fuel extraction/production.

I am not sure about the costs of nuclear decommissioning, but it seems to me that in relative terms at least decommissioning renewables is again hugely financially superior to nuclear.

So unless I am missing something, the total cost of energy produced over time (I am leaving financing costs out of this) is relatively certain for renewables, and relatively uncertain for nuclear.

So while nuclear energy may be "cheap" now, is it REALLY going to stack up relative to renewables over the long term......

Using the "asset-based" (as opposed to conventional debt/equity) financial model I advocate - which is simply to sell a proportion of the "Energy Pool" of future production to Investors at current prices or even a discount - most renewable energy projects stack up at current prices and are literally "self funding".

But I can't really use the model for nuclear because of the unknown costs of fuel and decommissioning.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 11:02:22 AM EST
industry is so small.

The fuel cost for nuclear power plants is "too cheap to meter."   The capital costs are another matter.

The quadrupling of uranium prices in recent times has not impacted the cost of nuclear power very much.

Renewable plants are not free and never have been.   They never will be.  There is a lot of misreprentation on this subject.

by NNadir on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 03:12:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like nuclear power, renewables have large capital costs, but 1) they don't have military applications; 2) because they are not fuel-based, they are not deployable and scalable at will, nor do they operate at will.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 03:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"not fuel" based is open.

I really can't think of a renewable that doesn't involve the use of heat to make the materials used in it.

It is true that the military applications of renewable energy are very small, although the diversion of alcohol for military purposes, largely the entertainment of soldiers, is known.   This is probably because renewable energy has a very low energy density and is not widely utilized.

It is certainly arguable whether the prime use of nuclear technology is military however.   I wish that the military use of oil would lead to people calling for its ban.

by NNadir on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 04:49:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And heat cannot be obtained from a solar furnace, or from geothermal sources, or from converting electricity. Get real.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 05:07:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is certainly arguable whether the prime use of nuclear technology is military however.   I wish that the military use of oil would lead to people calling for its ban.

Have you heard of the Manhattan Project or of the NPT?

And, of course, the military has a need for unlimited flexibility and mobility, hence the need for fuel-based propulsion for all military vehicles.

Ethanol for booze is so bad a joke I wonder if you are even taking my comment seriously.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 05:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess I have never heard about the Manhattan Project or the NPT.

Why don't you tell me about them?

Before you do though, should I provide a list of countries that have nuclear power and not nuclear weapons, or do you believe that such countries do not exist?  

I don't assert that the primary use for fossil fuels is military, although I do call for banning fossil fuels.   I do assert that the use of fossil fuels is unacceptably dangerous even without the military applications.

Do you claim that the majority of the world's demand for, say, uranium is military?

by NNadir on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 05:41:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Based of earlier discussions on this site regarding fuel cycles and reactor designs, I am going to claim that current technology is the result of the "need" for "dual-use" facilities.

Why don't you provide a list of countries with nuclear reactors that are not believed to be able to produce nuclear weapons shortly if they decide to do so? For instance, it is generally agreed that Japan could get a nuke in a year if it wanted to.

Now, you asked the question of why the renewable industry is "so small". Let me make my point more clearly, since you managed to misunderstand it.

The nuclear industry got a head start from military applications around WWII. That is a huge government subsidy. In the 1940's and 50's power production was pretty much a side effect of the fuel cycle. I made no claims about current uranium demand, that has little to do with the size and maturity of the nuclear industry.

And I did say that a lot of our technology is fuel-based because fuels provide mobility, autonomy and escalability almost on demand.

Does that explain why renewables are smaller than they might otherwise be?

So, whether or not you think fossil fuels are unacceptably dangerous, the military is going to continue to use fuels. And if they cannot be fossil they will be synthetic (from nuclear or renewable electricity).

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 06:09:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read you as saying "I am pro nuclear and that´s that!"  I fail to find a point in the rest of assumptions and assertions.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 03:34:53 PM EST
Decisions about a national anti-nuclear policy always involve the participation of Greenpeace, Greenpeace being an international religious cult that, much as certain religious sects deny evolution, denies that the only alternative to nuclear power is to burn more fossil fuels.
You probably think you have done this already, but please spell out your requirements for energy sources that rule out renewable energy as an alternative to nuclear.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 03:45:13 PM EST
cannot make napalm from oil in a few moments if they choose to do so.

You have a very poor understanding of nuclear technology, I think.

The list of countries that cannot make nuclear weapons simply is rather long and consists of all nations that have nuclear power and not enrichment facilities.   Included among such nations are nations like Belgium, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina (which once had a weapons program and reactors but the weapons program failed, Finland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary, Romania...

Two nations have nuclear weapons and no commercial nuclear reactors.   Can you name them?

As for your rather bizarre appreciation of the Manhattan Project "jump starting" nuclear power, how is it exactly that even a 50 year head start cannot be overcome with respect to renewable energy?  

Is it your contention that renewable energy looks good because of this failure?   Did discussion of renewable energy begin last week or was it a little earlier?   Is there some way to account for the fact that renewable energy has been enormously politically popular for many decades while people have been protesting nuclear power and still nuclear prevails?

Would you like me to reproduce Admiral Hyman Rickover's 1957 speech on the future of renewable energy (and nuclear energy) or will you take my word that I can produce it?

This may come as a big surprise, but renewable energy is not 20 years old.   It is thousands of years old.  Thus it had a significant head start on nuclear energy, nuclear energy being the only new form of energy discovered in more than a century.   Renewable energy was abandoned by humanity and once was humanity's sole source of energy.  

I would submit that the return on investment in renewable energy, measured in units of energy divided by units of currency has been very small and will have quite some time to go before it catches up to the return provided by nuclear energy.    

In any case, the primary energy produced by nuclear energy is about 30 exajoules per year, making it the largest single greenhouse gas free producer primary energy there is.   If you are imagining that a 470 exajoule per year source of energy can be ignored in times of climate change, you are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

One need not oppose renewable energy to insist that nuclear power, with all its risks - and there are some even though they are grotesquely over stated - is absolutely essential to human survival.

by NNadir on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 09:53:17 PM EST

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 05:46:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good story, I haven't been writing enough on the nuclear subject recently.

I guess Enel will have to beg EdF to please let them finance another EPR, in France.

ENEL is also in the process of buying 66% of the Slovak Electric utility which operates six nuclear power reactors, and ENEL's investment plan for SE approved in 2005 by the Slovak government includes EUR 1.6 billion for completion of Mochovce nuclear power plant - 942 MWe gross - by 2011-12.

On top of this there is a 650 MW Westinghouse PWR in Slovenia at Krsko (yes, really spelled like that) which is half owned by Croatia, but I am not aware of plans for new ones. Any Slovenians or Croatians around?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 03:41:24 PM EST

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