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Nuclear Has Nine Times the Potential of Solar, Report Says

The United States’ capacity for the expansion of nuclear power is almost nine times greater than for that of solar thermal power, according to research funded by nonprofit utility consortium the Electric Power Research Institute and carried out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

After taking into account physical and geographic capacities of potential sites for power plants, there is the potential for 515 GW worth of large nuclear reactors in the country, compared to only 60 GW of dry-cooled solar thermal energy production, according to Application of Spatial Data Modeling and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Identification of Potential Siting Options for Various Electrical Generation Sources.

The solar figure falls to just 18 GW when restricted to potential water-cooled plants, which are more efficient than air-cooled facilities. There is the potential for 158 GW worth of new advanced coal plants to be constructed, the report says.

Researchers divided the lower 48 states into almost 700 million cells of one hectare apiece, and judged each cell on its potential power generation, regulatory burdens specific to the site – for example being sited in an ecologically sensitive area – and natural resources, such as water for cooling.

In August 2011, the U.S Department of Agriculture awarded the Electric Power Research Institute $1 million to fund an industry-led cap and trade system for water quality. EPRI will use the Conservation Innovation Grant to initiate water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin, which covers parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

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9 thoughts on “Nuclear Has Nine Times the Potential of Solar, Report Says

  1. I find it incredibly irresponsible to produce an article like this without once informing the reader of the great variation in costs generated by nuclear waste, coal extraction and solar equipment manufacturing, to list just a few examples.

  2. We the people must work together to insure that none of these units will be built. We should be retiring NUKES and Coal plants not building more of them until they can demonstrate that they are safe, that they have zero adverse environmental and public health impacts and are not terrorist targets.

    Germany is on the right track. Decentralized solar PV, ground source heat pumps, geothermal, combined heat and power, wind, smart grids, Net-Zero-Energy buildings, public high speed rail transportation, feed-in-tarrifs and other “efficiencies” will get us where we need to go without needing to continue down these “privatize the profits” and “socialize the externalities” roads.

    We will never get more than 30% renewables as long as we keep clinging to the flawed underlying assumption that we need to build more baseload that can’t be turned off. Some how energy companies are not subject to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and have free rein to harm people and the planet for their profit. Do we really need another disaster in say California or New York before we wake up?

    I don’t want any of these utility scale facilities in my backyard or in anyone elses back yard or near my kids school. Solar panels on the roof is another story entirely.

    There is no Planet B….

  3. Incredibly irresponsible, really Aleia?

    Not every article can include all facts and data available. This article was only meant to inform the readers that you can get 515 GW worth of large nuclear reactors in the country, compared to only 60 GW of dry-cooled solar thermal energy production.

    I find it incredibly irresponsible that you didn’t mention the huge environmental impact of vast solar fields vs the smaller nuclear power plants footprint.

  4. Steve,

    have you ever been in a nuke plant. They are built a whole lot better than 99% of the structures around. Yes nuclear has issues but do you have any clue where the material to build solar cells comes from? strip mining in China.

    Please get all the facts before ranting.

  5. Germany has entered into agreements with Austrailia recently to purchase thousands of tons of coal. They still get their electricity from nuclear plants in neighboring countries. And their rates are skyrocketing. Their ‘green’ facade is just that, a facade. The US economy would be buried (even further) into the ground if we shut down our nukes. Japanese industries are looking into relocation options due the the rolling blackouts that have occurred since their nuclear plants were shut down. There needs to be a diverse energy portfolio for any country to be successful. Nuclear power is a cheap, efficient, safe way of making electricity. The unfortunate events in Japan have scared many, but for those of us who understand the implications of that incident, we know that zero people were killed from the radiation released. There were over 30,000 people killed in car accidents in the US alone last year. I bet you still drive your car every day. I hope you continue to speak your mind and have your own opinions, but I ask you to also seek information. Those who are the most uninformed are the most close-minded.

  6. Aleia, let me only comment on your nice list of keywords:
    “Decentralized solar PV, ground source heat pumps, geothermal, combined heat and power, wind, smart grids, Net-Zero-Energy buildings, public high speed rail transportation, feed-in-tarrifs…”.

    Decentralized PV and smart grids: Highly depending on rare elements (esp. indium), destabilisation of German grids becoming an increasing concern.

    geothermal: Several big projects (Basel (CH), Freiburg, Landau (D)) stopped or reduced due to geological disturbances (quakes in Basel, house damage in Freiburg and Landau)

    Net-Zero-Energy buildings: Yes, for new buildings, but adaptation of old real estate is simply far too expensive. State support only for solutions within the scope of industries profit phantasies, not for the useful (and affordable) German cost per kWh in a way that one of every five Germnan enterprises is planning to relocate activities abroad, due to high prices of electric power.

    It became public yesterday, that Germany has paid more than EUR 350 mio. to France alone for electricity imports, due to shut doewn of 8 German nuclear plants.

    Conclusion: Your to-do list sounds nice, however is a bit far from the real world. Germany is on a dangerously wrong track: dependence on French nuclear power, and – increasingly – Russian gas, as well as nuclear power. By the way: Some of Germany’s “green current” stems from “pump-storage” in the Alps, where water is forced up by energy from the Tchech nuclear plant Temelin, but is then devlared “green due to water power”. You’ll rarely find a field based upon more lies as “green energy”.

  7. If we consider energy options, a larger portfolio, we should also consider biofuels, in places where there is plenty of land, sun and people in need of opportunities.
    Africa could help the world in terms of energy and itself as the continent boosts its agriculture, for food and for biofuels. Biofuels is the catalyst for this.

  8. I think that the comments are all valid. No issue is as simple as face value. Sure, nuclear power is an option and needs to be tabled. But all options for power generation need to be considered in the energy mix.

    The basic premise behind energy generation in the future must be SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. The Brundtland definition of SD reads “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.” Now, if you consider that nuclear waste is toxic for hundreds of thousands of years it does not even come close to meeting that definition. My great great great…..great grandchildren will be trying to figure out what to do with all of this waste! Is nuclear therefore an option in the energy mix of the future? No definitely not.

    Environmental Economics has its part to play. ALL external costs need to be internalised when evaluating the energy mix. Including the eradication of the MASSIVE subsidies that the fossil fuel industry gets.

    There are no easy answers.

  9. I have a few reservations about nuclear power plant safety and waste disposal; but those concerns could probably be addressed with the right approaches.
    But I also have a far more fundamental objection to nuclear power. The fact of the matter is that there is not enough uranium in the entire world to power a significant percentage of global energy demand; unless one allows the use of breeder reactors. Breeders produce more nuclear fuel as they operate, by converting otherwise unusable uranium into the apropriate isotopes. The downside is that breeders also produce considerable amounts of plutonium, which is a nuclear weapons grade material. I for one do not support the idea of thousands, to tens of thousands, of breeder reactors scattered all over the world to produce energy. The opportunities for terrorists or wayward regimes to steal their way into the nuclear weapons club is simply unacceptable.

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