[Marxism] Nuclear power rebuttal from Muna Lakani

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Oct 17 08:50:25 MDT 2005

(This techie talk is over my head, but Muna replies to Rod's queries below.)

>> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: "Rod Holt" <rholt at planeteria.net>
>> > Well, we do have a problem here. Patrick Bond tells us that nuclear
>> > power *does* produce CO2. Then he forwards, from a book author he
>> > evidently believes, the news that "large amounts of CO2 are
>> > generated through mining, transport and especially uranium
>> > enrichment. Nuclear power generation thus creates over 8 tons / GWh
>> > of power that is delivered - much more than renewable energy
>> > sources."
>> > Is this 8 tons (7.2 tonnes) of CO2 per GW-hour a good number or a
>> > bad number? Now: 1 tonne of charcoal (nearly pure carbon) will
>> > produce 3.67 tonnes of CO2 and 28.6 million BTUs. At 10,676 BTU per
>> > KW-hour, we get only 2.6 MW-hours from 1 tonne of charcoal.
>> > Therefore, 1 tonne of CO2 is the by-product of producing
>> > 729KW-hours. And 7.2 tonnes of CO2 is the by-product of producing
>> > 5.26 MW-hours.
>> > These numbers are for conventional power plants, and one of these
>> > producing 1GW will produce 1,371 tonnes of CO2 each hour. If the
>> > incidental energy needed to sustain a 1 GW nuclear plant is such
>> > that 7.2 tonnes of CO2 are produced every hour, then this is 0.525%
>> > of what a conventional plant produces; a 200:1 improvement. Not too
>> > bad. And with some inginuity we could probably drastically reduce
>> > the amount of hydrocarbons currently being used in mining and
>> > refining.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <muna at iafrica.com>
To: "Patrick Bond" <pbond at mail.ngo.za>

1)the figures are from the UK Royal Institute for Energy Affairs, so
quite solid...
2) it also assumes good efficiency in enrichment
3) and Oko Institute's CO2-eq/kWh
wind = 20
nukes = 35

yes, coal by itself is the worst, but less bad is not good.... and he also
conviently excludes the 250 000 years and more of waste
 management, etc....

and in "energy audit of nuclear fuel cycles" by R.Ashok Kumar, he
 confirms that USA nuke reactors consume up to 5 times more energy
 than they produce for consumers... the study found that although the
 gross nuke capacity of the US reached 104 820 MW, less than 20
 000 MW energy capacity was in fact delivered to society in 1991...

would need to look hard for his doc!! but got the text part at least (see


At the end of forty years of the US nuclear power programme by 1991, this 
 >energy- 381302 W-yrs  -delivered to society is still less than the gross 
 >cumulative energy invested in nuclear plant construction and maintenance 
 >of 489174 MW-yrs!  This analysis assumes only a portion of the energy >used 
for waste storage and maintenance.

  ashok kumar <rakumra at yahoo.com> wrote:

Energy audit of nuclear fuel cycles

    By R. Ashok Kumar, B.E,M.E(Power),Negentropist, Flat 1/13, Telec 
Officers' CHS.,Ltd.,Plot 30, Sector 17, Vashi, Navi Mumbai-400705. 

   Although the gross nuclear capacity of the USA reached 104820 MW (greater 
than 150 MW capacity only considered), less than 20000 MW energy capacity 
was in fact delivered to society in 1991(Spread Sheet No.12A: See 
attachment). This is derived as follows: Gross cumulative energy delivered 
to society (1991)= Megawatt-years/years = 798370/40=19959 MW or 20000 MW 
approximately. The rest was all consumed by the nuclear industry itself. The 
actual energy- capacity delivered at the consumption point was much less. 
Using a
figure of 0.597 for the plant factor, and 20% transmission, distribution and 
conversion loss, the amount of energy delivered by the programme amounts to 
only 9.09% of the energy generated. For the annual energy invested in the 
nuclear programme, the energy generated per year per unit was divided by a 
factor of 1.5 (R. Ashok Kumar.1989.The Indian Nuclear Energy Programme:A Net 
Energy Analysis. PPST Bull. No.18.March.pp17: Energy Invested in Waste 
Storage. See also Appendix 1,this article.). Thus as the US programme of 
commissioning of the nuclear power plants progressed from 1952 to 1991 (end 
of my
study period for the US programme), the average nuclear capacity added per 
year was 2621 MW while the average nuclear industry demand was 12229 MW!
The cost overrun was 4.25. It is estimated(based on assumptions given in the 
appendix) that the programme started delivering net energy to society only 
thirty years after the commencement of the programme. And while it generated 
1283911 MW-yrs
in 30 years,it delivered to society only 30% or less in a brief period from 
1981 only. At the end of forty years of the US nuclear power programme by 
1991, this energy- 381302 MW-yrs  -delivered to society is still less than 
the gross cumulative energy invested in nuclear plant construction and 
maintenance of 489174 MW-yrs!  This analysis assumes only a portion of the 
energy used for waste storage and maintenance. This American civilian 
nuclear programme cost a total of Rs 45 trillion. This means Rs 45 Crores 
per Megawatt!
But as we saw above, this programme delivered to society an energy capacity 
of 9532 MW per year over 40 years , with an installed capacity of 104820 MW 
achieved over 38 years. As shown above the US programme needed an additional 
gargantuan amount of thermal power to construct the nuclear facilities. The 
data for the nuclear capacity additions were taken from Nuclear Engineering 
International, April 1991.

    Appendix 1

    Nuclear Wastes Unmanageable: An audit of the Energy Required

   As of year 2000, 7925 reactor years of operation have been completed in 
sixteen countries which have operating nuclear power plants (Data till 1990 
have been taken from Nuclear Engineering International  April 1991). Thus 
the 16 countries of the world generated by end 1990 in their nuclear power 
plants 15714.1 TWh or 1793847 MW-yr. The corresponding capacity was 290898 
MW (337 reactors). Average nuclear capacity was
290898/337= 863.2 MW. All over the world the number of reactors retired to 
date is 90 with a total capacity of 77688 MW. Net capacity on line = 
209898-77688=213210 MW. Energy generated by these reactors from 1991 to 2000 
amounts to 213210 MWxlifetime plant load factor of 0.64 x 10y= 1364545 
MW-yr. Therefore the total energy generated till 2000 from begin of nuclear 
programmes= 1793847+1364545= 3158392 MW-yr.   The number of reactor years of 
operation till end 1990 was 4500. Taking the number of reactor years of
opeartion to be proportional to the energy generated yields a total of 7925 
reactor years of
opeartion.  For this the power required for waste storage and maintenance is 
4.75 MW(thermal). See Lovins. Technical Bases for Ethical Concern. In AH 
Lovins and JH Price. 1975. Non-Nuclear Futures. Harper-Colophon. p 97. This 
is at the rate of 1.505 watts per megawatt-year (of gross energy generated) 
for waste storage and maintenance.
Now the energy invested in the nuclear power programmes of the 16 countries 
till end 1990 was 1793847 x 0.5= 896923.5 MW-yr(See below for derivation). 
>From 1991 to 2000 units were retired rather than added. Let us assume that 
the energy invested remained at this value (1990 end value). Then, net 
energy available after accounting for the energy invested which included 
energy for waste storage and its maintenance for 31500 years(see below) was 
3158932-896924= 2261478(The energy invested 896924, if considered at the bus
bars would be higher). Thus the number of additional years of waste storage 
and its
maintenance which is obtained by dividing the net energy available 2261478 
MW-yr by the power needed for waste storage and its maintenance 4.75 
MW(thermal) is a maximum of 476101 years because there is a conversion 
efficiency for electrical to heat production of 50% to 80%. This is far from 
enough for storing wastes for a million years or more. Thus the nuclear 
energy programmes are net energy consumers.  The latest evaluation of waste
storage research proclaims this loudly(Institute for Energy and 
Environmental Research. May 2000. Science for Democratic Action. See also R. 
Ashok Kumar, op cit. ).
    The gross energy output per year at 100 percent plant load factor(PLF) 
divided by 1.5 is
taken as the  energy invested per year. For a 1000 MW nuclear power plant at 
100 % PLF net of process inputs and zero losses, the energy invested per 
year is thus 1000 MW-yr/yr/1.5= 667 MW-yr/yr. Now if excluding waste storage 
,at 62% PLF and 20%
transmission, distribution and conversion losses, the net energy delivered 
is 1000x0.62x0.8=496 Mw-yr/yr,the energy invested in the nuclear power 
programme is , at 1.8 ratio of output per year to input per year, 
496/1.8=276 MW-yr/yr. Thus the energy investment debited to waste storage is 
667-276=391 MW-yr/yr.  The gross energy generated by the  1000 MW nuclear 
power plant is 12400 MW-yr(electrical) during the 25 year lifetime of the 
plant(the lifetime on the average for the plant has been found to be just 
17y). The power required for its waste storage and its maintenance is 
computed as follows:
    Let us assume  10000 reactor-years of operation. At this level, 
following Lovins  op cit)
we have a power requirement of  1 watt(thermal) per MW-yr of operation. 
Thus for 12400 Mw-yr of generation ,the power required is 12400 watts or 
0.0124 MW(thermal).  Thus the 391 MW-yr/yr of generation will power the 
waste storage for 391/0.0124 or 31532 years.
    An estimate of the fraction of energy generated debited to investment in 
the nuclear
power programmes can be done as follows:
    Let us take four countries namely, the USA, France, Japan and Canada. 
The energy generated back of the 20% losses is given by the (sum of the 
total nuclear industry demand and the net energy delivered to society )/0.8. 
This for these four countries for which the energy audit has been worked out 
by the author becomes 2354460 MW-yr.
Details in a separate article. The nuclear industry demand works out to 
1175742 MW-yr  which is 50% of the gross energy generated.
    A number of surprises as the nuclear power programmes progressed over 
the world.
    It must be noted that a number of surprises have caused retrofits and 
replacements like the steam generator premature replacements and the 
replaced  radioactive steam generators enclosed in costly sarcophages 
worldwide. These have enormously increased the energy invested in these 
white elephants.

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