45 New Nukes: How Much of a Difference Will They Make?

power plants impact

Architecture 2030 is at it again with their great graphs, this one showing what a minimal impact the 45 nukes proposed by McCain will make, but it is a bit deceptive...The production and transmission efficiency of electricity is roughly 33% as shown on the graph, wasting 33.2QBtu while generating 15.1QBtu. That may or may not be true (I thought it was more like 50% efficient, and my first reaction was that they were piling the total energy produced on top of the total energy consumed making and distributing it, which would be graphically incorrect).

However the graph distorts and minimizes the impact of the contribution of the proposed nuclear plants by by piling their delivered output power from the nukes on top of the current delivered output AND the production and transmission losses instead of just comparing it to the delivered electricity.

The 1 QBtu is a 6.6% increase in delivered electricity supply; displayed this way on top of all of the production and transmission losses, it reads visually as a 2.02% increase.

I think that the McCain plan for 45 nuclear plants is unnecessary and probably impossible, that we can make it up in efficiency, and am a huge supporter of Architecture 2030. However this graph is designed to distort, to minimize the impact of the nuclear plants and make it look much like the graph showing the impact of offshore oil drilling that got so much play earlier.

I think they should re-read their Edward Tufte and redo this graph. Architecture 2030 via Solveclimate

architecture2030 graph of oil drilling

Their earlier graph was much more plausible. Graphic of the Day: Shill, Baby, Shill

More on Architecture 2030

The TH Interview: Edward Mazria, the Man from 2030 (Part One ...
The TH Interview: Edward Mazria, the Man from 2030 (Part Two ...
UPDATE: Architecture 2030 sent me this, which adds some clarifications.

Hi Lloyd,
Thanks for posting our 45 New Nuclear Power Plants graph at Treehugger. This is generating a lot of good discussion.

Ed Mazria has put the following together to clarify the key points. Can we insert this as additional information to your post? Thanks, Peter

Architecture 2030: Additional Information

1. The EIA estimates that 1 QBtu of delivered energy is equal to the delivered energy of thirty-seven to forty 1000 MW (capacity) nuclear plants (actual number depends on the year).

2. There are 103 nuclear reactor units operating today in the US with an average unit capacity of 930 MW. Reactor units range from 476 MW to 1335 MW.

3. As of June 30, 2008 there were a total of nine new commercial nuclear license applications under review for fifteen reactor units - ten at 1117 MW, two at 1400MW, one at 1520MW and one at 1600MW. These applications were submitted before the current US credit crisis and economic meltdown.

4. New nuclear reactor designs are now coming in all sizes from the the Toshiba 4S (10 to 50 MW capacity) to the Westinghouse PBMR (180 MW capacity), IRIS (360 MW), AP 600 (600 MW), AP 1000 (1100 MW) and AREVA NP EPR (1600 MW).

5. A new report from Standard and Poor's this week (10/15/08), "Construction Costs To Soar For New US Nuclear Power Plants", states that any new nuclear reactor contracts are not expected to have a fixed timeline or overall fixed construction cost, making it impossible to estimate the actual cost of a reactor. The cost to build a reactor has risen 173 percent since 2000.

6. The projected cost of building a new nuclear plant is staggering. From the Wall Street Journal May 12, 2008, "FPL Group, Juno Beach, Fla., estimates it will cost $6 billion to $9 billion to build each of two reactors (1100 MW each) at its Turkey Point nuclear site in southeast Florida. It has picked a reactor design by Westinghouse Electric Co., a unit of Toshiba Corp., after concluding it could cost as much as $12 billion to build plants with reactors designed by General Electric Co." This was the cost in May 2008 (before the economic meltdown and tight credit) and does not include land costs, cost of new transmission lines, support facilities, nuclear waste storage and decommissioning.

7. Because of the US economic meltdown, tight credit and escalating nuclear facility construction cost, Architecture 2030 believes that new nuclear plant construction will eventually be built in the mid-range of capacity (if at all). Therefore, we used an average nuclear unit capacity of 820 MW to create the graph for US Electricity Consumption.

8. Even if one assumes an average new unit capacity of 1100 MW to create the graph, the total energy, i.e. primary energy (delivered energy plus losses), would be between 3.75 QBtu and 4.0 QBtu. (The delivered energy would be between 1.25 QBtu and 1.32 QBtu.) This is still a drop in the bucket compared to the 118 QBtu of total (primary) energy (85 QBtu delivered) that the EIA projects the US will consume in the year 2030.

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