Nuclear Electrical Power Generation – Why The Fuss? (Part 2)

Posted on Tue 07/28/2009 by



You read in Part 1 of this series, right at the bottom, where I mentioned that those coal fired power plants will never be closed down. You probably thought to yourself that was a pretty big call on my part, and you may have also thought that having made that claim, I did not instantly back it up. What follows here is the explanation for that claim.

Load Curves for actual electrical power consumption.

Load Curves for actual electrical power consumption.

I want you to look very closely at this simple graph.

This graph is the one that has been completely and utterly ignored in this whole environmental debate about the emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from all those coal fired power plants, and how, for the sake of the environment. we need to close them all down completely.

Why this graph has been so totally and utterly dismissed is because those who are pursuing this ‘green’ agenda have absolutely no comprehension of what it means, and that is why you never see it at all. Not because they are trying to hide it from you, but because they don’t know what it means.

However, this is the single and most crucial diagram of any sort you need to see in this whole debate.

Let’s see why then.

The horizontal axis is time, on a 24 hour daily basis, starting at the left from 00.00 (Midnight) and moving in two hourly increments through the day, and then back to midnight.

The vertical axis is the percentage of the total power actually being consumed by every user, and by every user that takes in the Residential sector, the Commercial sector, and the Industrial sector.

The Orange Curve indicates power consumption for Summer, which peaks in the heat of mid afternoon.

The Blue Curve indicates power consumption for Winter. There are two peaks, the first in the early morning when everyone gets up and readies for the coming day. The second peak starts mid afternoon and extends into the evening when everyone arrives home from work, that power curve higher in this period due to the fact that heaters are being used up until everyone shuffles off to bed. The afternoon period dips but is still high, mainly because work areas are fairly benign on average and air conditioning in all those places of work is not working harder than it might in the Summer.

I have absolutely no need to tell you where this graph represents in area, because no matter where you are, the curve is exactly the same. whether you live in the cold North East, or in Florida, or California. The curves would be the same for New York, Washington, St. Louis, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Tampa, Austin, Stockton, anywhere. They look the same in London, Paris, Sydney, Rome, Moscow. Anywhere you go these two curves will be similar.

Now, go up the left side of the graph.

See where the Summer and Winter curves start. Draw an imaginary line across to the right side of the page. The two curves only dip below that line for a couple of hours when everybody is safely tucked up in bed asleep.

However, everything below that line is actual electrical power still being consumed, all across the whole U.S., all across the whole of the Western World that has access to a reliable and constant source of this electrical power.

That line starts at 60%.

So 60% of every watt of electricity consumed in the U.S. no matter where you are, is required for 24 hours of every day. EVERY DAY.

That is the base and as this is a load curve, then THAT is what BASE LOAD is.

It is the power required absolutely to keep industry going, when industry works 24 hours a day. It is the power required absolutely to keep every supermarket going so the refrigerators stay cold to keep perishable food in a viable condition. It is the power required absolutely so that every shop in every city and town has lighting so that those cities and towns are not just black holes at night, and people can see, and breathe the air inside them during hours of operation. It is the power required absolutely to keep all forms of transport running, so traffic can see the roads, so traffic can be regulated on those roads and in those cities and towns. It is the power required absolutely to keep every building higher than 2 stories with air in them, not conditioned air, but breathable air, and for them to be well lit, so people can actually find their way around in those buildings. It is the power required absolutely to get water into those buildings higher than two levels because that water needs to pumped up into them, and then back out of them as well. It is the power required absolutely to keep every refrigerator, and every hot water system functioning in every household residence in the Country, be they stand alone houses, apartments, high rise living complexes, every residence.


It is not an adjective used to describe large coal fired power plants in a denigrating manner, as is so dismissively used by those with this ‘green’ agenda.

It is an actual physical requirement.

This 60% of all the electrical power being consumed is required 24 hours of every day. Electricity is consumed in four areas, Residential which makes up 37.5%, Commercial 36.6%, Industrial 25.7% and Transport 0.2%. All of those sectors physically require a certain amount of electrical power to always be there. Base Load power!

U.S. Electrical Power Consumption Chart for April 2009. Image from Energy Information Administration. Click on the image to open in a new and larger window.

U.S. Electrical Power Consumption Chart for April 2009. Image from Energy Information Administration. Click on the image to open in a new and larger window.

Now, look closely at this diagram at the left here, which is the most recent pie chart for power consumption in the U.S. This is from the U.S. Government’s own website, the Energy Information Administration. As you can see if you have been following these charts as I post them every third month, you can see that the use of electrical power from coal fired sources has dropped from the starting point when I first posted this chart at 50%, that sector now down to 46.1%. This is a small drop, but overall, it is quite substantial. This is due probably in the main to it being a fairly benign Season of the year, and there is less demand from airconditioners working flat out in the Summer and heating in the depths of Winter.

However, the main thing I wanted to point out was this, in reference to that above Load Curve, and the absolute requirement for 60% of all electrical power to be there for 24 hours of every day. As I have explained all along the only plants capable of supplying that level of power on a 24 hour basis are those coal fired power plants and also those Nuclear power plants.

Add together the power supplied from coal fired means and the power supplied from the Nuclear process.

46.1% plus 21% equals 67.1%, and that neatly covers the absolute requirement for 60% of all power to be there in place for 24 hours of every day.

Also, look across the graph to the slice that says Other Energy Sources. This is the sector that contains solar power and wind power, and power from three other sources as well. In total, this sector supplies only 4.1% of all the power consumed in the U.S. Of that 4.1%, Wind Power Generation and both forms of Solar Power make less than half that total, and in fact only supply 1.88% of all power used in the U.S.

Nuclear power provides 21% of the overall total.

You make the comparison, and then hazard the best guess you can ever think of to work out just how long those renewable sources will take before they can provide that absolute requirement for the 60% of all electrical power that is required all the time, and not just on average 8 hours in every day.

That is one reason why Nuclear power needs to be part of the mix for providing power for future needs if we believe that we have to move away from coal fired power generation. From looking at this chart, it also becomes obvious why coal fired power will be in operation for years to come, and by that I mean many years to come.

In the next post, I will intricately dissect that power use chart and show you just why nuclear power needs to be in the mix, and just why renewable power can NEVER supply that Base Load Power.