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
- More on expensive American nuclear
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
What about some other quotes? Here’s Tom Blees:-
Setting aside the legalistic and political quagmire that characterizes the nuclear power industry in America, we can look at the cost of the Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) that were built in Japan in the late 90’s at a cost of about $1.4 billion/GW, and the Chinese’ recent estimates for the final cost of their first two AP-1000s ($1.76 billion/GW), and come to the reasonable conclusion that Germany could build Gen III+ reactors for $2 billion/GW, especially modular units in the dozens.
Here’s the World Nuclear Association’s data:- (They use $thousands / kwe on the original page, so I converted it to $billions / GW for consistency with the rest of this page.)
Note how America’s legislative framework is crippling nuclear and making it so much more expensive there. This is why you’ll sometimes hear American’s like Amory Lovins saying “Nuclear power is dying of an acute attack of the market place.” Not at all. It’s not the technology, but legislation crippling the quick and safe deployment of this great technology. (See point 7 below). There are a range of prices, but it is no mystery. Government owned nuclear power industries can streamline and mass produce nuclear and provide abundant reliable, clean, affordable electricity for all.
The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s (NEA’s) calculation of the overnight cost for a nuclear power plant built in the OECD rose from about $1.9 billion / GW at the end of the 1990s to $3.85 billion / GW in 2009. In the 2015 report Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, the overnight costs ranged from $2.021 billion / GW in South Korea to $6.215 billion / GW in Hungary. For China, two comparable figures were $1.8 billion — $2.6 billion / GW.
The NEA figures for the 1990s must be treated with caution as they are not in line with some other data sources. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) calculated that, in constant 2002 values, the realized overnight cost of a nuclear power plant built in the USA grew from $1.5 billion / GW in the early 1960s to $4 billion / GW in the mid-1970s. The EIA cited increased regulatory requirements (including design changes that required plants to be backfitted with modified equipment), licensing problems, project management problems and mis-estimation of costs and demand as the factors contributing to the increase during the 1970s. Its 2010 report, Updated Capital Cost Estimates for Electricity Generation Plants, gave an estimate for a new nuclear plant of $5.3 billion / GW.
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
Around 200 — 300 MW seems to be the optimal size that can become a modular plant delivered (in sections) off the back of trucks straight onto the utility site where they are then clipped together like super-sized lego. They’re a 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. 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!
EG: 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. More on expensive American nuclear
From Science Direct:-
The existing literature on the construction costs of nuclear power reactors has focused almost exclusively on trends in construction costs in only two countries, the United States and France, and during two decades, the 1970s and 1980s. These analyses, Koomey and Hultman (2007); Grubler (2010), and Escobar-Rangel and Lévêque (2015), study only 26% of reactors built globally between 1960 and 2010, providing an incomplete picture of the economic evolution of nuclear power construction. This study curates historical reactor-specific overnight construction cost (OCC) data that broaden the scope of study substantially, covering the full cost history for 349 reactors in the US, France, Canada, West Germany, Japan, India, and South Korea, encompassing 58% of all reactors built globally. We find that trends in costs have varied significantly in magnitude and in structure by era, country, and experience. In contrast to the rapid cost escalation that characterized nuclear construction in the United States, we find evidence of much milder cost escalation in many countries, including absolute cost declines in some countries and specific eras. Our new findings suggest that there is no inherent cost escalation trend associated with nuclear technology.
As the World Nuclear Association reports:-
A 2016 study by The Breakthrough Institute on Historical construction costs of global nuclear power reactors presented new data for overnight nuclear construction costs across seven countries. Some conclusions emerged that are in contrast to past literature. While several countries, notably the USA, show increasing costs over time, other countries show more stable costs in the longer term, and cost declines over specific periods in their technological history. One country, South Korea, experiences sustained construction cost reductions throughout its nuclear power experience. The variations in trends show that the pioneering experiences of the USA or even France are not necessarily the best or most relevant examples of nuclear cost history. These results showed that there is no single or intrinsic learning rate expected for nuclear power technology, nor any expected cost trend. How costs evolve appears to be dependent on several different factors. The large variation in cost trends and across different countries – even with similar nuclear reactor technologies – suggests that cost drivers other than learning-by-doing have dominated the experience of nuclear power construction and its costs. Factors such as utility structure, reactor size, regulatory regime, and international collaboration may have a larger effect. Therefore, drawing any strong conclusions about future nuclear power costs based on one country’s experience – especially the US experience in the 1970s and 1980s – would be ill-advised.