Joe Biden’s “I have a plan” climate plan sounds like a loser

When it comes to man-made climate change, there are two kinds of people: those who take it seriously enough, and those who don’t.

Joe Biden says he has a climate plan, but everything I hear about it (from both Joe and his opponents) leads me to believe he’s in the second group: he doesn’t take it seriously enough. Not even close. Anyone who claims we can deal with the problem but avoid a “radical transformation of the economy” is a fool, for two reasons.

First, without a radical transformation of the economy we can’t deal with the problem.

Second, no matter what we do — fight global warming or not — there’s going to be a radical transformation of the economy. If we don’t fight climate change and fight hard, the transformation is going to get ugly.

Sorry, Joe, but when you’re sick, refusing to take your medicine doesn’t work. We don’t need a “middle of the road” plan, and “compromise” is what will kill us.


The U.K. Guardian seems to agree.


42 responses to “Joe Biden’s “I have a plan” climate plan sounds like a loser

  1. If the election were held today, I think a weak planner that beats trump would be better than a strong planner that frightens voters and loses. Maybe a year from now things will be different.

  2. David B. Benson

    One might start by reading “Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air” by the late David MacKay. But even that is not enough. It is highly desirable to remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One way is by planting trillions of trees.

    Trees used to grow in the Sahara desert and do now in the Siwa oasis; palm trees as far as the eye can see. It is only necessary to add water. See “Irrigated Afforestation of the Sahara desert and the Australian outback to …” by Ornstein et al., pdf freely available via the abstract.

    I recommend starting right away.

    • From Orenstein (2009): “International mechanisms for monitoring and managing (without mangling or strangling) such projects will be essential. This may be the most difficult hurdle.” Actually, the most difficult hurdle is “starting right away.”

  3. Susan Anderson

    Disgusted with Biden, who’s been going along to get along all his life. Sure he’s done some good things (and a few bad ones), but Mr. Nice Guy is a pain. Unfortunately, most people are paying attention to the wrong stuff.

  4. Fair enough to criticize Biden and his plans. (I can’t stand him, even though he would be preferable to the Cheeto.) OTOH, can’t you find a better messenger than right wing nut job hate-anything-D Faux News?

  5. Poor Joe, he doesn’t know, delay means defeat,
    “If you don’t solve it fast, then you don’t solve it”
    Half Way Joe, is no way to go.

  6. If really is trying “to appeal to … blue-collar voters who voted for President Trump” then he truly is deluded on what is needed. No Trump voter (or very few of them) is going to vote for what is needed to combat climate change (and the biodiversity crisis), so Biden seems to have no idea about the scale and nature of the problems we face.

  7. Biden’s son Hunter is on the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company. I think he needs to have a hard talk to his son before he can expect anyone to trust him on climate. Biden is better than Trump, but that’s a very low bar: I prefer politicians who do not have close family connections to the fossil fuel industry.

  8. There was an interesting segment on NPR’s “On The Media” about the “electability trap” that contended that Democrats are in danger of simply opting for an Old White Guy because that’s what Presidents look like. The thing is that Biden has failed in multiple Presidential runs. Shouldn’t that speak to electability. Joe doesn’t have the discipline to avoid getting sucked into the Trump shit show. He’s already stooping to Trump’s level of name-calling

  9. Another from the guardian on Biden.
    Gas, nuclear and carbon capture.
    Without reigniting the nuclear debate for the hundredth time.
    We dont have time.
    We dont have time to build enough nuclear plants.
    We dont have time to build new gas infrastructure and wait fifty years for its economic life time to end.
    We dont have time to develop and build out the scale of CCS needed.
    It has been thirty one years since Hansen addressed congress.
    We have wasted those years and done worse than nothing continuing to shit even more on the only planet we have.
    There is no time limit there is only the longer it takes the worse it is going to be .
    At the rate we are going the only thing that will save us is we will collapse the worlds economy before we get to hot house earth.

    It is not what we know that really concerns it is what unknowns are out there waiting to take us by surprise.

    Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming

  10. David Lewis

    The Guardian newspaper summed up the Green New Deal as “a national mobilization against climate change on a par with the second world war”. As I understand it, everyone is going to have a job, everyone will have medical insurance, and the planet will be saved. We’re all going to live happily ever after.

    No one is going to be able to come up with a plan that can compete with that. Does it matter?

    How will all this be accomplished? How will the Green New Deal supporters deal with Republicans, who all say they believe climate science is a hoax?

    FDR wasn’t able to mobilize the US to enter WWII until after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The population of the US had to be aroused.

    I’ve been observing climate plans come and go since 1988. The reason all the progressive politicians have to have a plan now is because polls are indicating climate is near or at the top of mind, in the minds of likely primary voters. This hasn’t happened quite this way before. There is no telling whether this state of affairs will last into the general election, never mind to when it comes time to pass the first budget after the 2020 election. But let’s assume it does.

    Its quite possible that the Senate will still be controlled by the Republican Party after the 2020 election, even if a clear majority of US citizens support immediate implementation of some sort of Green New Deal. Even if a large majority of voters voting for Senators in the US in the 2020 election vote for Senators pledged to immediately implement the Green New Deal. There are a load of red states with hardly anyone living in them who each send the same number of Senators to Washington as New York and California.

    You can’t be a Republican and support anything but dismantling anything that might even sound like its a policy that is aimed at doing the slightest thing about climate.

    What is your preferred candidate, whoever that is, going to do about a Republican controlled Senate, or a Republican controlled Senate and Presidency, or a US government that, after 2020, happens to be completely controlled by Republicans? Call for armed rebellion?

    The priority is to gain control of the Congress and Presidency. I don’t support Biden, but I’d vote for him if he became the nominee of the Democratic Party.

    • You can’t be a Republican and support anything but dismantling anything that might even sound like its a policy that is aimed at doing the slightest thing about climate.

      Not quite:

      Though Senator Graham–whose office I have phoned as a constituent numerous times in order to register various disapproving comments–doesn’t dare speak up on the topic too often.

      And there are a few others, as well, though Graham may be the most powerful GOPer to accept some version of climate reality.

      (None of which, however, does much to refute the notion that if you give a tinker’s about climate, you should reliably vote Democrat, as indeed I currently do. After all, Graham’s professed desire to address the climate problem has not led him to avoid becoming a Trump sycophant, despite his earlier decrying of 45’s numerous and highly evident shortcomings.)

  11. russellseitz

    James Hansen was more succinct than The Guardian about AOC’s GND. He called it “nonsense.”

    [Response: Notice that I have removed the link to your claim. That’s because your link to Hansen’s statement was such an extreme case of “absolutely no context” that if there were an Oscar category for “most misleading out-of-context bullshit,” you’d be nominated.

    Also: anybody who links to a page pushing the “American Thinker” banner is linking to an evil, racist page. “American Thinker” is new-speak for racist homophobic misogynist greedy bastards, who only depart from the love of money to find new ways to commit evil.

    Are you one of those people?]

  12. russellseitz

    Tamino, there is no link to The American Thinke in my post, just an animated parody gif of that idiotarian website’s masthead.

    Please open your mind long enough to take a look at Hansen’s full video quote:

    • I don’t hear anything in Hansen’s quote that indicates he actually understands what it is, and what it is not. I agree with what he *does* say–which has to do with justice and equity between developed and developing nations in terms of emissions and, well, development–but it has nothing whatever to do with the policy directions laid out in the GND. The closest he comes is to say “we need to understand how economics works”–but one must concede that that is awfully vague. And coming from a guy who thinks that we can build reactors fast enough to affect emissions in the time frame we have, I’d have questions about Dr. Hansen’s view of the relevant economics.

      Hansen is a great climate scientist, an activist of courage and integrity, and I deeply appreciate and admire those qualities. But that doesn’t mean he’s always right.

      • Doc, you have to build _something_ really fast (or just stop doing a load of stuff). Wind and solar is still at something like 3.5-4% of energy, fossils are still 87%. Allowing for that fossil usage mostly being primary energy at low efficiency conversion to electricity, that’s still say 40% of the energy to rebuild as something non-fossil i.e. 10 times as much as we’ve done in the last couple of decades, essentially in the next decade. Replacing some of that with nuclear is not particularly less practical than replacing it all with solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. Either is an epic, and increasingly implausible, task. If you can build all that in renewables in a decade then you can build some nuclear in that timescale too.

        Thorcon’s shipyard-built design is particularly interesting in terms of being quick to build (and being a molten salt reactor) – it would be nice if someone was at least building one of them to see how it goes.

        To be clear I’m quite happy if we decarbonise entirely with renewables, I just find using the argument that ‘it’s too late’ to dismiss nuclear, unconvincing.

      • “Replacing some of that with nuclear is not particularly less practical than replacing it all with solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. Either is an epic, and increasingly implausible, task. If you can build all that in renewables in a decade then you can build some nuclear in that timescale too.”

        All available evidence suggests that that is untrue.

        RE deployment rates still need to increase by roughly a factor of 10, but nuclear capacity is still, I think, actually shrinking. AND it’s not modular, which RE is, AND it’s nearly unfinanceable AND (IMO) we’d need to train an unrealistic number of skilled personnel to do the buildout. There’s more, but no, the cases are not even remotely parallel.

      • A couple of additional (though still all-too-quick) comments further to Wookey’s substantial one above.

        1) Re share of the power “pie”: I prefer to avoid the primary energy metric most of the time as the solutions lie in different, though interconnected, realms, and as relating primary power to electric generation has a way of engendering confusion, what with multiple units, data sources and conversions, and the complications of a rapidly changing energy system structure.

        So let me just point out that, per Forbes (though drawing on a recent IRENA report) fully 1/3 of the global grid’s installed capacity is now provided by renewable energy:

        Of the new power capacity added in 2018, 2/3s were from RE.

        Capacity, of course, is one thing; actual generation is another. But here, too, RE is growing dramatically, per IRENA:

        Click to access IRENA_Renewable_Energy_Statistics_2018.pdf

        Sadly, the generation stats seem to arrive with much more of a lag, but at the top of page 3 it tells us that in 2016 the world generated 5,885,504 GWh, up 58% from 3,725,192 in 2008. For context, total world generation was ~25 TWh in the same year, putting RE’s share of generation at around 25%. (Back in 2008, the total was ~20 TWh, with RE’s proportion working out to about 18.5%.)

        And yes, that still leaves a lot to do–I’d like to see uptake happening about 10x faster than it is. Still, the observed rate is both remarkable and encouraging, far exceeding anything projected just a few years ago.

        2) I was a bit hasty in responding to this bit: “If you can build all that in renewables in a decade then you can build some nuclear in that timescale too.”

        After all, there’s an awful lot of wiggle room in “some.” Just one reactor would qualify, and we’re definitely going to see more than that just in China. Heck, if Southern Power holds on to complete the Vogtle expansion in the face of continuing delays and mounting losses, we’ll
        see more than that just in the US state of Georgia.

        But when you can generate a MWh of electricity for $30-60 using wind, or $43-53 with solar PV, do you really want to pay $112-183 for nuclear?

        And given that we have terawatts to build and very little time to do it, does it make sense to put a large proportion of our investment money into the technology that can cost up to 6x more? Especially when build times are also about 3x longer?

        3) And last, let’s consider the build time problem. In the western world, of course, we have a pervasive history of prolonged projects. Let’s consider a few:

        Vogtle expansion (US, Georgia)
        Initial application, 2006; initial permit, 2009; expected completion, 2022 (16 years total)

        Hinkley Point C (UK)
        Site announced, 2010; initial concrete pour, 2018, expected completion, 2025 (15 years total)

        Olkiluoto 3 (Finland)
        Application, 2000; approval & construction, 2005; expected completion, 2020 (20 years total)

        Summer expansion (US, South Carolina)
        Application, 2008; approval & construction, 2012; expected completion, never (project abandoned in 2017 with $9 billion in direct losses)

        China is often cited as doing better, and that is true. But the difference is rather less marked than sometimes represented. If you take the 6 reactors online or under construction at Yangjiang, the 5 currently operation all took 5 or 6 years to build, and the sixth appears likely to do the same. However, we know planning went back to at least 2004, so it would appear that even in China it takes 9-10 years to bring a reactor project online. That’s about 2-5 times longer than it takes to build a solar or wind farm.

        So, to me, the ‘climate opportunity cost’ of nuclear is way too high. I do think maintaining some existing nuclear capacity (which may in practice may mean building some new reactors to replace aged ones) may be useful, as with increasing penetration of renewables having some ‘firming capacity’ may well be a very good thing–even with the plummeting cost of battery storage.

  13. David B. Benson

    Those interested in the question of the burial of nuclear so-called waste are encouraged to read the recent piece by James Conca @ Forbes on Nuclear Waste Disposal; he is an expert.

  14. David B. Benson

    Doc Snow asks why build expensive nuclear power plants? I don’t know but Turkey contracted with Rosatom for US $124/MWh for 4 VVER-1200 nuclear power plants. However, Rosatom appears to claim a 90 year design life. After the reactors are paid for in 30 years the price should drop to below US $32/MWh. Inexpensive and dispatchable as well.

    • Michael D Sweet.

      David Benson:

      Please provide data to support your claim of 90 year life. According to Rosatom they have a 60 year life. Wild, false nuclear claims are common on the internet.

      Promises of cheap power in 45 years are easy to make and hard to deliver. Renewable energy is cheap now and will continue to be cheap.

      They have found cracks in the concrete foundation of the first reactor in Turkey. Rosatom is trying to sell its stake in the project.

      According to Wiipedia: “On 12 January 2015, it was reported that the signatures of specialists on a government-sanctioned environmental impact report had been forged. The specialists had resigned six months prior to its submission,”. Several European MP’s want the plant cancelled because it does not comply with EU environmental rules. Normal people feel uncomfortable when they know the builders are willing to forge critical paperwork. What about their safety concerns???

      You previously claimed that the first UAE plant was completed on time in 2016. According to Power Technology, the first UAE plant was completed in May, 2018 (I found references to completion in March, May and December 2018 what is the real number?) You must withdraw your false claim that the plant completed construction in 2016.

      Apparently there are serious construction defects that they are attempting to repair.

      The article you linked that says the nuclear industry has been ignorant of the easy solution to their waste problem for the past 30 years does not make anyone feel safer. It really does not matter since nuclear is uneconomic and the materials for the plants do not exist.


      The 15 year delay before any power is delivered by nuclear power results in very large carbon emissions. It only takes 5 years to build a renewable plant.
      If the $10 billion per nuclear plant were spent on renewable plants for 10 years there would be reduced emissions. These emissions can never be recovered. And the renewable plants are cheaper for the same amount of power.

      In any case, the most aggressive nuclear plans I have seen propose using nuclear to produce 50% of electricity. Since electricity is only 20% of all power, renewable energy would be needed for the other 90% of all power.

      Nuclear does not work well with renewable energy. In a renewable world storage for windless nights is needed, baseload is not valuable.

      • David B. Benson

        Michael D Sweet:

        In an earlier comment I corrected misunderstandings about decommissioning funding in the USA.

        Now Rosatom: yes, Rosatom claims a 60 year “service” life. That is not what I wrote. That is, based on pressurized water reactors to date, one fully expects operation for up to 90 years.

        Rosatom is willing to sell a share of the 4 reactors in Turkey, but does have a BOO contract to deliver upon. By the way, since Turkey is not a member of the EU it doesn’t matter what those ignoranti state. What does matter is satisfying the Turkish regulators acting with IAEA guidance.

        With regard to Kepco in the UAE, you misquote me. I stated, and continue to state, that Kepco delivered on time and in budget. You fail to understand the contract with the UAE.

        Oh yes. France continues to provide about 75% of electricity from it’s fleet of reactors.

      • Michael D Sweet.

        David Benson,
        I note that you have provided no citations or data to support your wild claim that Rosatom reactors have a 90 year life. I have linked Rosatom’s site to show they only claim a 60 year life. Nuclear plants uniformly close well before their claimed design life.

        It is impossible to have a rational discussion with someone who claims a reactor was built on time and on budget when construction was due in 2016 and supposed to be generating in 2017. I have linked citations to show they celebrated construction “completion” in 2018 and expect electricity in 2020 if they can get the Dubai Nuclear regulators to approve their severe construction defects. They cannot be on budget when they are at least 3 years behind schedule.

        According to Particle Physicist Michael Dittmar “nuclear energy is not a solution to our energy worries but part of the problem.” He is against research on new reactors because the money is better spent on renewable energy. You can hardly say he is afraid of radioactive waste.

        The French Nuclear Regulatory agency has stated “At the present stage of development, IRSN does not have all the necessary data to determine whether the systems under review are likely to offer a significantly improved level of safety compared with Generation III reactors,” . Claims generation 4 designs are safe are industry propaganda.

        Your claim that nuclear reactors do not need to be protected from terrorists is transparently insane.

        Your reply to my peer reviewed data showing there are not enough rare elements to build out a significant number of reactors with “go find the answer yourself”shows that you are not interested in establishing the facts.

        It is always a waste of time to debate nuclear proponents on line, I only post to counter your most outrageous lies.

      • David B. Benson

        Michael D Sweet:

        You continue to fail to understand the contract between Kepco and the UAE, instead relying on sources which misinterpret it.

        The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is not a journal of record for economic geology. There are plenty of source materials.

        Mark Jacobson no longer has a reputation. Simply ignore him.

        For a pure energy-only grid, consider ERCOT Texas. There are lots of wind farms, backed up by an even slightly greater growth in gas turbines. The 2 nuclear power stations there successfully compete in the day ahead market with no crying about bailouts. Nobody is proposing to build another in that market.

        It might be helpful for you to read in the
        BNC Discussion Forum
        section on Energy the thread
        Simplified Grid Dispatching.

        By the way, Rosatom is building yet another pair of VVER-1200 for the Chinese despite the fact that the Chinese have 2 or 3 designs of their own.

  15. ‘3) And last, let’s consider the build time problem.’
    October 1973 -the first OPEC oil shock triples oil prices. In France, 40% of the electricity is generated from oil, and less than 10% from nuclear.
    1974- Pierre Messmer, French Prime Minister, sets in place a plan to switch to nuclear.
    1989 – Total power production has more than doubled, and 80% is from nuclear.
    The laws of physics haven’t changed, so what could be done in 15 years then, should be possible now. For comparison, Italy rejected nuclear after Chernobyl, and, after the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 2007, put in generous solar power subsidies. These eventually resulted in Italy having the world’s highest percentage of its power from solar (about 8% – it helps that they get a lot more sun than Germany!) before the costs became so excessive that most of the subsidies were ended. Despite which, Italy still gets more power from nuclear than from solar – about 10%, imported from France – and has average carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector about six times higher than France.
    Incidentally, the United States built about twice as much nuclear capacity as France did, also mostly in about a 15 year period, and also largely replaced the oil-fired power plants it had previously. Neither country built as many reactors as originally planned, for a number of reasons – rampant inflation, political opposition, radiophobia – but it’s clearly doable.

    • In addition to what sod said:

      –The 1974 Messmer plan wasn’t the *start* of the planning process, but more a culmination, so the total period for the French expansion should take that fact into account.

      “The plan envisaged the construction of around 80 nuclear plants by 1985 and a total of 170 plants by 2000… France installed 56 reactors over the next 15 years.”

      So, realization of the ’85 goal was missed by about 30% and five years. And the number of French reactors really hasn’t changed much since ’89; about ten have come online since, but largely that’s offset by retirements. See the list here:

      So the 2000 goal was abandoned completely. And today, France plans to scale back the percentage of nuclear generation to ~50%. We could discuss putative reasons for that, but the bottom line is, that is the reality.

      So, summing up, France never got close to eliminating fossil fuels; they did it in a highly undemocratic manner that would be impossible today in most any democratic society, including France–per the link above, the Messmer plan never had *any* parliamentary debate!–and the nation isn’t particularly pleased with the results today. Yet this is the cherry-picked poster child for ‘we can save the planet with nuclear!’

      –It isn’t the “laws of physics” that are the problem with building reactors; it’s the laws of economics. And you’re right, they haven’t changed. The economic constraints that curtailed the Messmer plan apply in still apply today, and rather more so, given the demonstrated financial risks of nuclear development. Ask former execs at Tepco, Westinghouse, or SCANA–if you can find them. They tend to lie pretty low, I expect; they don’t want to draw attention to their golden parachutes.

      • France didn’t completely decarbonise, but it made a far better start than any other developed country – they’re the world’s seventh largest economy, but nineteenth for CO2 emissions, with CO2 per capita well below that of peer countries like Germany and the UK. Part of the reason for the failure to complete the plan was violent organised opposition . In Brittany and Anjou, rioters prevented plans for reactors that would have filled out the geographical grid, so the country’s largest coal plant was built there instead. Thousands of demonstrators, many from Germany, also delayed the building of the Superphenix reactor that could have reused spent fuel, and a later Green party candidate got hold of a bazooka from some of Carlos the Jackal’s mates, and fired at the site, though without major damage. In the end, Superphenix was axed so that the Greens would support the Socialist government – after it had finally got through its technical and bureaucratic delays, and run a respectable capacity factor for its last nine months.
        Current president Macron has adopted the former government’s goal to reduce nuclear from 75% to 50% of power production, but unlike them he has stipulated that will not happen if it leads to increased emissions – which it certainly would. Former Energy Minister Segolene Royal probably spent too much time on websites like this one – she proposed giving two perfectly functional power plants to Elon Musk to turn into a car factory, and ordered the construction of a thousand kilometres of solar roads.

      • And all that, too, is a reality which you can’t wish away. You and I may not agree with the predicates or the depth of anti-nuclear feeling which for various reasons exists. But it does, and if a massive nuclear build program were to be seriously contemplated, it would have to enter the political calculus. That feeling, as you’ve just laid out, has existed durably for several decades now. Do you see it magically vanishing in the next 20 years? And what would that mean for the prospects of success in decarbonizing our generation capacity?

        Nuclear power will be around for the foreseeable future and it will play a role in the generation grid. Maybe some day it will even be more important than in the past, with advancing technology fulfilling some of the long-delayed promises we’ve all heard. But today it remains too slow and expensive to build, and yes, too scary politically and financially, to be the ‘silver bullet’ you would like it to be in addressing the present climate crisis.

        Bottom line for me: it just makes no sense to try and replace 70% of our global generation capacity by using a technology which costs several times more than wind and solar on the basis of LCOE, and which takes 9-20 years for unit completion as opposed to 2-5 years. I’m not against nuclear per se; the safety record of the industry has been pretty good on the whole, although when problems happen they can obviously be very large ones! But I do think it’s important to discern which strategy to address the climate crisis can actually work. And I think the probability of massive nuclear build out doing so is very close to zero, for reasons I’ve given.

  16. we simply can not compare build times from the 70s to today. We also can not make assumptions about 90 years life of new nuclear plants and associated costs. Instead it looks like nuclear plants might need a huge do-over after 20 to 30 years which will ruin all calculations.

    renewables are just being deployed faster in the real world, which is a huge problem for nuclear in any competition.

    If we factor this in, nuclear will not save CO2, but increase the use in comparison with fast renewable sources.

  17. Japan, China and South Korea have been building gigawatt-class light water reactors in four years, about the same as the French and Swedes achieved in the seventies, so we haven’t entered some kind of time warp that slows construction – more like a regulatory and policy morass, combined with lack of experience.
    Mark Jacobson claims that the fossil fuels burnt during the ‘ up to fifteen years ‘ a reactor takes to build will fatally compromise its green credentials. He ignores the fact that, once his preferred wind and solar have been built, fossil fuels will in fact be burnt for their entire ( about thirty year ) lifespans, to fill the gaps left by their low capacity factors. A reactor needs about a tenth the steel and concrete needed for the same output from wind, lasts more than twice as long, and doesn’t need any batteries, pumped hydro, or continent scale supergrids to try to compensate for its unreliability. Here’s this months’ ouput in Germany, which has nameplate wind and solar capacity nearly double the usual maximum demand.
    As you can see, it’s getting about 25 GW solar at noon, but three hours before and after that, about half as much.If you click on ‘Import/Export’, nearly half those solar spikes are exported. If all the surrounding countries had similar levels of solar and wind, they’d all be trying to export surpluses at the same time. Cycling fossil power up and down to keep pace uses more fuel than steady work, too. The nukes stopped trying to follow unreliables after a case of fuel damage ensued – they’re nimble enough to follow the more sedate day/night demand fluctuations.

    • “Japan, China and South Korea have been building gigawatt-class light water reactors in four years…”

      I’m not aware of a single example of a reactor going from start of construction to operation in four years, though a couple have come close in South Korea. If you’ve got examples, I’d love to see them. Most SK reactors have taken on the order of 5-6 years, as I see it, and that doesn’t include the permitting process, which takes several more years. It’s about the same for China; the Japanese record I haven’t examined (and don’t have time just now, unfortuntately.)

      • Had a cancellation, so took a few minutes to review the Japanese record, and I have to admit that it is impressive; it appears that they are absolutely the best at building nuclear reactors quickly. There are several that actually came in under 4 years:

        Tsuruga 1 (November ’66-March ’70)
        Mihama 1 (February ’67-November ’70)
        Fukushima Daiichi 1 (July ’67-March ’71)
        Shimane 1 (July ’70-March ’74)
        Ikata 2 (August ’78-March ’82)
        Onagawa 1 (July ’80-June ’84)
        Hamaoka 4 (October ’89-September ’93)

        In addition, several came close. Honorable mentions:

        Shimane 2, (4 years, 8 days)
        Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 (4 years, 4 days)
        Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 7 (4 years, 2 days)
        Onagawa 3 (4 years, 7 days)

        So call it 11 instances, out of a total of 59 in the list. But though there are instances of 6 and 7 year build times, and I think one that took 11, it’s pretty clear that the majority of Japanese reactors were built in roughly five years. Of course (and reiterating) that doesn’t include planning and permitting, which for future builds must be considered.

        Whether 5-year build times would be possible today in Japan is I think dubious, given the chilling effect of Fukushima. Safety will very definitely be prioritized over speed. And I don’t think any new construction is planned right now; rather, the debate is about restarting idled reactors (a process which is proceeding, but slowly and carefully.) There’s a asterisk with that, as there are a couple of reactors at Higashidori which show as “planned”, but I wouldn’t call them “new”–they represent plans that were put on hold post-Fukushima.

      • I want also to look quickly at the renewable energy picture in Japan, by way of giving fuller context. This article is not entirely internally consistent; it would appear that some bits got updated while other relevant bits did not, but I think it’s good enough for ‘back of the envelope’ considerations:

        Per the tables toward the bottom, which do seem to have been updated, in the last 5 years given, installed solar PV capacity went from the 2012 baseline figure of 6,632 MW to 49,750 in 2017. That’s an increase of ~43 GW; call it about 25 ABWR IIs, just for the sake of a specific example.

        In terms of actual generation, solar PV has gone from 1.4% of Japanese electric consumption in 2013 to 6.8% in 2018.

        In terms of wind, the picture is much less impressive but still worth considering. (Japan builds a lot of solar gear domestically, and so ‘likes’ solar a lot better than wind, which is dominated by European firms, plus GE and some large Chinese players.)

        In 2012, Japan had 2,641 MW of installed wind capacity; by 2017 that number had reached 3,399 MW, for an increase of 758 MW, or 28%. That’s less than half an ABWR-II, and total wind capacity for the nation only totals about 2 ABWR-IIs or so.

        I’m not sure why wind uptake in Japan has been so tepid; many jurisdictions have achieved exponential growth sustained over a decade or more, while Japan’s remains more or less linear, and with mean annual increases far below the best year (2008, when over 300 MW were added.) Some of it may be the lack of domestic manufacturing capacity, as noted; some of it may be related to site availability. There’s a tantalizing hint at the latter, in that back in 2013 they were already testing a floating offshore turbine:

        The story notes the fact that Japan doesn’t have a lot of sites suitable for conventional offshore turbines due to generally deep coastal waters.

        There’s a useful and readable discussion of Japanese energy policy (as of about a year ago) available here:

        In general, the main thing thing that’s certain seems to be that solar PV is going to keep going gangbusters. But they don’t quantify it.

        Given that Japan has demonstrated an ability to add 8.6 GW per year, sustained over the last 5 years with available data, though, you could just assume a constant increase and project that forward. Since 2030 is the target year for Japan’s INDC under the Paris Accord, that gives 13 years of increases over the 2017 figure.

        13 x 8.6 = 111.8 GW added, or a cumulative 161, more or less. The latter would represent 95 ABWR-IIs. And it’s a conservative number; with incentive structure recently improved, per the story, and PV costs continuing their historic decline, it’s much more likely that annual capacity additions will accelerate, at least for a while.

        What would that mean in terms of generation as opposed to capacity? The two don’t track exactly, as economic, dispatch, and capacity factors which change over time all come into play. But approximately, if 2017 clocked ~50 GW capacity and accounted for ~6% of generation, then we can guess that PV should be giving something like 19% of today’s generation value in 2030.

        One would tend to think that the 2030 figure would be lower due to growth in energy usage. But that may not be a safe assumption; energy usage has been pretty flat recently, even declining a bit, and of course (and famously) Japan’s population is actually shrinking, and probably at an accelerating rate. So let’s go with ‘flat energy consumption’ as an assumption for now, and say that solar PV is going to be upwards of 19% of total generation. The current goal for nuclear at that point is 20% (though Bloomberg, FWIW, projects 10% as more likely.)

        Also FWIW, if I had my policy druthers for Japan, I’d plump for:

        –increased ambition in solar PV; it’s doing well but can probably improve significantly with real effort;

        –vastly increased ambition in wind, probably focusing on floating offshore capacity, which is just coming into commercial reality now;

        –accelerated restart of idled reactors (but this will be hard, due to persistent anti-nuclear sentiment);

        –continued, expanded, and increased effort in energy efficiency measures of all sorts, which remains a highly cost-effective option and is quietly being commercially implemented all the time;

        –accelerated development of energy storage, which we haven’t discussed much here, but which is starting to displace gas peaker plants now.*

        *In favorable locations (such as much of the southern tier of the US–cf., the Manatee project in Florida).

    • Michael D Sweet.


      As I stated above it is difficult to post to nuclear supporters because their posts consist of half-truths, misleading generalizations and deliberate lies. I will respond to the grossest of your comments.

      You cherry pick single reactors and not the average for France, Korea and China. You have left out the years of planning required before breaking ground for nuclear. Planning for KEPCO’s reactors in UAE (cited as a great example by David Benson above) was officially begun in 2009. Ground was broken in 2011. The first reactor is currently scheduled to produce electricity in 2020 if the regulators approve their serious construction defects. A total of 11 years at least so far. Jacobson uses peer reviewed averages for nuclear builds. You want us to accept your unsupported wild claims. (construction defects)

      France’s new build nuclear in Olkiluoto ujnit 3 has been under construction since 2005, not counting at least 5 years of planning and permitting. Provide data to support your deliberately false claim of 4 years to plan and build a nuclear plant.

      By contrast, a wind plant in Texas takes about 1-2 years to plan and permit and 1-2 years to build. You get partial power when the plant is partially built.
      Solar times are similar.

      Jacobson’s plan produces ALL POWER and includes storage for windless nights. There is no fossil backup of any kind. Indeed, Jacobson uses no combustion (like biofuels or trash to energy) at all. You are deliberately lying or have not read the work you criticize. His new paper Jacobson 2018 addresses the complaints about hydro in his previous work. Many other all power renewable plans exist by other authors. All these plans find it is cheaper to build out renewable energy. I am not aware of any all power plans that include any nuclear at all: it is too expensive.

      While wind may require more steel and concrete than nuclear (no-one has ever calculated the materials needed for a nuclear build out), those materials are available in abundance. Jacobson 2011 shows that all materials required to power the world with renewable energy exist except for rare earth metals in the wind turbines. Since then the turbines have been redesigned with no rare earth metals.

      By contrast, Abbott 2012 and Dittmar 2012 show that rare metals like beryllium, hafnium, vanadium, uranium, zirconium and others do not exist in sufficient quantity for many nuclear plants. The nuclear industry has not answered Abbott or Dittmar so they must agree with their assessment. David Benson told me to go look it up myself when I asked him for a source of the materials, not a very convincing argument.

      Most of the pumped hydro in the USA was built in the 1960’s and 1970’s to store excess nuclear power generated at night. Your claim that nuclear does not require batteries or storage simply demonstrates you you have no understanding of how the power system works or you are deliberately lying. Since nuclear plants cannot load follow they produce excess power during low demand and cannot meet peak power during the day.

      Why should I listen to anything you say when you clearly have no understanding of energy basics?

      Germany exports renewable energy at a profit during the peak power time when energy is most expensive. By contrast, France exports electricity at night at a loss compared to production costs. That is better than on the weekends when France shuts down some reactors because the power cannot be sold at any price.

      Doing background reading I noticed that nuclear supporters on line claim nuclear plans generating “all power” when they only generate electricity and not industrial power or heat/cool and transportation. It appears that nuclear supporters on line are ignorant of the basic terms of the energy discussion.
      Jacobson’s plans, and many others, generate ALL POWER using renewable energy, not part of electricity as nuclear plans do.

      Please provide a reference to a peer reviewed plan that generates more than 50% of electricity using nuclear. Since electricity is only 20% of all power, if you reached 50% of electricity with nuclear you would need renewable energy to generate the remaining 90% of all power.

      Nuclear does not compliment renewable energy. What is needed is storage of power, baseload is not valuable since most of the time there is excess power (which needs to be stored).

  18. PS Here’s a month of the French grid for comparison – spot the coal.

    • Speaking, as I was, of rapid expansion in solar PV capacity, here’s an interesting article about the situation in red ‘ol Texas:

      “…planned solar projects are more than double, and have blown way past wind projects, which are only up about 10%. Side note: California has around 25 GW of installed solar power. Texas has over twice that in planned projects, plus the ~3 GW currently installed.”

      That 55 GW solar PV planning pipeline is also about equal to current Japanese capacity, per this:

      And Japan is apparently #3 right now behind China and the US. (I’m not counting the EU aggregate here, though it almost doubles the US total.) And I note that US capacity in 2017 was only 51 GW, so the Texas pipeline, should it all get built, would nearly double US capacity by itself–and there will be rapid expansion elsewhere, notably but not exclusively in California.

      But is all this growth in Texas RE actually bringing down emissions? Well, it seems to be retiring coal plants and displacing natgas developments in a big way, so probably. From 2017:

      • Per the EIA, Texas emissions had been up and down since 2005, basically flat for 2013-2016, but posted a big increase to an all-time record in 2016 (the last year in their analysis). I’d love to know what’s happened in the last 3 years.

        Click to access table2.pdf

        Most states–41, to be exact–have seen declines since 2005. I think the problem in Texas is that even as the grid got greener, the very rapid economic growth of the state has more than compensated. While in principle, you can make solar and wind farms without fossil fuels, mostly we aren’t, yet.

  19. ‘Please provide a reference to a peer reviewed plan that generates more than 50% of electricity using nuclear.’
    That’s hardly necessary. France got 80% of its power from nuclear from 2000 to 2008. An existence proof trumps a peer reviewed plan. Countries which have now, or had in the past, over 50% of power from nuclear include Belgium, Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Lithuania. In Sweden it only happened in a couple of dry years – usually hydro and nuclear were both around 45%. Ontario is about 60%. Japan was on course to over 50% by 2030, till the Tohoku tsunami frightened the horses. It already had 30% nuclear.
    Unlike wind and solar, nuclear can be sited nearly anywhere, and the fuel doesn’t go AWOL for a week, or a season. All that’s needed is a cheap reactor, with an accident exclusion zone limited to the site boundary. Here’s one –
    China hopes to use pebble bed reactors to replace coal plants, possibly using the same turbo-generators – they put out supercritical steam at the same temperature and pressure.
    You object that nuclear can only provide electricity, so can never be a big part of the solution, forgetting that solar and wind are also electricity only. In fact, nuclear has been used for ship propulsion, notably icebreakers, for desalination, for district heating (in Switzerland, Czechia, Russia – and at McMurdo Sound). In Finland and China, existing district heating is proposed to be be powered by low-pressure, heat-only ‘swimming pool reactors’, which should be cheaper to fuel than coal boilers.
    ‘Jacobson’s plans, and many others, generate ALL POWER using renewable energy, not part of electricity as nuclear plans do.’ Jacobson’s blueprints got a lot of publicity in Scientific American ten years back, but disturbed Chris Clack and twenty other RE researchers enough to publicly pan them, and get sued for their trouble. Here’s another take on his work –
    Here’s a link to solar, nuclear, and fossil power in Kyushu, the sunniest part of Japan. ( My niece is living there.) Scroll down on the left to ‘Origin of electricity in the last 24 hours.’ It’s a graphic illustration of the limits of solar without storage. Crescent Dunes, the Nevada solar plant touted as coming with storage (about an hour’s worth of a nuclear plant), has been running at less than half planned capacity ‘because of clouds’, and needs gas heating in the morning ‘ to pre-heat the boilers.’) That’s one of MJ’s storage techs – which he first claimed weren’t needed at all. 10% of Canada’s power, when it doesn’t even work in Nevada.

  20. “Unlike wind and solar, nuclear can be sited nearly anywhere…”

    Make that ‘everywhere with abundant and reliable sources of cooling water.’

    “[Crescent Dunes operates at] less than half planned capacity ‘because of clouds’, and needs gas heating in the morning ‘ to pre-heat the boilers.’”

    The former is unfortunate, and certainly worth considering, but hardly adds up to ‘doesn’t work.’ And the latter was envisaged from the start and represents a more efficient use of the gas than using it as primary power.

    Worth noting is the performance of the Ivanpah plant, which has met its contractual output goals, following initial underperformance:

    But the real point is that concentrating solar isn’t going to be a big part of the future energy mix, whatever role Jacobsen may have assigned it in some scenarios. It’s just too expensive, at least in its current form. Solar PV with battery storage is already preferable, and will only become more so as battery costs continue their decline and competing battery technologies continue to emerge and mature. So the shortcomings of Crescent Dunes are pretty much a red herring for practical purposes.

  21. ‘The nuclear industry has not answered Abbott or Dittmar so they must agree with their assessment.’ In 2009 Dittmar claimed ‘ “civilian uranium stocks are expected to be exhausted during the next few years” and “the current uranium supply situation is unsustainable”. This led futures blogger Brian Wang to make a series of bets with him on future uranium production, reminiscent of the famous Simon/Ehrlich resource wagers. Wang won till after Fukushima.’Uranium production is not going up that fast because the price is low. the price is low because of 40 perfectly good reactors being shut down in Japan. Those 40 reactors (and 15 other older ones) would have easily generated 300 TWh. There were also several reactors shutdown prematurely in Germany. None of this has to do with Dittmars central thesis of “running out of producible uranium”.
    ‘ Germany exports renewable energy at a profit during the peak power time when energy is most expensive. By contrast, France exports electricity at night at a loss compared to production costs.’
    Since your pretty fond of calling me a liar, you won’t mind if I say that’s not necessarily the case. German noon peak yesterday, with 26 GW solar, 33.7 Euro/MWh. Sundown, 42 Euro. Night minimum power price, 33.7E. This morning peak price, 63 Euro, with only 5 GW solar at the time – not such a sunny day.
    Here’s week 16 of last year, where on one day, anomalously high wind and solar pushed prices well negative, but you can see everywhere that prices generally drop as exports, and solar, peak.
    I don’t know how much Electricite de France is earning for their power – frankly I’m far more interested in their emissions. As should you be.

  22. Martin Smith

    There is a seriously interesting series on HBO at the moment: Chernobyl. It is a dramatization of the event and its aftermath. Fascinating but difficult to watch.