Friday, March 12, 2010

Relative comparison of energy production methods

A 1000-MW coal plant – our standard plant - is fed by a 110-car
“unit train” arriving at the plant every 30 hours – 300 times a year.
Each individual coal car weighs 100 tons and produces 20 minutes of
electricity. We are currently straining the capacity of the railroad
system moving all this coal around the coun...try. (In China, it has
completely broken down.) A nuclear reactor, on the other
hand, refuels when a fleet of six tractor-trailers arrives at the plant
with a load of fuel rods once every eighteen months. The fuel
rods are only mildly radioactive and can be handled with gloves. They
will sit in the reactor for five years. After those five years, about
six ounces of matter will be completely transformed into energy. Yet
because of the power of E = mc2, the metamorphosis of six ounces of
matter will be enough to power the city of San Francisco for five

Author William Tucker

Is baseload power really required?  Can conservation, solar and wind solve the problem...
This article says yes to baseload power and no to a future without new nuclear, coal, gas power plants:

Operating Expenses

The following graph from NEI shows the breakdown of fuel costs.  Nuclear is expensive upfront requiring large investments and loan guarntees to minimize the risk of investment.  Once built Nuclear is cheap and the KWhr costs are less than that of other utilities.  Hence the large profit that can be made with a reactor.  For example CT attempted to enact a windfall profit tax on utilities for the profit derived from cheap reactor operating costs.

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