If something better comes along we can shift to it then. But we have to act now to prevent a climate catastrophe. We must not let wishful thinking allow us to daydream our way to disaster.
- Today’s nukes cheaper than renewables
- Tomorrow’s nukes will be mass produced
- Remove water cooling for an even faster and cheaper build!
- Legislative approval
- Insurance costs
1. Today’s nukes cheaper than renewables
As I quoted on my nuclear summary page, Barry Brook shows that today’s nukes are cheaper than trying to make ‘mostly off’ renewables reliable.
… Nuclear power is cheaper than power from renewables and soon will be cheaper than coal. A nuclear plant costs more up-front to build than a wind or solar plant, and they take longer to build, but they have low operating costs and they last 60 years or more making them a far better financial investment than renewable power typically by a factor of 2. For example, if you use this calculator to compare an AP1000 to GE 2.5 MW XL wind turbines with pumped storage for load management, in North Dakota you get $13 billion/GW for the wind option vs. a max cited figure for a US AP1000 (a new nuclear reactor from Westinghouse) of $7 billion. If the AP1000 lives up to its promises of $1000 per KW construction cost and 3 year construction time, it will provide cheaper electricity than any other fossil fuel based generating facility, including Australian coal power, even with no sequestration charges.
via Brave New Power for the world
2. Tomorrow’s nukes will be mass produced
“By the 2030s, China will likely have built out hundreds of nuclear reactors. They will also have factory mass produced one piece reactors like their 200 MWe HTR-PM (High temperature pebble bed reactor). Those reactors could be built in Chinese factories and shipped for installation overseas. This would enable the China price for nuclear power which is currently about $1.5 to 2 billion per GWe. This is 2-3 times cheaper than current prices in the US and Europe. Each nuclear reactor module would likely be buildable in 2 years or so by that the 2030s.”
Next Big Future, Dec 2013
300 MW seems to be the optimal size that can become a modular plant delivered off the back of a truck straight onto the utility site, and is the most convenient size for integrating into a variety of electricity grids. An American grid can easily use a 2GW power plant, but smaller African grids would have trouble integrating that kind of power. A 300MW plant is ideal for developing nations that need reliable power to develop.
Eliminate water from the cooling so the flange vessel doesn’t need to be a single-cast room of steel!
Build these smaller units on a production line in a factory to massively increase the speed of deployment, efficiencies in construction, and massively reduce price.
This is exactly what G.E.’s S-PRISM reactor aims to do!
3. Remove water cooling for an even faster and cheaper build!
Today’s nukes can be standardised and built out with urgency as France demonstrates with their history. (See “Fastest to deploy”). But there is one technical barrier around mass producing reactor cores that could be vastly improved: water. As we saw on the Safety page, removing water also has the side effect of allowing us to put nuclear power plants — including their reactor core flange vessels — on the reactor line, which standardises safety features, dramatically lowers the size of the containment dome, and absolutely smashes the costs! Factory line produced nuclear power could be some of the cheapest, safest, and most reliable energy the world has ever seen!
ThorCon have a thorium BURNER (not breeder, due to time requirements) that might come in at HALF the cost of coal!
They want to produce it NOW, not in 15 to 20 years when the BREEDER MSR’s are ready, and so have designed it around today’s technology.
4. Legislative approval
We need to remove legislative approval issues that are costly and time consuming. It is often said that a nuclear power plant takes 10 years to build. Wrong. It takes 5 of those years just to get approval against all the local legal challenges from protesters and community groups. This is an expensive and time wasting procedure, and only public education against anti-nuclear myths can reduce some of this public anxiety.
5. Insurance costs
This just is another form of the ‘it’s all too risky’ argument. You don’t hear this touted from the proponents of hydro-dams that have in the past wiped out entire villages downstream.
As the UK’s Dr Gerry Wolff says:
One of the biggest of several hidden subsidies for nuclear power is that it is only required to pay a small fraction of the cost of insuring fully against claims from a Chernobyl-style disaster, or worse:
“… in the United States, the Price-Anderson Act limits the nuclear industry’s liability in the event of a catastrophic accident to $9.1 billion, which is less than 2% of the $600 billion guaranteed by the Congress. In any case, $600 billion is considered to be a gross underestimate …” (Helen Caldicott, p. 32). There are similar limitations on liabilities in other countries around the world, including the UK.
Full insurance against nuclear disasters would completely demolish any economic case for nuclear power.
Dr Gerry Wolff, Why we don’t need nuclear power.
Again it is back down to how we keep them accountable, inspect reactors regularly, and how we expect society to manage such a risk. See my Safety page for technical details on how impossible accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima are now, how people could probably move back into the Fukushima and Chernobyl zones, and how if we manage it right, nuclear power is perfectly safe. But even if you don’t believe the nuclear authorities about the safety of their remarkable new reactors, ask yourself this: which is worse, a Fukushima every 30 years or global warming? If we build them smart, build them safe, build them in safe distant locations and keep them monitored and have governments assume a management role in the (infinitesimally small chance) of some sort of disaster, we can do this!