My point is that France's electricity is cheap because the government pays so it cannot be used as argument why nuclear is cheap did.
Care to demonstrate this?
Basically it has been claimed that the French nuclear scale-up was super cheap because of standardized design and the regulatory framework, while everybody else did it wrong and had exploding cost. But this seems only partially true. French nuclear was not magically much cheaper than elsewhere. Ofcourse, this is very hard to estimate because there is a lot of government money involved. But there are studies which looked at this:
The costs of the French nuclear scale-up: A case of negative learning by doing
A Grubler - Energy Policy, 2010
Based on recent number from an audit by the Court of Audit there are better estimates:
The cost of nuclear electricity: France after Fukushima, N Boccard - Energy Policy, 2014
That nuclear is generally not economically viable is very well known. Building of nuclear power plants basically stopped because cost exploded ans was increasing with newer designs. Then there is the trend in recent decades to create de-regulated energy markets so government involvment was reduced and new projects have to be financed by private companties. But this is not usually considered to be economical. See for example a recent analysis of the levelized cost of energy by Lazard. Also just take a look at actual projects. Where advanced nuclear reactors are build there massive cost overruns. The project at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H... could only be financed by garantueeing prices well over the market price. For a mature industry which took an insane amount of money for R&D and exists for a long term, the fact that it is currently not possible to build plants which are economically competitive is not very convincing.
Also, Germany's renewable sector is also heavily subsidized, so even if I accepted that France's electrical production (not R&D - that's a whole different story) is subsidized, you could at best say that both countries do production subsidies. Even then the French are getting the better end of the deal with lower rates.
The problem is that the German subsidies are not for a mature industry but to build up the economy of scale and drive innovation. They play a similar role to initial R&D cost in nuclear. They are not meant to stay and are already much less for newer plants. They also have been very sucessful in driving down the cost. Also putting the additional fee (which is only a small part of the total price) on top of the rate was intentional done do promote conservation while the cost of nuclear in France is hidden in the general taxes.
An LFTR is an *engineering* nightmare.
I presume you've worked on LFTR engineering then? Can you name some of the engineering nightmarish points?
Corrosion. Operating it will also be a nightmare. Can you put a diver into molton salt to fix things? But I am happy to be proven wrong. I am not against nuclear for some ideological reasos. I looked at this and think it is not worth it. With LFTR, I would not mind if we spend some money to explore this option further, but - honestly - I do not see this becoming an economical option.
while renewables are already competitive and getting cheaper every year.
Oh really? Without a guaranteed feed-in tariff and market distortion by forcing the grid operator to take renewables first and make the rest of the traditional generators pay for their intermittency?
Yes, wind is already clearly economical. And solar is on a good way. Also you forgot that nuclear has an even bigger problem than renewables: It is only good for baseload (otherwise economics get even worse). Germany has pumped-storage which is currently under-utilized because solar production tracks the demand curve better than nuclear.
I had a look at a fairly large project in Germany, Solarpark Meuro and it is quoted at 140 million Euros for the first 70 MW installed. Naively you'd recalculate that to be 2000 Euros per kW, compare to nuclear (which costs more per kWh) and declare victory. Except that's not an honest comparison. Nameplate capacity on a solar plant is not the same as on a nuclear plant due to capacity factor. Solar in Germany has CF ~0.15, whereas nuclear is >0.9, often even 0.95. So to replace one nuke plant kW of capacity you'd need to install ~6x that amount in solar, so it's no longer 2000 Euros per kW, it's more like 12000 Euros per kW. But the story doesn't end there. Solar isn't dispatchable, so you need to add the cost of backup storage into that. And when it's winter and your solar insolation drops by a factor of 5-6x, your solar system is again effectively completely useless and you need yet another plant to produce (so potentially yet another X-amounts of kW to backup your solar array).
You are picking a specific example and I have no time now to look at this specifcally. But is irrevant anyway because it is a single data point. Wind power is already cheaper than nuclear. And yes, this is taking all costs into account. Solar is getting cheaper rapidly. Nuclear exists for decades
and is getting more expensive.
Economically, investing in nuclear is a poor decision.
So just for kicks I've taken data from IEA's CO2 Highlights 2013 catalog (+one real-time data point for 2013 from RTE) for France and plotted them against data from Germany's Umweltsbundesamt and this is what you get. Notice how the renewable share (and that includes hydro) gets larger faster than CO2 per kWh decreases? In recent years, in fact, it has jumped up, because the German grid is experiencing an expected effect: increased fossil fuel emissions due to sporadic running. Even if we extrapolate out to 2056 you'll see that German CO2/kWh is still ~2.5x higher than present-day French emissions (and the French are working on lowering those even further - this year they've announced they managed to halve it by running fossil plants less & running nuclear and hydro plants more).
"expected effect: increased fossil fuel emissions due to sporadic running". Not sure what this is supposed to mean. I looked at the data and analysis for Germany for 2013 before and while the CO2 emissions increased in total, the CO2 emissions for electricity production did not and it is also generally not expected to decrease. I posted links to data and analysis before. That it is higher than France is due to the traditional high dependency on coal in Germany (which has many reasons: jobs, energy independence, ...). But don't get me wrong, I would personally clearly prefer nuclear to coal and there is no doubt that nuclear produces much less CO2 than coal. That Germany did not improve its CO2 emission despite a massive investment in renewables is primarly because they decided shut down nuclear power first rather than coal. A reduction is expected for the future when renewables start to replace fossil instead of nuclear.
But if I have now to choose between nuclear and a mix of renewables if I think the mix of renewables is clearly the more economical thing to do.
The second graph is taking data from co2benchmark.com for all European countries for the year 2008 and plotting their CO2/kWh emissions versus various energy sources and their compositions. If you have a look at the R^2 factor you'll notice that the strongest correlation for CO2 reduction is nuclear + hydro (exactly what France is doing). Comparing the contribution of REs (without hydro) & nuclear energy alone gives you a much clearer picture - nuclear is much more strongly correlated. If you take the one outlier for REs out of the picture (Finland) the situation gets much worse, with RE correlation dropping to essentially zero.
To me this is ultimately all that matters: can you deliver on drastically reducing (by a factor of 10x or more) CO2 emissions.
You can not easily scale up nuclear. In a single country, economics get worse if you try to do produce more than some baseload and if you scale up nuclear globally, the price of fuel will go up - also making bad economics even worse. Creating a thorium cycle or a closed fuel cycle is also not exactly cheap.