# Is it a myth that France has a successful nuclear industry?

ensabah6
Is it a "myth" that France has a successful nuclear industry?

http://www.counterpunch.com/wasserman03192009.html [Broken]

"The myth of a successful nuclear power industry in France has melted into financial chaos...Delays and cost overruns continue to escalate at Areva's catastrophic Olkiluoto reactor construction project in Finland. Areva has admitted to a $2.2 billion, or 55%, cost increase in the Finnish building site after three and a half years...The Flamanville project---the only one now being built in France---is already over$1 billion more expensive than projected after a single year under construction. ... And the definitive failure of America's Yucca Mountain nuke waste dump mirrors France's parallel inability to deal with its own radioactive trash. ... The potential American reactor market has also been bloodied by the definitive disposal of the proposed high level dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. After decades as the centerpiece of America's "solution" to the nuke waste problem, with at least $10 billion spent on it, Yucca's failure underscores France's own waste dilemma. ... s Schneider's "Nuclear Power in France---Beyond the Myth" points out, after 35 years of nuclear power development, the French "nuclear dreamland" gets only 16% of its final energy from nuclear power. Last edited by a moderator: ## Answers and Replies Mentor Harvey Wasserman has made a career out of being an anti-nuclear crackpot. His views are not credible. He lies, misleads, distorts. I'm pretty sure you've posted some of his nonsense before and been told that before... I read the article - it is a rambling mismash of facts that don't really have any relevance and opinions that aren't supported by them. For example: -Typically, the financial and schedule trouble of nuclear plant construction is a matter of regulatory red tape. For the one he mentions, you can also add a failed business deal. This doesn't have anything to do with his point (not that he had a coherent point to make anyway...). -Yes, nuclear waste storage is a huge problem: a huge political problem because of guys like him! Guys like him make it a problem, which is, of course what he wants! -For that last fact, it's one crackpot citing another without a reference to what the fact means, much less why it has any relevance to anything. I found the article it came from and what it is from is the fact that only 21% of France's energy consumption is for electricity and of that 76% is from nuclear power. Assuming he's not manipulating some of that data (I think he is - it looks like he mixes consumption and production), so what? Why does that piece of information matter? In short, that's a completely useless article, ensabah6. Last edited: laxsu19 From the article: As Schneider's "Nuclear Power in France---Beyond the Myth" points out, after 35 years of nuclear power development, the French "nuclear dreamland" gets only 16% of its final energy from nuclear power. Commissioned by the Greens-EFA Group in the European Parliament (Brussels, December, 2008) , Schneider's report shows that despite its huge nuclear commitment, almost half of France's energy consumption still comes from oil. To clear up any confusion... 'final energy' seems to be defined in Schneider's paper as a the total energy consumed (if you can call it that) by France, including electricity production, industry, transportation (no wonder oil dominates!), etc. Always be wary when you see percentages in reports... If its not an absolute number with a unit on the end, its really easy to trick people! ensabah6 Harvey Wasserman has made a career out of being an anti-nuclear crackpot. His views are not credible. He lies, misleads, distorts. I'm pretty sure you've posted some of his nonsense before and been told that before... I read the article - it is a rambling mismash of facts that don't really have any relevance and opinions that aren't supported by them. For example: -Typically, the financial and schedule trouble of nuclear plant construction is a matter of regulatory red tape. For the one he mentions, you can also add a failed business deal. This doesn't have anything to do with his point (not that he had a coherent point to make anyway...). -Yes, nuclear waste storage is a huge problem: a huge political problem because of guys like him! Guys like him make it a problem, which is, of course what he wants! -For that last fact, it's one crackpot citing another without a reference to what the fact means, much less why it has any relevance to anything. I found the article it came from and what it is from is the fact that only 21% of France's energy consumption is for electricity and of that 76% is from nuclear power. Assuming he's not manipulating some of that data (I think he is - it looks like he mixes consumption and production), so what? Why does that piece of information matter? In short, that's a completely useless article, ensabah6. I think I have. It's a newer article though with different facts. How does France store its nuclear waste? l I didn't realize$10 billion was spent on Yucca. Are his facts about cost over-runs true?

ensabah6

From the article:

To clear up any confusion... 'final energy' seems to be defined in Schneider's paper as a the total energy consumed (if you can call it that) by France, including electricity production, industry, transportation (no wonder oil dominates!), etc. Always be wary when you see percentages in reports... If its not an absolute number with a unit on the end, its really easy to trick people!

I wondered about that since I heard a much higher figure for electrical energy produced by nuclear in france.

Science Advisor
Homework Helper

Are his facts about cost over-runs true?
Sounds like a pretty small overspend for such a project.
The big-dig in Boston was costed at $6bn (2006$) and had cost over $20Bn when they stopped counting - perhaps the US should abandon freeways? Like the UK, France reprocesses most of it's waste into MOX fuel, the US stores most of it . ensabah6 Sounds like a pretty small overspend for such a project. The big-dig in Boston was costed at$6bn (2006 $) and had cost over$20Bn when they stopped counting - perhaps the US should abandon freeways?

Like the UK, France reprocesses most of it's waste into MOX fuel, the US stores most of it .

Well for Obama and the financial crisis that would not be acceptable -- is there a way to engineer a more affordable solution in todays credit crunch?

JeffKoch

Why do you keep posting links to Wasserman's obviously biased website (at least two threads from you are evident here)? Why not do your own research? Legitimate questions are fine, but you can answer your questions elsewhere, and at least two threads linking to this website smells of bias and an attempt to distort nuclear energy reality.

Mentor

From the article:

To clear up any confusion... 'final energy' seems to be defined in Schneider's paper as a the total energy consumed (if you can call it that) by France, including electricity production, industry, transportation (no wonder oil dominates!), etc. Always be wary when you see percentages in reports... If its not an absolute number with a unit on the end, its really easy to trick people!
Here's an article that says the number is 41%.

If - and I'm not clear on this, but the number implies it - they compare nuclear power produced with oil burned, then it is an apples to oranges comparison. 1 GW of produced electrical power takes 2.5 GW of consumed fuel power to generate.

Mentor

It's a newer article though with different facts.
But still useless as uselss as his others - why are you not detecting this pattern?
How does France store its nuclear waste?
I think the same way we do - locally in power plants. They have similar political issues to us.
I didn't realize \$10 billion was spent on Yucca.
That isn't very much considering the political red tape for the project. And the fact that Obama torpedoed it after it was ready to go was predictable and shows just how big of a problem the politics is. The disaster that is American nuclear progress over the past 20 years (ie, none) is completely political.
Are his facts about cost over-runs true?
Probably, yes. So what? He implies they are abnormal - you believe him? When has any government ever done anything for what they promise it would cost?
Well for Obama and the financial crisis that would not be acceptable -- is there a way to engineer a more affordable solution in todays credit crunch?
So far, Obama's only contribution to the issue is to block the use of the Yucca storage facility. What's worse than a project that went way over it's budget? A project that went way over it's budget, was finished, worked, and then got shut down for no good reason.

That pattern is not uncommon with the politics of nuclear power - there was a recent thread here about a nuclear plant in New England that was up and running and ready to start delivering power to the grid (it passed all it's functional tests and literally was ready to go with a word) when political pressure shut it down and decomissioned it. The residents of the area then (still?) paid for the plant and the decomissioning with a huge surcharge on their electricity bills. Stupid.

It is political baloney like that that is what causes the problems that Wasserman is citing. And he of course knows this because he is instrumental in creating these problems!

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ensabah6

that's for the reply -- I understand Obama shuts down Yucca, could another administration 4 years from now re-open it?

Mentor

that's for the reply -- I understand Obama shuts down Yucca, could another administration 4 years from now re-open it?
Certainly. It is also possible that Obama himself could change his mind and open it (not reopen - it was finished but never opened, held up by red tape). When he closed it, he (his Energy Sec) said basically, 'we'll figure out what to do about the waste later'. Perhaps after a year of reality testing their ideology, they will relent. It happens...no, I'm not optomistic.

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor

It appears that Wasserman misrepresents some of the information and compares apples and oranges as others mentioned.

Here is an article (dated 2002) on HLW treatment by CEA in France.
http://www.cea.fr/var/cea/storage/static/gb/library/Clefs46/pdfg/14-wastevitrification.pdf [Broken]

I can't address all the specific issues/claims mentioned by Wassermann without an extraordinary amount of research and time.

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ensabah6

Certainly. It is also possible that Obama himself could change his mind and open it (not reopen - it was finished but never opened, held up by red tape). When he closed it, he (his Energy Sec) said basically, 'we'll figure out what to do about the waste later'. Perhaps after a year of reality testing their ideology, they will relent. It happens...no, I'm not optomistic.

on stem cell research he emphasized science over ideology (i.e prolife religious beliefs)

ensabah6

It appears that Wasserman misrepresents some of the information and compares apples and oranges as others mentioned.

Here is an article (dated 2002) on HLW treatment by CEA in France.
http://www.cea.fr/var/cea/storage/static/gb/library/Clefs46/pdfg/14-wastevitrification.pdf [Broken]

I can't address all the specific issues/claims mentioned by Wassermann without an extraordinary amount of research and time.

fact checking is why i posted here

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Science Advisor
Gold Member

I think this is more of a bash against Areva then the nuclear industry as a whole.

I especially like this quote:
"In 2008, France's nuclear power output dropped 0.1%, while wind generation rose more than 37%."

Which is ridiculously skewed point of view. A drop of .1% is most likely just due to the timing of plant outages (e.g. if plants have 18 month cycles, and there are an odd number of reactors, then every other year more reactors will have outages, causing a slight decrease in capacity factor on odd years). A 37% increase in wind power is meaningless statistical garbage, how many megawatts are we talking about? While the nuclear power sector produces dozens of GW-yr's I bet wind is still in the MW-yr range.

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Science Advisor
Homework Helper

It's always a favorite statistic of news reports - the alternative energy sector is showing the highest growth = a one man company that puts windmills on caravans just hired an apprentice to make the tea.

Topher925

While the nuclear power sector produces dozens of GW-yr's I bet wind is still in the MW-yr range.

Probably less than that. I think France has maybe 5 windmills? I'm a big supporter of alternative energy but people like Wasserman need to stop writing articles and go back to serving french fries. I don't understand why these people feel they need to lie their asses off to make a point.

signerror
I especially like this quote:
"In 2008, France's nuclear power output dropped 0.1%, while wind generation rose more than 37%."

Which is ridiculously skewed point of view. A drop of .1% is most likely just due to the timing of plant outages (e.g. if plants have 18 month cycles, and there are an odd number of reactors, then every other year more reactors will have outages, causing a slight decrease in capacity factor on odd years). A 37% increase in wind power is meaningless statistical garbage, how many megawatts are we talking about? While the nuclear power sector produces dozens of GW-yr's I bet wind is still in the MW-yr range.

Raw numbers: France in 2008, had 721 MW-yr (so 721 megawatts average) of wind + solar + geothermal combined, vs 47.7 GW-yr nuclear.

http://www.iea.org/Textbase/stats/surveys/elec_archives.asp

russ_watters said:
Here's an article that says the number is 41%.

If - and I'm not clear on this, but the number implies it - they compare nuclear power produced with oil burned, then it is an apples to oranges comparison. 1 GW of produced electrical power takes 2.5 GW of consumed fuel power to generate.

Actually, I think that figure is the thermal generation of nuclear power, not electric.

Using IEA figures - nuclear generation (above) is 418 TWh electricity per year, which is 1.5 exajoules. Using your factor of 2.5, this is about 3.75 exajoules of heat.

France's oil consumption is 83 million tons/year, which is 3.5 exajoules thermal (@ 42 GJ/MT).

http://www.iea.org/Textbase/stats/oildata.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=FR

Natural gas is an additional 1.8 exajoules.

http://www.iea.org/Textbase/stats/gasdata.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=FR

So combining these three, the nuclear proportion is 3.75 EJ(thermal) / 9.05 EJ(thermal) = 41.4%.

Mentor

on stem cell research he emphasized science over ideology (i.e prolife religious beliefs)
No he didn't. Stem cell research is not against his beliefs.
fact checking is why i posted here...
That's fine, but fact checking isn't what you need. What you need is to learn to recognize and ignore a crackpot when you see one. One thing that may help you is I'm debating banning Wasserman as a source here.

Mentor

It's always a favorite statistic of news reports - the alternative energy sector is showing the highest growth = a one man company that puts windmills on caravans just hired an apprentice to make the tea.
Mine too. It's just plain silly, but it works for politicians!

Mentor

Actually, I think that figure is the thermal generation of nuclear power, not electric.
That's what I was saying. Wasserman's number, however, is what I was saying is probably based on the electrical output, which is why it is so much lower. Thanks for doing that calculation.

ensabah6

No he didn't. Stem cell research is not against his beliefs.

Obama is not prolife. I did not say stem cell research was against *his* beliefs, only (some) prolife beliefs. He lifted Bush's ban on stem cell research on grounds he is promoting science over ideology.

"Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield."

He does not feel the same way about nuclear power and Yucca.

Mentor

Obama is not prolife. I did not say stem cell research was against *his* beliefs, only (some) prolife beliefs. He lifted Bush's ban on stem cell research on grounds he is promoting science over ideology.
I know that's what he said, but he's a politician and he's misleading you. That's what politicians do, they're like used car salesmen. Think about it: he's promoting science over Bush's beliefs, not over his beliefs, so that doesn't tell you if he would do the same when his beliefs contradict science. The evidence we have so far suggests he's no different than Bush in that regard (note: I consider radical environmentalism tantamount to religion). He shut down the Yucca project because it goes against his beliefs on environmentalism, despite the hard science that tells us he's wrong.

ensabah6

I know that's what he said, but he's a politician and he's misleading you. That's what politicians do, they're like used car salesmen. Think about it: he's promoting science over Bush's beliefs, not over his beliefs, so that doesn't tell you if he would do the same when his beliefs contradict science. The evidence we have so far suggests he's no different than Bush in that regard (note: I consider radical environmentalism tantamount to religion). He shut down the Yucca project because it goes against his beliefs on environmentalism, despite the hard science that tells us he's wrong.

environmentalists claim "science" is on their side. anyhow,

Now where' talking about it, is the purpose of Yucca to remove nuclear waste from, what 100+ plants in the US to be stored there, "permanently"

DaleSwanson

Anyone, including religious people, can claim science is on their side. Anytime someone have strong feelings they run the risk of ignoring facts. People tend not to admit they are wrong, and once they commit strongly to something they will probably not back down.

Yes Yucca Mountain is supposed to be a long term storage facility for the nuclear waste generated in the US. Currently plants store the waste on site, and since there is not that much to begin with this isn't much of a problem. The whole thing could be better dealt with if we just reprocessed it.

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member

s Schneider's "Nuclear Power in France---Beyond the Myth" points out, after 35 years of nuclear power development, the French "nuclear dreamland" gets only 16% of its final energy from nuclear power.

Yes, that 16% is a joke, for the following reason. Nuclear power in France delivers 78% of *electrical* energy. However, it *consumes* much more "primary" energy, such as oil and gas, etc... to do *everything else*. Now, imagine for a moment that in France, the only consumed energy would be *electricity* and that they would do it exclusively with *coal*. Well, then, through the same calculation, you would find that electricity generated by coal (which is the only thing that is consumed here) would represent something like 32% of total french energy consumption (because the other two thirds is the heat that goes in the cooling towers).

Don't forget, for instance, that oil in a car is only "used" for about 25%, which is the efficiency of the car engine. Nevertheless, one considers that the "end energy" is the refined petrol and not the mechanical energy used by the car - while electrical appliances have very often a close to 100% efficiency.
So if one would switch all cars in France to electrical ones, then the primary energy consumption would seriously DROP.

It is funny that you see such kinds of calculations (which mix essentially primary potential thermal energy, and final electricity) are used here, but they are never used to put in perspective alternatives, which would then be reduced to ridiculous fractions. The people having these arguments will say in the same way that Denmark has 20% wind energy (in the electrical sector), which would be reduced to something like less than 5% or so (my educated guess, no reference) if they would use the same calculation scheme.

Nuclear power is a source of electricity for the moment, so we have 2 ways of making useful comparisons:
- what's the total fraction of produced *electricity* (in France, it is something like 78%)
- what's the total fraction of displaced use of fossil fuels (that is, if you would generate all that electricity with fossil fuels, what fraction of the total consumption would do so) - this is related to the amount of CO2 output displaced (in France it must be something slightly less than 35% if I remember well).

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Science Advisor
Gold Member

I think I have. It's a newer article though with different facts. How does France store its nuclear waste?

Waste is taken back from the plants by the state company ANDRA
http://www.andra.fr/radioactive-waste/waste-management-company.htm

For the moment, it reprocesses this waste (in La Hague), vitrifies it, and stores it in surface storage facilities, while research on geological storage is under way, mainly research in clay layers. But there is not yet any final French "Yucca Mountain".

ensabah6

well i have not read Nuclear Power in France---Beyond the Myth

Science Advisor
Homework Helper

France also has a much smaller waste volume than the US because it reprocesses waste as MOX fuel, the US for various reasons doesn't allow reprocessing.

Science Advisor
Dearly Missed

France also has a much smaller waste volume than the US because it reprocesses waste as MOX fuel, the US for various reasons doesn't allow reprocessing.
mgb_phys,

EXACTLY! One gets a LARGE reduction in the volume of the waste since spent nuclear fuel
is basically 96% U-238 that is no more radioactive than the day it was dug out of the ground.

The radioactive species are the fission products [ Strontium-90, Cesium-137 ] and the
capture products [ Plutonium-239, Plutonium-240, and other actinides ]. However, the fission products
and capture products constitute only a few percent of the spent fuel.

The reason the US doesn't reprocess is due to successful efforts by the anti-nukes with backing by
the Congress and various Administrations to oppose reprocessing. The whole strategy of the anti-nukes
is to DISALLOW reprocessing so that waste volume is maximized. The only allowed disposition for
spent fuel is geologic burial - and then the anti-nukes oppose the disposal site at Yucca Mountain.

The whole idea is to "constipate" the nuclear fuel cycle. The anti-nukes hope that if spent fuel can not
be reprocessed or disposed of - in fact can not even be transported from the reactor site - then sooner
or later the reactor operator will have no place to put additional waste and will not be able to discharge
and refuel the reactor. The reactor would have to shutdown - which is the goal of the anti-nukes.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist