Discussion Thread – can nuclear be kick started at lower cost?

I’ve split this discussion from Open Thread 6.

I want to use this post to focus comments on whether lower-cost Gen II+ (e.g. via the Chinese CPR-1000 and Indian PHWR) are a better current option to be pursuing than higher-cost Gen III+ (like the AREVA EPR and any US proposal that you’d care to think of right now). The other issue is whether Gen III+ reactors like the Westinghouse AP1000 and KEPCO APR-1400 can quickly become cost-competitive with Gen II+, as recent results from China and South Korea are suggesting…

Here is the Nucleonics Week piece that forms the fulcrum of this discussion, with South Africa as the case study (h/t to jaro at EfT):

Nucleonics Week October 7, 2010

South Africa seeking to restart nuclear program at lower cost

South Africa is poised to restart its stalled nuclear power program in the coming months, seeking a solution less costly than the Westinghouse and Areva bids it received in early 2008.

Among the possibilities the government is considering, according to South African and other officials interviewed last month, are reactors from China and South Korea that rivals say lack 21st century safety features. For the South Africans, those “Generation II+” designs have the benefit of support from major nuclear utilities — including, perhaps, France’s EDF — and the prospect of generous export financing. The CEO of state utility Eskom, Brian Dames, has said that South Africa “may not be able to afford” a Generation III reactor design, according to Clive Le Roux, chief nuclear officer and senior general manager, nuclear division of Eskom Holdings Ltd. Le Roux said in an interview September 20 that the government is taking an “open technology” approach and asked Eskom to evaluate “all PWR technologies based on the criteria used in 2006” to establish Eskom’s initial reactor tender, which ultimately failed on grounds of cost.

But South African industry officials said the nuclear power plan could be significantly delayed or abandoned if the government — which is in charge of the country’s nuclear program —chooses a reactor design that requires a larger emergency planning zone than is foreseen in the environmental impact assessment process on which approval of the proposed sites depends. That might be the case for so-called Generation II+ reactors such as the Chinese CPR-1000, according to Le Roux. Eskom is responsible for conducting the EIA process. He said the EIA documents for Eskom’s sites are based on an evacuation zone of 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles).

Rob Adam, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corp. of South Africa, Necsa, said in an interview September 17 that the government is expected to approve next month an integrated resource plan that foresees construction of 11,000 MW of nuclear capacity by the late 2020s, with initial construction in 2020. He said the deployment of the reactors would be done in a “fleet” approach from the outset, in contrast to Eskom’s tender of 2007, which asked for detailed bids on two or three initial units and an option for 10 to 12 later on. But the government has not yet announced the timeline for a decision on how to proceed with the procurement, he said.

Adam said it’s not yet decided whether the procurement will be “country-to-country” or via a tender. In December 2007, Eskom invited Westinghouse and Areva to submit bids for their flagship products, AP1000 and EPR respectively. Eskom had asked for two bids, one called “Nuclear 1” for initial capacity of 3,200 MW-3,500 MW and a second for a fleet of 10 to 12 replicate units. But Eskom and the government were taken aback by the cost of the bids when they were submitted in January 2008, South African officials said last month. Eskom repeatedly delayed a decision on Nuclear 1, as the utility found itself caught between what loomed as a huge capital investment for the turnkey plants — South African media at the time cited the figure of $9 billion for the two or three units, but Eskom has not confirmed that — and a decreasing ability to raise financing after its credit rating was cut by Moody’s Investors Service in August 2008.

The international financial crisis put an end, at least temporarily, to the utility’s nuclear plans, and the board of Eskom Holdings announced on December 5, 2008 that it had decided to terminate the Nuclear 1 tender “due to the magnitude of the investment.” At the time, South African officials said the government was looking for an alternative model for building the reactor fleet that would involve a “bigger opportunity for South African companies” and bring the unit cost of nuclear power plants down. South Africa’s ambassador to the IAEA and deputy foreign minister, Abdul Samad Minty, said September 20 that the country’s Department of Energy “is also leading the development of a nuclear energy implementation strategy” to develop necessary infrastructure, including “localization and industrialization and nuclear fuel security.” “We will work with international partners with the most cost-effective plans that address these issues with minimum impact on cost and delivery schedule,” he told the IAEA general conference in Vienna.

Le Roux said Eskom has evaluated PWR technology from Japan, Russia and South Korea in addition to the Westinghouse and Areva technology, and has added China’s design for consideration. The China Guangdong Nuclear Power group, or Cgnpc, which is part-owned by China National Nuclear Corp., has developed a three-loop, 1,000-MW-class PWR based on technology transferred by Areva predecessor Framatome in the 1980s. The CPR-1000, as it is called, is the workhorse of China’s burgeoning nuclear power program, representing most of the 24 reactors under construction in the country. Le Roux said that in the previous tender, “we asked Areva to build an ‘RSA-1000,’” meaning a CPR-1000 adapted for the Republic of South Africa. But he said that the Eskom board had eventually rejected the idea.

With the experience of the failed 2008 tender, the new South African government and the new Eskom board might be more receptive to a reactor design that is not labeled Generation III and doesn’t have the same price tag. Chinese utility Cgnpc has announced unit overnight costs for its CPR-1000 built in China that are less than half those of the AP1000 or EPR (NW, 1 July, 3).

Evacuation zone

But Le Roux said that the EIAs for Eskom’s proposed reactor sites were based on the European Utility Requirements document, a compilation of specifications for new reactor designs by most of Europe’s nuclear utilities. The EUR, Le Roux said, specifies an emergency evacuation zone around a reactor site of only 800 meters (about half of a mile). Eskom’s sole nuclear power station, the two-unit Koeberg PWR plant, has an “immediate evacuation” zone of 5 km (about 3.1 miles) and a “contingency” evacuation zone of 16 km, Le Roux said. The latter is based on the US NRC’s 10-mile emergency planning zone, he said. Eskom is looking at three new sites for its next nuclear power units: Thyspunt, Bantamsklip, and Duinefontein, which is adjacent to Koeberg. All are in the Cape region, where electricity demand is highest and which is far from South Africa’s coal fields. Le Roux said Eskom had assumed the EUR emergency planning zone criteria when preparing the EIA for new units at Duinefontein, even though the 16-km zone exists for Koeberg.

Le Roux said that Eskom had asked Cgnpc whether it had redesigned the CPR-1000 so that it could meet the new evacuation zone criteria. Adam said that “there is a lot of discussion with the Chinese” at present. If Eskom insisted on a Generation III reactor, “they couldn’t do it on their own,” because Areva and Westinghouse have technology rights to their designs outside China. If Eskom chose a Generation II design, he said, it could be put at Koeberg considering the emergency planning zone, but not at the other sites. “It would be messy to redo the EIAs,” he said. “You’d have to tinker with the EPZ.”

Adam also said that if the Chinese are keen to build reactors in South Africa, it’s not just to export their products but also because they are interested in the country’s uranium resources. South Africa’s nuclear policy, on the other hand, calls for indigenous development of nuclear fuel cycle technologies, including enrichment and fuel fabrication, so that the country can sell more valuable products for export.

CPR-1000 with EDF?

Meanwhile, French daily Les Echos reported last month that EDF was interested in partnering with Cgnpc in selling CPR-1000s to South Africa, but that the French government had rejected that idea on grounds that EDF should not promote Chinese technology over that of Areva. The French government owns more than 85% of each of those companies. It recently declared EDF the leader of the French nuclear industry, but said EDF and Areva should work together more, especially when it’s necessary for export business.

EDF CEO Henri Proglio, who took his position last November, has set the goal of establishing EDF as a nuclear architect-engineering force worldwide, and reorganized the utility’s nuclear engineering division to include a “future nuclear” department charged with investigating new reactor designs. The department has been looking at various designs, including the CPR-1000, according to one EDF official. He did not confirm that EDF was also looking at a 1,500-MW-class design separate from Areva’s 1,650-MW EPR, as Les Echos had reported.

The five-member commission of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority, ASN, issued a statement July 6 asserting that reactors built today should include features to prevent core melt accidents and to limit radioactive releases in the event of such an accident, notably systems to recover molten corium that might melt through the reactor vessel. EPR has such a system, but some other reactors do not, including the CPR-1000 and the South Korean version of the APR-1400 PWR that is to be built in the United Arab Emirates. The commissioners wrote, “We don’t want two-speed safety and we will continue to promote in Europe and internationally safety goals that take into account the lessons of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and September 11, 2001. Faced with projects to export reactors that don’t meet these safety goals, ASN will not hesitate to say that such reactors could not be built in France.”

Asked September 23 whether that ruled out the CPR-1000, ASN Chairman Andre-Claude Lacoste told Platts that the commission was not designating any specific design, and said he did not know what design features the Chinese or the South Koreans might be proposing for export projects, including in South Africa.

Safe enough?

In a separate interview September 22 in Vienna, Bernard Bigot, chairman of France’s Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies, or CEA, said France was promoting an agreement among countries exporting nuclear reactor technology on new design criteria. They are: reduction of the risk of core melt by a factor of 10 compared to existing units, practical elimination of radioactive releases outside the reactor building, and resistance to extreme external events, including voluntary attacks. “The whole world must share this [approach],” Bigot said. He said the CPR-1000 “does not meet the three criteria,” in particular because it doesn’t have a double protective shell surrounding the reactor building. France’s Nuclear Policy Council, chaired by President Nicolas Sarkozy, said last July that “we won’t export low-cost reactors,” Bigot recalled. He said that while there are differences of opinion within EDF on which technologies are acceptable for export, “the French government has a clear position.”

Necsa’s Adam said there is some resistance in South Africa to taking on a Generation II reactor design, and that there is hope that vendors will “bring down the cost” of Generation III designs. The CEA’s Bigot said that buying a nuclear reactor today is a commitment for 60 years or more, so entrants into the market should look for the highest safety standard available today. Bigot said that “the South Africans have not asked for CPR-1000” but rather want the Chinese to help lower the cost of EPRs that would be built in South Africa. “EPR is in the process of being clearly optimized” on the basis of experience with the design, he said.

Liu Hua, director general of the department of nuclear safety and environmental radiation management in China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, said in an interview September 22 that the CPR-1000 had been significantly upgraded compared to the French technology of 30 years ago. He cited measures to reduce the risk of vessel melt-through, to limit the risk of loss of coolant accidents, and to increase the capacity to cope with hydrogen formation under containment, as well as backfit of digital instrumentation & control systems. He said the CPR-1000 meets IAEA safety standards for new reactors, with a core melt frequency of 10 E-5 (Ed: 1 in 100,000 reactor years) and a release probability an order of magnitude lower. “We are satisfied that CPR-1000 is a safe reactor type,” Liu said. “It’s safe enough”.

How safe is safe enough is a hot topic. “Even the AP1000 still needs improvement,” the Chinese regulator said. South Africa’s Minty told the IAEA conference that completion of the final EIA for the three proposed reactor sites is anticipated “before the end of 2010.” He said the EIA would be submitted to the government for “evaluation and a decision on an environmental authorization in the first half of 2011.” Boyce Mkhize, CEO of South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator, told Platts September 23 that “in the end, it’s the government’s decision which technology” is deployed in South Africa.” “We just need to make sure what’s chosen meets the IAEA safety standards.”

—Ann MacLachlan, London, Vienna and Paris

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111 Comments

  1. Barry, that’s great. And very quick, too. And thank you to Scott for pointing it out.

    The first point I’d take from this article is that the cost is the main consideration as to how acceptable nuclear will be and to how quickly we can progress. All Gen II and Gen III plants are plenty safe enough. So we need to focus on what we can do to get the cost down to cheaper than coal.

    The second point I’d make is that EU is running it usual pattern of going over the top with regulation and using claimed “increased safety” as a marketing tool. Or more likely as a way to get IAEA to tighten up international standards even further so that EU and USA can control the sales of reactors.

    South Africa, like us, cannot afford to pay for the top of the range, all bells and whistles NPP’s. Nor can most other countries. Some of the Canadians here might be able to expand on this giving examples of Canada’s long drawnout negotiations with countries like Turkey, Romania, Argentina, Korea and India (off the top of my head). Cost is the key to getting started.

    I would argue that our principal requirement is least cost NPPs. If that means Gen II, then I am happy with Gen II. We don’t need Gen III. Let’s run with Gen II if itsd cheaper and leap to Gen IV when they are available. But let’s just get started.

    The article points out maney of the regulatory difficulties being encountered by South Africa. If South Africa is having that much difficulty, imagine the problems we’d have. Unless …. Unless we can get Australian’s to focus at an early stage on removing all the impediments to nuclear so we can implement it at least cost. We need to work on this aspect from the very start. BNC can lead the discussion on this.

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  2. I would think that if we wanted a fast roll out we would get a small fleet of around 6 Gen III reactors purchased off the shelf to replace the Latrobe Valley coal burners, whilst putting ANSTO and CSIRO to work on R&D for Gen IV.
    In this way we could remove the emissions from our most polluting brown-coal fired stations and then focus on a larger Gen IV fleet rollout to remove the rest of our coal and fossil fuel burners.

    The article does make a good point that any reactors that a country would buy now would be lasting for at least 60 years, so potentially skimping on quality and going for CPR-1000s may not be the best idea.

    However, Australia does have a couple of differences compared to the UAE and South Africa that would favour a Gen IV small reactor crash-program. We have a much less dense population, so larger reactors don’t get the size efficiencies that they would get serving a nearby dense population. The other is that we don’t have an existing nuclear power industry, which means that we could take bigger gambles by taking a longer term option like the LFTR or IFR.

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  3. Barry: Your list of low cost Gen II+ options should be expanded to include AECL’s EC6 unit. It is a proven, very successful design with eleven operating stations worldwide. The design has very recently been updated and uprated to meet the very latest in international safety requirements. The community includes an outstanding Owners Group that assists operations in many ways.

    I strongly support the move toward low capital cost, and low Total Unit Energy Cost nuclear plants

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  4. “Chinese utility Cgnpc has announced unit overnight costs for its CPR-1000 built in China that are less than half those of the AP1000 or EPR ”

    Nuclear vendors themselves often post extremely optimistic views on the overnight costs for nuclear reactors. As an example, almost a decade ago Westinghouse was talking about $2,000/kW for the AP1000; while this is indeed the case in China, the price is closer to $5,000/kW in the USA. Point is, if we’re going to use manufacturer estimates then we also need to take a look at the assumptions for them.

    According to OECD ‘Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2010 Edition’, in China the CPR-1000 is closer to $1,700/kW, whereas (also in China) the AP-1000 is closer to $2,300/kW. China, however has significantly more experience with the OPR-1000, so it may be the case that the cost of the AP-1000 will decrease over time. Therefore, I find the notion that the AP-1000 is significantly more expensive than a GEN-II+ plant sketchy, at best.

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/59/50/45528378.pdf

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  5. Areva seems to have a design that at this stage is simply uncompetitive. Probably mainly due to two factors: it has two containment vessels, and four active safety systems. On the other hand, it’s significantly larger than other designs. From my understanding it uses more concrete than GEN-II plants (which is more than the AP-1000). Rather than admitting they simply have an uncompetitive product, they complain that others (KEPCO & its APR-1400) are skimping on safety by criticizing that they do not have a core catcher. Areva, FYI, GEN-III APR-1400 doesn’t require a core catcher because (like the AP-1000) it’s designed for in-vessel retention, where the core debris never penetrate the pressure vessel.

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  6. If the Chinese nuclear engineers were tasked with building a CPR-1000 in the USA or in Europe or Australia or whatever, would the cost really be that much less than a similar system (eg. Westinghouse AP1000) from a Western vendor?

    The actual plant hardware doesn’t seem very different, and it seems like a significant portion of the cost of NPP build in the West is due to regulations layered upon regulations, protests, lawsuits and campaigns by anti-nuclear activists, and the NRC’s flawed and expensive, time consuming system of licenses.

    In China, for example, they’re able to reduce those costs, and they’re working with reduced labor costs for plant construction I presume, so that brings the cost of the project down relative to a Western project, even if the actual reactor plant hardware is very similar.

    So, would we still see much of a price difference, relative to the Western companies, if the Chinese would build one of these plants in the USA or another Western nation?

    How much price difference is there between, say, AP1000 and CPR1000 just in the cost of the raw materials and hardware for the plant?

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  7. Luke raises a good point. Chinese plants are cheap…including the AP1000…because they are *built in China!*. There is no getting around this. No delays, no financing issues, seamless vertically integrated regulatory environment (and a brutal dictatorship to back it up) and development from construction through commissioning to operations. No bidding, no competitive wrangling with banks, sub-contractors, and so on. In other words: cheap.

    No to in most other places.

    Secondly, why is the Korean APR-1400 Gen III excluded from this discussion? Are they SO expensive as to not be competitive in the SA tender? Why isn’t a deal worked out with the Chinese and Westinghouse (Japan/US) to build the CAP-1000 (or even the first CAP-1400 which IS exportable from what I understand) to build a first of a kind fleet in SA?

    Lastly, I think it’s a question of being *creative* in their vision and approach not just “which is cheapest”?

    David

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  8. Peter Lang wrote and asked if I would comment on this item, and I am glad to do so.

    First the most important item we should take from this story, is that a country with a real desire to increase the amount of energy that they get from nuclear is going to be satisfied with less than cutting edge designs. It has been my opinion for some time that the Nuclear Renaissance will have to emerge from existing technology, and that attempts to use the reawakened interest in nuclear power to push radical new ideas, is counterproductive. South Africa seems to have come to the same conclusion. Note too that S.A. is not a nuclear virgin – there is no lack of home-grown expertise there to draw on.

    Second, I’m not sure the Indian PHWR are a viable option for S.A. These are not yet available in the sizes that they seem to be looking for. As for CANDU, I don’t think that they are going to consider dealing with Canada, because they cannot leverage their own uranium supply to cut a better deal with us.

    Lastly, I’m having a hard time understanding why they would be so concerned with evacuation zones. S.A. is not short of room, and these units need not be built near populated areas. The extra cost of transmission is likely to be less than upgrading the type of reactor to meet these artificial safety requirements.

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  9. DV82XL, great to see you back at BNC! I completely agree with your comment.

    As to the safety of the AP1000, I found the NRC report on the reactor to be very useful. Also, from what I have read on the matter, the reactor is designed to be cheaper to manufacture than GenII designs.

    BTW, I’m currently writing a blog discussing whether a ‘Chernobyl’ type accident could happen in a Gen III reactor. I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of a paper discussing what the consequences of the worst case scenario’ accident in a gen II/III reactor would be? e.g. what would happen if there was containment failure, how many casualties, land damage etc.

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  10. If a fully installed AP 1000 cost $10bn I’m sure they can find the money if they really wanted to. A prime source would be to raid the $43bn NBN budget. Considerable wastage of that fund is starting to emerge, for example laying fibre optic cable in areas that already have good satellite and wireless communication. The Feds could make a soft loan to a major power co so that in reality the govt was the major stakeholder hidden behind a veil. If I recall a couple of years back some secretive committee offered $8bn to TRU Energy to convert from brown coal to natural gas.

    Clearly centre left governments are caught in a bind. The Gillard cabal must be looking at the UK and Scandinavia and want to go with the flow. There may also be a sneaking suspicion that China and India will leave us in their dust. The high Greens vote could be interpreted as a mandate to do something about emissions rather than a specific technology preference.

    Also if the $23 carbon tax gets up it should make LWR nuclear more attractive and I think the ACIL Tasman report points this out. Admittedly the problem with this approach (ie raiding the kitty) is that it pays for just one large reactor.

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  11. Someone might want to update the Wikipedia entry for Gen III:

    “A generation III reactor is a development of any of the generation II nuclear reactor designs incorporating evolutionary improvements in design developed during the lifetime of the generation II reactor designs. These include improved fuel technology, superior thermal efficiency, passive safety systems and standardized design for reduced maintenance and capital costs.

    Rod Adams published an interview he did with Tom Sanders, President of the American Nuclear Society, and according to Rod, the current leader of a team working at Sandia National Laboratory on right sized reactors.

    Sanders says Sandia created the foundation for a period of American leadership in semiconductor fabrication by inventing “clean room” technology, and that Sandia feels like it could make a contribution to American leadership on cost effective nuclear fabrication by streamlining factory production and regulatory approval of “right sized” reactors.

    It is an interesting interview, available as a podcast #142 The Atomic Show

    http://atomic.thepodcastnetwork.com/2009/09/25/the-atomic-show-142-american-right-sized-reactors/

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  12. Barry – thanks for this thread. The AECL C6 was mentioned in passing and I decided to do some checking to help further my education. I found the C6 Technical Summary on the AECL site and have read it. One of the most fascinating parts is on page 57 (or thereabouts – Acrobat says it’s page 54, 57 of 62):

    CANDU fuel cycle options of current interest include: natural uranium (NU), slightly enriched uranium (SEU), recovered uranium (0.9 per cent U235) (RU), direct use of spent LWR fuel in CANDU (DUPIC), the thorium/U233 cycles and the transuranic mix. The fuel cycle options are illustrated in the following figure, and are discussed further in the following sub-sections.

    An important feature of CANDU’s versatility is that alternate fuel cycles can be implemented in operating CANDU reactors, with little or no equipment change. As a result, fuel cycle benefits do not require a big investment in new designs. This versatility also allows “reversibility” of fuel cycle options. Even if a CANDU has been optimized for a particular fuel cycle, the operator can convert to alternate fuel cycles, if required. This is a major attraction of the advanced fuel cycles, since it preserves the option of national independence of enrichment supply even while using the advanced fuel.

    The pdf goes on to say it’s not a full thorium breeder cycle, but it sounds like a step in the right direction to me. Not requiring enriched uranium strikes me as a major And the overall document opened my eyes about many reactor engineering, control and safety issues.

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  13. One of the major roadblocks in getting nukes built at any cost in the west is the massive unreasoning opposition of antinuclear greenies. Any attempt to educate the undecided is met with vicious opposition.

    This extends to the deletion of critical comments on greeny web sites.

    No better example than antinuclear advocate David Roberts who runs Grist.org. He has an article there on how prevalent the climate Denier community is amongst Republicans and how how the progressive politicians are avoiding the fight.

    http://www.grist.org/article/2010-10-08-telling-the-truth-about-climate-change-is-good-politics/#comments

    I made the following comment pointing out that its while he thinks it’s okay for antinuclear progressives to make fun of climate deniers, by rejecting nuclear power as a solution nuclear deniers are just as dangerous to civilization’s survival as the climate variety in fact more so.

    In fact James Camerson agrees.

    My comment:

    “People that claim to believe in climate change but reject nuclear power as a solution are actually a far worse danger to humanity than reasoning progressives’s and climate deniers who generally accept the need for nukes.

    Here’s James Cameron recently

    ” I’m pro-nuclear, yeah, in this particular context, as a bridge to a fully sustainable future. I think the waste problem is a 500 year horizon, I think the warming problem is a 10 to 15 year horizon. ”

    10 to 15 years people!!! Then add to that less than ten years for Peak Oil.

    Wind and solar couldn’t make more than a tiny dint in our GHG emissions in that timeframe.

    Even if it weren’t industrially and financially impossible, its politically impossible as well. Deniers hate wind/solar with a passion and will fight every effort to build them. With increased Repug control of government it is likely all subsidy will end.

    Some Australian power engineers, real engineers as opposed to some Greenpeace study done by social workers, looked at a proposal to power Australia by 2020 with balanced wind solar and biomass. It was found to be impossibly expensive, utterly impractical, and an orders of magnitude more costly than nuclear with costs reaching as high as $1.20 a kwh.

    https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/

    With a World War II effort, in ten years 10000 mass produced nukes could easily with a fraction of our industrial capacity, with the costs covered at a 30% ROR by replacing fossil fuels, head off the the global warming and peak oil crises.

    The three million people that die every year from air pollution will then live and the hundreds of millions sickened will live healthy lives.

    The cost of mass produced nukes are a tiny fraction of wind/solar coming in at under 2 cents a kwh based on American NRC approved American engineer build reactors under construction in China with onshore unsubsidized new wind starting at 12 cents and offshore 25 cents. Solar is double that. Wind costs and solar PV have bottomed and are increasing. Solar CSP is an unknown but at a minimum higher than offshore wind.

    Nuclear Waste? the usual canard.

    All the worlds nuclear waste would fit in the Great Pyramid at Giza which has lasted 5000 years. Better we let a billion people die than lose a football field forever? And the stuff is not waste it is fuel waiting for recycle enough to power the world for hundreds of years. Whats left is such low level it could be stuffed back in an uranium mine shaft.

    Meltdown?

    The worst possible accident with a post fifties nuke happened at three mile island, the reactor vessel was barely scratched. The IAEA standard for new reactors has a core melt release probability on 1 per million reactor years of operation. The AP-1000 improves that to 1 per 200 million reactor years of operation.

    10 to 15 years folks!!!! That’s what climate scientists are telling us. Wind and solar people don’t seem to believe them, while all the time dissing climate deniers. They seem to love the not so renewables more than the survival of civilization.

    Stop laughing at the Repug deniers and look in the mirror. Maybe some comprise to your rigidity is in order. Add nuclear power to a RES standand – maybe that might actually get a bill signed and some process under way.”

    I got this right away from Roberts as he deleted my comment.

    “Seth, one more off-the-shelf rant about nuclear power on a thread that has nothing to do with nuclear power and you will be banned from Grist for good. Last warning.

    — david roberts
    senior staff writer”

    Presumably that would include any articles extolling the virtues of wind or solar power.

    This is the second time, the first note from Roberts came after my comment on a Joe Rolm article that Charles Barton was kind enough to comment on here

    http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2010/09/bankrupt-criticism-of-nuclear-power.html

    You will find a similar thing on Huffpo where antinuclear baiters can call pronuclear commentators all sorts of nasty names liars, shills and worse yet never get banned while the list of banned pronuclear commentators is lengthy.

    It is apparent that the antinuclear component of the Green community is hell bent on shutting down opposition and any means fair or foul is all for the cause.

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  14. Andrew: There’s a useful summary of a recent CANDU 6 project in China, at

    Incidentally, that library contains about 14,000 page images covering much of the technical history of the concept — freely accessible to anyone.

    In response to Peter Lang, cost is indeed crucial — but neither the seller nor the buyer is keen to reveal the details of project costs either during or after the deal is closed. The very best indicator of success comes from regular reports from operating organizations. Are they happy with the product over a period of years? Does the product perform well compared to other options that might have been chosen? Is there a sound support network? Can future factors such as fuel supply be confidently predicted?

    Gen II LWR systems are fully mature. Gen II+ CANDU systems also are mature. These are the options that will continue to interest customers in the future, as they slowly evolve to account for system and equipment improvements.

    From the operator’s point of view, any “fancy new option” will be judged harshly unless that option represents a mature technology.

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  15. Because CANDUs are very stingy with neutrons, all sorts of fuel cycles can be exploited, most interestingly (to me) mixed fuel cores that could combine just about any selection of fuels one could imagine, within limits. There are all sorts of synergies that can be imagined with a mixed fleet of reactor types where CANDUs can contribute to better overall fuel burns, and lower final wastes.

    The big reason this will never happen is that nuclear power plant design selection is not done for technical reasons, but for political ones.

    From what I can see CANDUs would be the best choice for Australia, however I doubt that one will ever be built there for the same reason one will never be built in S.A. Both countries need to leverage their uranium resources with countries like France, India, China and South Korea to drive a better deal in the price of a reactor. This is not something that can be done with Canada, because, of course, we are net exporters of uranium as well.

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  16. DV82XL,

    Thank you for your comments.

    There are other reassons why Australia might and should consider CANDU as one of several options.

    Firstly, we are reluctant to sign on to what the USA wants to impose on us: ie that we will never enrich uranium. The CANDU would give us breathing space until Gen IV because we could use unenriched fuel and not have to sign the US requirement (I think).

    Secondly, the CANDU is the right size for our grid; this will avoid a lot of expenditure on grid upgrades that would be required if we went for olarger designs. This would be particularly the case in the states with the smaller demand (all except NSW and Victoria).

    Thirdly, we could do a deal to maximise Australian industry invpolvement, just as all the other buyers of CANDU’s have done. The amount of Australian Industry Involvement has always been important in our decisions about large overseas capital purchases – as demonstrated by the constraints on our military purchases. That is why we built our own submarines rather then buy military off the shelf hardware (MOTS).

    Fourthly, just like S.A. and all other small economies who have, or are building NPPs, the cost of electricity will be the decisive criteria in the long run. If CANDU can give Australia the lowest electricity prices over the plant life, then it would be a winner. Also, the proven record of reliability would be valuable. (A while ago I noticed that the Korean CANDU’s had the highest lifetime capacity factor of any NPPs in the world).

    By including CANDU in the mix of options, it also has the advantage of putting more downward price pressure on NPP’s offered by countries like India and Korea that do want to cut a deal on uranium. It would make them have to sharpen their pencils more. Competitive pressures will give us the best options.

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  17. Well here is a link that may or may not been posted before, on comparative costs for coal vs nuclear, that the group may find of interest.

    http://www.nucleartourist.com/basics/costs.htm

    @Peter Lang – Frankly I don’t think that the USA is in the position of dictating terms on nuclear energy anymore.

    The degree to which US commercial interests have any influence has dropped to almost nothing. The US-India agreement that effectively ended the embargo of nuclear related items to the latter was more a desperate attempt to open a market, rather than any change of heart in Washington. Witness too the near panic that the Indian Nuclear Liability Act had on US suppliers, and how little influence the Americans found they had trying to get the legislation killed.

    It is also clear from the last nuclear summit that America’s political influence in this area is a shadow of what it was. The French told the US outright that they will never contemplate giving up nuclear weapons. There was a time when this would have been sugar-coated with diplomatic language that looked forward to a world without nuclear arms. Sarkozy was blunt and public saying, “France will not give up its nuclear weapons, because doing so would jeopardize its security. I have inherited the legacy of the efforts made by my predecessors to build up France as a nuclear power. And I could not give up nuclear weapons [until] the world was a stable and safe place.” President Obama had put a huge amount of backroom pressure on Sarkozy, in the hope that this would be Obama’s big win at the summit, as the Brits would have to follow. This failure is very telling.

    Japan now to is making noises about having an independent nuclear weapon capability, citing China, and North Korea as potential threats, but the unstated reason is that they do not feel that they can depend on the US nuclear umbrella as they could in the past. Japan has always made little secret about maintaining a breakout capability, and if they chose to go ahead they are three months from an arsenal of deployable weapons.

    The US is not a heavyweight in nuclear matters anymore, in fact they are looking more, and more like a paper tiger. Frankly I DO NOT see this as a good thing, for all sorts of reasons, however any discussion of nuclear policy must take the new reality of this into account.

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  18. DV82XL,

    Good point. Thank you. We’ll have to watch and see how this issue develops. I don’t know much about it and am probably working on out of date information. Last I knew (about 3 yrears ago) USA was trying to pressure countries to sign an agreement to say they would not enrich uranium. Perhaps that is now dead in the water. I also understand it is not economical ofr Australia to try to do so at the moment, but I wouldn’t want to see us sign an agreement that says we forgo any chance of doing so in the future.

    However, this is a relatively minor issue. The real issue is least-cost and getting started with any currently available design as soon as possble.

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  19. How much price difference is there between, say, AP1000 and CPR1000 just in the cost of the raw materials and hardware for the plant?

    I’d have to say Luke Weston’s point (and David Walters follow up points) are integral if anyone wants to try to answer the question “are lower-cost Gen II+ reactors a better current option to be pursuing than higher-cost Gen III+?”

    Comparing different reactor build costs in developed nations to build costs in developing nations is a fairly dubious undertaking. Labour costs vary by huge amounts, and the EIA processes are often markedly different (e.g. China basically doesn’t have one).

    So – does anyone have sources for build costs of CPR-1000s and AP1000s in China?

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  20. Finrod – thanks, I did get that impression when I googled his name. It’s more the fact that the article is in Nuclear Engineering International that I posted the link. Just because someone’s generally wrong, doesn’t mean they’re always wrong, I guess!

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  21. Tom, this is perhaps the most reliable information: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html

    A 2010 OECD study Projected Costs of generating Electricity compared 2009 data for generating base-load electricity by 2015 as well as costs of power from renewables, and showed that nuclear power was very competitive at $30 per tonne CO2 cost and low discount rate. The study comprised data for 190 power plants from 17 OECD countries as well as some data from Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa. It used levelised lifetime costs with carbon price internalised (OECD only) and discounted cash flow at 5% and 10%, as previously. The precise competitiveness of different base-load technologies depended very much on local circumstances and the costs of financing and fuels.

    Nuclear overnight capital costs in OECD ranged from US$ 1556/kW for APR-1400 in South Korea through $3009 for ABWR in Japan, $3382/kW for Gen III+ in USA, $3860 for EPR at Flamanville in France to $5863/kW for EPR in Switzerland, with world median $4100/kW. Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Rep and Hungary were all over $5000/kW. In China overnight costs were $1748/kW for CPR-1000 and $2302/kW for AP1000, and in Russia $2933/kW for VVER-1150. EPRI (USA) gave $2970/kW for APWR or ABWR, Eurelectric gave $4724/kW for EPR. OECD black coal plants were costed at $807-2719/kW, those with carbon capture and compression (tabulated as CCS, but the cost not including storage) at $3223-5811/kW, brown coal $1802-3485, gas plants $635-1747/kW and onshore wind capacity $1821-3716/kW. (Overnight costs were defined here as EPC, owner’s costs and contingency, but excluding interest during construction.)

    …and here, Westinghouse claims its Advanced PWR reactor, the AP1000, will cost USD $1400 per KW for the first reactor and fall to USD $1000 per KW for subsequent reactors. They also claim these will be ready for electricity production 3 years after first pouring concrete. More here (this is a really excellent summary)

    Also here

    In comparison, the AP1000 units already under construction in China have been reported with substantially lower costs:
    In 2007, the reported cost for the first two AP1000 units under construction in China was $5.3 billion.
    In 2009, the published cost for 4 AP1000 reactors under construction in China was a total of $8 billion.
    in 2010, the Chinese nuclear commission expect construction costs would fall significantly once full scale mass production is underway. In addition, a domestic CAP1400 design based on the AP1000 is due to start construction in April 2013 with a scheduled start of 2017. Once the CAP1400 design has been proven, work is scheduled for a CAP1700 design with a target construction cost of $1000/kW

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  22. If we went with CANDU, we would not have the uranium supply bargaining chip to leverage. On the other hand, since it could run on either natural uranium or spent LWR fuel, we would not need to purchase enriched uranium or develop an enrichment facility. Are these tradeoffs comparable? Would we win?

    I really like the idea of of CANDU for Australia, for a number of reasons (fuel cycle flexibility, size as Peter says, no large pressure vessel required). I assume there would be interesting fuel cycle synergies if we deployed a mix of CANDUs and LWRs. Whats optimal? 1:1? 1:4? Maybe this could be considered later in the SNE series.

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  23. Establishing substantial U enrichment capability here, both to produce fuel for domestic use and to export LEU would have at least two benefits. It would make us independent of others in PWR fuel production, and it would partially undercut anti-nuclear arguments around proliferation. Others who don’t have enrichment capability will have less excuse to develop it if we can supply all the LEU their power reactors need.

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  24. Thanks for the links Barry. Will have a proper read through.

    After a skim…$3500 per KW for the Advanced CANDU Reactor in the USA. That’s a big difference to the stated $1400 per KW for the first AP1000 in the US.

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  25. Tom Keen,

    You’ve got it in one. That would suggest that NPPs in the USA and EU are some 2.5 times the cost of a similar plant in China.

    The cost difference is due to:

    1. local labour costs, and
    2. cost of financing – e.g. investment risk premium caused by the regulatory environment in the USA and EU, risk of delays, public disruption, loss of capital when the government changes its mind at a later date and says in effect “the investors shouldn’t be compensated because they should have known the risks”, and so on. There is also the favouratism to the competitors (fossil fuels and renewables) which also adds cost to the nuclear (because it will disadvantage it for example by lowering the cost of other electricity it means the nuclear has to bid to sell its electricity into the pool at lower prices and also will sell less electricity – more complicated than this but you get the picture).

    The local labour cost, I understand, is a relatively small component of the cost difference. So the main difference is the financing costs. This is what we need to work on. This is what I want us to understand and then begin to explain to the media, decision makers and public. This is where I want us to cut the costs so we can make nuclear cheaper than coal. I feel we have the best opportunity to get this right, now, before we comit to a USA or EU type regulatory environment (or UK or Canadian). But we need to educate ourselves first and then educate the public, media and politicians.

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  26. It’s not surprising that Arnie Gunderson found ‘design flaws’ with the AP1000 (Which the NRC had already discussed with Westinghouse, I might add).

    Saying that though, I don’t think adding a filter to the second containment would be a bad idea. I had the same thought when I looked at the AP10000 design.

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  27. @Scott: wrong again, nerd.

    But keep trying, even a stopped clock can tell the time correctly twice a day. So try again, sonny, call again on Brook to “ban my arse” out of this BNC fount of enlightenment.

    Unlike anybody at all on BNC apparently, Arne Gundersen is a nuclear engineer with hands-on NPP experience. He appears to have blown the whistle on Vermont Yankee.

    Lest you strain your eyes reading too many long words, here is a video:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/2/24/in_historic_vote_vermont_poised_to

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  28. Tom Keen said: “After a skim…$3500 per KW for the Advanced CANDU Reactor in the USA. That’s a big difference to the stated $1400 per KW for the first AP1000 in the US”

    The ACR is not a viable product, and never will be. It is too much of a departure from the basic CANDU design, and the only other attempt that was made along those lines by AECL was a total failure that only ran for a hundred days or so.

    The CANDU 6, the EC 6, and the CANDU 9 are proven products and should be the only ones considered in cost comparisons

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  29. DV: can you respond to the article referred to by tom keen? the nei one with gundersen?

    it looks like one of the passive safety features of the AP, the convection system, is the feature that worries gundersen in the event of a radioactive gas leak.

    second, in the unlikely event of such a leak (the article is frustrating because it doesn’t put probability numbers on these leak possibilities), what gases would be likely leaked and how dangerous would they really be? if high levels of curies are released, this does not automatically transfer into significant body burden. are we talking about tritium, xenon?

    while it is worthwhile to point out gundersen’s history with vermont yankee, it is imperative to respond to his criticisms with evidence, and not rely on his anti nuclear stand, as if that fact alone were a significant form of evidence.

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  30. I agree with Greg. Criticisms have to still be responded and answered on their own merits, not *only* based who is asking them.

    The contradictory issue with the the AP1000’s natural circulation cooling is that for it to be effective, it needs little restriction from the outside of the pressure vessel to the outside atmosphere. I’ts a problem because it doesn’t allow for tight filtering and provides an almost open passage way between a rupture and the air outside containment. In fact, in real way, it violates the concept of the containment altogether.

    In some earlier discussion on some other blog there was a sense that it is a relatively easy fix and there were some creative ideas coming out of Westinghouse to deal with it.

    David

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  31. Greg,

    I wonder wheter this is a constructive approach. There are specialists looking at this problem and working out what needs to be done. However, for us, trying to work on how best to get nuclear startedf in Australia, AP1000 is just one of many alternative designs. If it provesd flawed, it will be fixed, delayed, shelved or whtever. I feel, if we keep our aims in mind, we need only stick with the bigh picture:i.e. existing design with 40 years of performance have demonstrated they 1re 10 to 100 times safer than coal, and we accept coal as safe enough. What more do we need to know?

    Trying to explore the depths of the arguments about a possible flaw in the AP1000 design I feel will set of on a discussion that is down in the weeds and divert us again from what we need to focus on – what do we need to do, in Australia, to get nuclear started?

    The key, IMO, is how can we remove all the impediments to nuclear and what government support is needed to get over the FOAK costs, and to compesate for the extra (excessive, unnecessary) cost burdens that have been imposed on nuclear over the past 40 years?

    I’m urging us to not go off on another diversion that will lead in to an down in the weeds discussion about relatively irrelevant issues (much as Peter Lalor would love to cause such a diversion).

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  32. On the issue of costs…one of the expexted advantages of many Gen III reactor builds, *especially* the above mentioned AP1000 is the combination of modular standard construction combine with the huge crunching of the learning curve by the massive build of these units by the Chinese who will absorbing all learning curve costs with The Shaw Group standing around taking notes.

    Gen III costs across the board are expected to come down, not go up, and the US and other countries where costs are higher are expected to benefit. It also makes budgeting/scheduling a LOT cheaper knowing how a plant is going to build and how long it will take to get to set key milestones.

    The anti-nuclear movement is deathly afraid of the *cheapness* of new nuclear after these plants start really building.

    David

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  33. @greg meyerson

    The Westinghouse response is close to the one I would give. Expanding on this we must look at exactly what is being assumed by Gunderson et al.

    The point of departure for all antinuclear criticism of this sort is that any nuclear reactor should be fail safe/no fail to the degree that it could be run its entire life without any routine maintenance and abandoned at full power, with an absolute guarantee that no radiation or radioactive material of any sort would ever be released. This of course will never be possible.

    There isn’t a single large engineered structure or plant or apparatus that does not require routine inspection and maintenance. This is just the way things are, and that includes things like the dams for hydro power, and the boilers of coal burning generators. Even large buildings, as static a structure as it gets, needs constant attention to maintain its integrity. This is just the way things are.

    This class of antinuclear campaign is based on raising the bar to the point where their demands can not possibly be met, and depends on (as always) the ignorance of the general public of these things to give it credence. Find some industry malcontent to assume the mantel of authority, and this can be whipped into an issue in no time.

    As you pointed out, one of the touchstones to determine if these criticisms have any real value is to check for the presence of risk analysis presented in quantifiable terms. The lack thereof it a good indication that one is dealing with scaremongering.

    Projecting any model of potential contamination without a proper failure analysis, would largely be engaging in the same sort of unsupported speculation that I am accusing Gundersen of, so I will let that question be.

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  34. Once again resident douche Peter Lalor arrives and leaves us with a post that is worth less than nothing, and in effect, is the utter bilges of this website. Here’s a few questions for you:

    1. What professional nuclear engineering credentials does ‘Arne’ Gundersen currently hold? Where did he get them (or how did he loose them)?

    2. Which ‘NPP’ did he work at, and for how long? Why doesn’t he work there anymore?

    I’m on a morning break, if you fail to reply later I’ll do it for you when I get home, because you’re obviously incompetent on doing actual research on your own. Democracy Now is not the worlds foremost expert on nuclear technology, neither is Gundersen.

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  35. David Walters, Greg Meyerson, and others,

    I agree governments will play an essential role in bringing least-cost clean electricity to Australia. Here are some thoughts on what they need to do:

    1. Lead the community towards a debate and acceptance of nuclear power as an important part of the option.

    2. Set up and fund a government agency to be responsible for defining the best, fastest and least cost way to bring clean electricity to Australia. Then to plan and facilitate the implementation of low cost electricity, probably for at least a decade.

    3. Remove all the impediments to nuclear, and the all the distortions that would make nuclear more expensive that it should and could be, and makes renewables and fossil fuels more expensive than they should be.

    4. Find the least cost way to make fair compensation to investors in the existing generation assets to compensate for removing the government supports that favour those assets.

    5. [I don’t believe the government should or could buy back the electricity industry. Nor do I think it should. Nor do I think it would be feasible to have a mix of government owned and private sector generators competing. So I am not suggesting this as a practicable alternative]

    6. Provide loan guarantees and funding to cover the community service obligations (for establishing clean, low cost replacement for fossil fuel generation). The justification for this would be the same as the justification we’ve been using for providing massive subsidies for renewable energy)

    7. Establish an agency (like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal) where generators could appeal against any regulation that is biased against their type of generating technology.

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  36. DV8, great to have you back. As some one who is excited about new technology including various Gen IV designs I wish I could disagree with your point about the likelihood of Gen II dominating roll outs for many years to come.

    Once my feet regain contact with the ground I agree with you!

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  37. John Newlands,
    You said:
    “Considerable wastage of that fund is starting to emerge, for example laying fibre optic cable in areas that already have good satellite and wireless communication. ”

    This statement makes no sense because wireless, satellite and fiber optic cable are complementary technologies for implementing telecommunications systems. For example, cell phone wireless generally terminates on the the first cell phone tower and then goes the rest of the way on cable, be it copper or fiber.

    Satellites are great for broadcast services but are only useful for “thin” telecommunications routes. “Thick” telecommunications routes are invariably served by cables.

    When it comes to long haul systems there is nothing that comes close to matching the cost/performance of fiber optic cables. Thanks to DWDM technology over fiber optic cables, intercontinental video calls are “too cheap to meter”.

    Sorry for drifting “Off Topic” but this blog attempts to get its facts right when it comes to technology.

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  38. gc rather than derail the thread I defer to more informed opinions eg
    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/firstblog/2010/10/04/guest-post-why-i-oppose-the-nbn-and-so-should-you/

    The $43 bn budget could buy a couple of large NPPs if cut in half. In my own case I got a $2.8k subsidy for satellite internet which easily handles streaming video speeds. Recently I heard some lost dogs yapping in a nearby forest. When I went to investigate there was a newly dug fibre optic cable. Great, the boondocks now have both cable and satellite which seems a little generous. As if they have too much money to play with.

    Back to new nukes; suppose a CANDU costs 2.5X as much as an AP1000 but the fuel costs only 0.2X as much. Over equal 50 year lifetimes at equal interest and depreciation rates the CANDU will cost so much more to finance. Depending on the fuel cost fraction the AP may still come out way ahead. A precise calculation would need additional data. Is this why Ontario didn’t buy more CANDUs?

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  39. Ontario did not buy more CANDUs because the McGuinty government is beholding to gas interests. They went so far as blocking Bruce Power’s application for a license to explore the possibility of replacing Nanticoke generating station with a nuclear one when the latter was scheduled to be shut. For those that don’t know Nanticoke generating station was the largest coal burner in the New World as well as its single greatest point source of CO2.

    All coal burning plants in Ontario will be replace with natural gas plants in a process that has already started.

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  40. Looking into my crystal ball I see……. China , Sth Korea, and Asia in general building NPPs and generating clean power for the coming decades, and being able to outcompete virtually all comers in manufacturing/engineering etc. Whereas the West , including the US of A, will slide into genteel poverty directed by the Greens.The only honorable exception being France, where the people will still be able to afford electricity and social services. As for Australia, we are a great quarry for China et al. Pity we don’t swap X amount of iron ore for a bunch of nuke plants.

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  41. “the West ….. will slide into genteel poverty directed by the Greens”

    I doubt it’ll be that bad – unless due to regionalised effects of unmitigated climate change, which would be due mostly to current parties either being anti-nukes or climate change deniers.

    It’s unlikely that it would get to the stage of what would basically be de-industrialisation. The major parties in developed nations can’t hide from nuclear technology forever. It will probably cost us a lot for the time that has been delayed in transitioning to clean energy, but I wouldn’t assume “genteel poverty”.

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  42. Tom Keen sez “It’s unlikely that it would get to the stage of what would basically be de-industrialization.”

    You know what? I watched Britain do to itself what the Yanks are doing to themselves back in the early Sixties. And that is exactly what happened – de-industrialization, a state which took the Brits the next Thirty-five years to clime out of. The domestic situation in the States is dire, more so than what is being shown in the media, which is properly frightened of causing a loss of confidence panic there.

    The U.S. is not going to build many new reactors (if at all) stateside, and they are not going to export them, because they will have to try and tie the buyers hands with all sorts of annoying conditions to appease the antinuclear bloc at home.

    The major exporters of NPPs will be Korea, India, China, with maybe France and Canada bringing up the rear, if they can keep their acts together.

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  43. DV8,
    I go back to the UK every few years and am wondering how you can conclude that there is some kind of industrial renaissance going on there. Just to take a simple example, I ask my pals why they are driving Spanish motor cars they tell me there are no longer any British cars they can afford.

    The USA is indeed committed to the same follies as the UK which can be characterized as a combination of an “Entitlement” mentality coupled with a declining work ethic.

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  44. Peter L., wrote:

    >1. Lead the community towards a debate and >acceptance of nuclear power as an important part of >the option.

    I agree 100% here. This is the weakest part from the community side of the issue.

    >2. Set up and fund a government agency to be >responsible for defining the best, fastest and least >cost way to bring clean electricity to Australia. Then to >plan and facilitate the implementation of low cost >electricity, probably for at least a decade.

    This is an *excellent* idea to *start* the formal process of going nuclear in Australia.

    >3. Remove all the impediments to nuclear, and the >all the distortions that would make nuclear more >expensive that it should and could be, and makes >renewables and fossil fuels more expensive than
    >they should be.

    I agree in general but we have to be sensative to what this really means with regard to safety and operating regulations from the *POV of the public*. Assuming their is buy in for points 1 and 2 we don’t want to throw it away bu getting RID of all regulations. Obviously.

    >4. Find the least cost way to make fair compensation >to investors in the existing generation assets to >compensate for removing the government supports >that favour those assets.

    Can you explain this, Peter? What supports for existing generation exist and…why do they exist? If you mean transitioning away from coal I’m for developing a distinct plan that would compensate the *workers* who work in those industries as the starting point, then one can ‘discuss’ how to remove price support subsidies to the investors. I’m not convinced they are ‘owed’ anything as they are alrady getting a hand out. yes?

    >5. [I don’t believe the government should or could buy >back the electricity industry. Nor do I think it should. >Nor do I think it would be feasible to have a mix of >government owned and private sector generators >competing. So I am not suggesting this as a >practicable alternative]

    Well this has to be shown where it would exist and that it works. Right now the vast majority of nuclear is firmly in state control or mix-&-match forms. THis is a bigger political question we don’t have to deal with right away.

    >6. Provide loan guarantees and funding to cover the >community service obligations (for establishing >clean, low cost replacement for fossil fuel >generation). The justification for this would be the >same as the justification we’ve been using for >providing massive subsidies for renewable energy)

    Agreed.

    >7. Establish an agency (like the Administrative >Appeals Tribunal) where generators could appeal >against any regulation that is biased against their >type of generating technology.

    You might want to expand on this. The public will not want to see either a government run or completely private *nuclear* industry be able to *appeal* rules that are meant to keep them safe. Unless you mean this is part of the process of establing, firmly, what the actual regulatory envriornment is supposed to look like. I’m all for industry input but it’s a rocky road as the US proves in the deep sea oil extraction business when the industry ends up essentially *dictating* the terms. We don’t want that, no one does.

    I think it’s good out line for building a campaign for nuclear in your country. Well done.

    David

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  45. My idea of “Low Cost Nuclear” involves reducing the capital cost to less than $1/Watt. Clearly that is not going to happen with Gen II or Gen III designs except (perhaps) in China.

    What about Gen IV designs such as LeBlanc’s super simple two fluid LFTR? Surely such a design has the potential to be really cheap owing to the following features:

    1. Very compact core.
    2. Very low fissile start up load.
    3. No high pressure vessel required.
    4. No nitrogen blanket or sodium safety systems.
    5. Passive safety features including a melt plug and a strongly negative reaction/temperature coefficient.
    6. Simple closed cycle fuel reprocessing.

    My field is electro-optics (lasers) so I am hoping that some of you who are better informed on NPPs can tell me whether LFTRs would be intrinsically cheaper to build than any other NPP proposed to date.

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  46. The only honest answer on LFTR costs at the moment is ‘some designs look very cheap, but we can’t prove it’ David LeBlanc says more-or-less this in his talks on the subject. Since spending $1Bn to find a way to cut even $100M off each of the next 1000 reactors we build would be an excellent return, I wish someone – like the US DOE or EURATOM – would get on and build the prototype, but it’s not looking likely.

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  47. @David Walters

    The public will not want to see either a government run or completely private *nuclear* industry be able to *appeal* rules that are meant to keep them safe. Unless you mean this is part of the process of establing, firmly, what the actual regulatory envriornment is supposed to look like. I’m all for industry input but it’s a rocky road as the US proves in the deep sea oil extraction business when the industry ends up essentially *dictating* the terms. We don’t want that, no one does.

    You are probably already are, but others here may not be aware of a 2010 OECD report:

    Comparing Nuclear Accident Risks
    with Those from Other Energy Sources

    Chapter 6 discusses public attitudes to nuclear safety and how they are closely correlated to confidence in the regulator.

    The whole report is a good read for building up a picture of how nuclear safety is evolving and improving over time.

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  48. David Walters,

    If you mean transitioning away from coal I’m for developing a distinct plan that would compensate the *workers* who work in those industries as the starting point, then one can ‘discuss’ how to remove price support subsidies to the investors. I’m not convinced they are ‘owed’ anything as they are already getting a hand out. yes?

    This reveals a fundamental miisunderstanding in what we need to do and what is important. We cannot move back to public ownership. No point in going over that again. So we need investors to invest the billions per year needed for our electricity generation system. We have to provide security for their investments and sufficient return on investment or they will not invest. In that case we don’t get clean electricity.

    The statements you make are what create investor risk premium. Making such statements is much more damaging than your worry that I am scaring the anti-nukes (unconvertable anyway) with statements about reducing the regulations and imposts that are causing excessive requirements and inflating the costs.

    The replacement of coal with nuclear will take decades. “Workers” change jobs and become retrained and re-educated all the time. New workers train for type of work available. Of course there will be training and assistance for workers to change jobs. But the cost is miniscule compared with the investment cost. Quite honestly, your statement highlights the massive problem I have with your beliefs and priorities.

    Well this has to be shown where it would exist and that it works

    David, we keep coming back to this. I’ve addressed all your questions. It is time you addressed mine, please.

    Q1. Please explain how you see a generating system with a mix of publically owned NPPs competing with privately owned other generators? How could that be made to work?

    Q2, if you are not arguing for a mix of private and public, how do you see us reversing the trend of privatising electrcity assets? How do you see the government buying back the electricity assets? How could it be done, politically? How could it be funded? What would we have to forgoe (eg Health, hospitals, doctors, nurses, educations, schools, universities, teachers, funding for the Murray Darling Basin, etc). Where do we get $120 billion to buy back the asserts and then the ongoing investment in the upgrading to meet the grosing demand? NSW is going broke and under investing. They are the last of the large states to divest their investment in the electrricity industry.

    David, you really do need to address the “how” of your proposal. You haven’t done so yet.

    Your continual resort to “safety” I find really frustrating.

    Why do you argue that nuclear should be 10 to 100 times safer than coal? Please answer that question (don’t answer with “public perception”. That is what we have to change if we want clean electricity implemented fast.)

    We have to get past sending mixed messages. Mixed messages are:

    We need least cost clean electricity – but we want a whole lot of unnecessary regulatory crap that makes it more expensive so it is not least cost.

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  49. Gallopingcamel

    My idea of “Low Cost Nuclear” involves reducing the capital cost to less than $1/Watt. Clearly that is not going to happen with Gen II or Gen III designs except (perhaps) in China.

    What about Gen IV designs such as LeBlanc’s super simple two fluid LFTR?

    I’d be happy to get our first 5,000MW for the same cost as the UAE, ie $3,700/kW, and progress down to about $2,200/kW. At that capital cost, the electricity cost from nuclear would be cheaper than from new coal. That can be done, I believe if we remove the impediments. We could set up the systems within a few years if we really wanted to. However, my understanding, from Ziggy Switkowski and others, is we wont have commercially available Gen IVs available for decades. So we need to be putting our emphasis right now into Gen II and Gen III, whichever is going to give us the least cost electricity for the life of the plants and whichever can be rolled out fastest. For me, safety is a non issue and a major distraction from focusing on what is important – cost!

    Sorry gallopingcammel as I progressed through writing this I turned from replying to you to still replying to those who want to keep talking about regulating for ridiculously excessive safety requirements.

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  50. Peter I will answer your questions one by one. First, in no way do I retreat from the need for society to control and own such a resource as electricity (and water). It too important IMO to leave to the stock market and speculators.

    Secondly, I *start* from the point of view of humanity and, that class which propels society forward through their intellectual and physical labor, that is the people who actually produce *value*, workers. So any sort of scheme that doesn’t take into account the short term and long term *social* consequences is doomed. there are people by the *millions* in the US who never found work again in basic steel in the midwest of the US and those industries that supported it. They don’t count on the unemployment roles. They are invisiable. If they found work, after the US delocalized steel production to China and other places, it’s for half their wages. We are NOT better off for it. 11 million Mexicans can attest to the results of “globalization” and “free trade”.

    Your questions:

    “Q1. Please explain how you see a generating system with a mix of publically owned NPPs competing with privately owned other generators? How could that be made to work?”

    This is an excellent question. The answer of course is that it does now, analagously, with public and private power. Usually utilities own the power plants. There usually is no real retail competition any more than there is real competition over phone lines…the lines are held by a common carrier and different companies pay a fee, a common fee by law, to use the common carrier, of which they are often common carriers in their own areas.

    If we are talking “just generation”, this also occurs very frequently. The ISO is a common pool buyer of all power. Thus there is one customer, the ISO. Regardless of who “owns” a nuclear power plant, the power is sold to the ISO by various mechanisms. If it’s a regulated utility…and all but one of the 20 proposals in the the US’s own market economy for power is for regulated NPPs, then the price is agreed up by the local PUCs in negotations for the rate base. It’s basically true for any non-merchant plant.

    In fact, even merchant plants are not truly ‘merchant’ and just ‘competing’ in the market. The load is too skittish for that. Often part of their generation is based on contracts (RMR, long term, etc etc) and some of it is ‘on the market’ ‘as is’. Nuclear, be it private or public, would be the same.

    In nuclear energy, it’s likely that the government wouldn’t have that much of an advantage as some free-marketeers worry about. SMUD, in Calfiornia, is surrounded by PG&E. It’s sort of a big “so what”? The major difference is that SMUD and PG&E KEEP their customers regardless of the wholesale market. That SMUD, because it’s public and doesn’t have to return a profit, only guarantee a revenue stream, is about 10 to 15% cheaper for the ratepayer than investor owned PG&E. And so there is not a single resident or ratepayer in the SMUD jurisdiction that wants SMUD to “privatize”. That constituency doens’t exist. SMUD sells it’s excess generation to PG&E and PG&E is very happy to have it. And vice-versa. Again, it’s sort of a big yawn…in the US from *any* standpoint there no advantage to being an investor owned utility vs that of a publically owned municipalized or nationalized one. PG&E generally doesn’t care either, nor do its investors, so long as SMUD doesn’t encroach on it’s territory. Which happens when adjacent communities want to go with SMUD because it’s cheaper. Sometimes they reject this too.

    It depends of you “go retail” or not. To my knowledge, you can’t really pick your electric company. Maybe in Texas (anyone?). Even so…with nukes, given’ their huge investments, ‘competition’ isn’t a threat. No one is not going to ‘want’ the power produced form a Gen III reactor. IT’s just not gonna happen.

    If it’s OK…really…I’m going to skip question 2. It’s way too open to polemics between you and I and I suspect the rest will be bored silly with it. I can leave it with “should conditions ‘ripen’ where by any corporation is seen as abusive or spuculative, there IS NO guarantee against nationalization. Period. See the MILLIONS of people who’d vote YES in the conservative south of the US to nationalize BP. But I think real public private agreements hold short of that. Short of what, say, Bectel did when it bought the Mayor of Cocachamba in Bolivia to privatize their water. Basically if both sides live to the agreements and the agreements have broad public support, there shouldn’t be a problem. OK, I answered it, but did so no polemically.

    I actually think your last point is the most controversial. Privatization and renationalization is the way of the world. See Europe (privatization trend) see Latin America (nationalization trend–without compensation BTW). The last point is about safety.

    It is a labor of Sisyphus to try to convince anyone that nuclear should be *no more regulated for safety* than a coal plant. Who really believes that? Seioriously? Talk about ‘scaring’ people, Peter! you really dont want that to get out if you EVER want to see nuclear there as we both do.

    Nuclear is safe because it’s made that way through regulations and a safety practice and culture that exceeds anything in any industry save, maybe, for NASA. Rickover understood the *ramificiatnions* of a nuclear accident. It’s not good enough Peter to argue that “TMI? Not a problem”. No, it was a problem. We might know that it’s proves how safe nuclear REALLY is because the safety features really worked. But those features were there because of regulations that required it. A place that didn’t have this culture, Russia, showed what happened when you think your plant can never melt down.

    While nuclear is clearly amazingly benign to the envriorment, if a meltdown happens at LWR it’s a lot worse than if a coal plant burns down. The idea that a meltdown will be *completely* contained is wishful thinking. We strive to make this as close to reality as possible but it doesn’t mean ever. As NNadir is fond of saying “nuclear doesn’t have to be perfect to be better”. I agree. But it has to be really, really good.

    What we need to do is really zero-sum the regs. First, you and I are likely to agree that the amount of time it takes to get *approval* of a new NPP is insane. We’d both probably come up with a serious 1 year approval process from proposal to first concrete and it would be SAFE. So that’s not an issue here. IF that’s all it is, then we don’t have much to debate. Standardization of design took care of that. From 4 years to 1 I say.

    If it’s N-Stamp regs from ASME I’m for KEEPING those. Those are regs that make equipment 4 to 10 times more expensive…but it’s why, Peter, plants are so strong, so resiliant and so ‘almost’ melt-down proof. Coal plants dont have nor need such regulations, nuclear plants do.

    What we are talking about are operating regs. Regs that add to the costs of running a NPP. The sheer paper work, oversight and insane work rules that require non-critical parts of the Balance of Plant to slow everything down unnecessarily.

    So you’d have to be really specific in terms where you think I think the problems lies. I think if you go from a system by system analysis of regulations for equipment, checking welds in construction, etc, those should stay. I’m not sure why you don’t think they should?

    David

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  51. David,

    Thanks for your thoughts. You haven’t answered my questions. However, no point in continuing because we’ve been debating this for ever and making no progress. I just cannot see how we could change the direction we are embarked on of privatising electricity assets. Certainly not in a few years, given it has taken us 20 years to get to here and we still privatising. NSW is to be privatised in the next 6 months or so.

    Also I don’t understand how the government would get the funding and what other more importnat things the government has to fund would have to be given up. You haven’t attempted to answer any of that.

    I fundamentally disagree with you about globalisation, intenrational competition, free trade etc, but that is a discussion for another blog site, not BNC. Most people recognmise that free trade is good, protectionism is bad. Protectionism as you are advocating does not create wealth or jobs. It sends the country down the tube as UK and EU are doing. Iy is protectionism, excessive regulation, greenie schemes, etc that is sending them broke and the USA is heading the same way. We will too oif we implement the policies that some are arguing for.

    This discussion is going nowhere and is a diversion.

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  52. If we are looking for “Low Cost NPPs”, the argument about government owned versus privately owned is a side show.

    What we need to consider are the science and engineering issues that determine overall economics. It used to be said that an engineer is someone who can do for a shilling what any damn fool can do for a pound.

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  53. It looks like here in Australia we are going to get a price on CO2 emissions/ ETS . (Never mind what was said during our recent election) So for us nuclear advocates I would suggest to make it a priority to at least include nuclear in the mix of available power options. Something like : No carbon price unless we are allowed to buy our electricity from Nuclear plants.
    THAT is the crux of the matter at the moment. David , Peter and galloping , let us allow Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market” to dictate which type of plant of what size is to be built where and how. The most important issue for now is to put in the regulatory framework to ALLOW them to be constructed at all…

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  54. I looked at “IEA/OECD projected nuclear costs for 14 countries — 2010 update”, and saw that some countries had nuclear power at a dramatically lower cost than others. However, often these countries had cheaper coal too. i.e. they were building coal plants cheaper just as they were building coal plants, or they were countries (like Japan) that had poor quality coal. Has there been any actual studies actually done on where the investment cost into nuclear goes, and where potential cost savings can arise? Any links?

    Thanks.

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  55. God dam it, I made some mistakes, it should be:

    I looked at “IEA/OECD projected nuclear costs for 14 countries — 2010 update”, and saw that some countries had nuclear power at a dramatically lower cost than others. However, often these countries had cheaper coal too. i.e. they were building nuclear plants cheaper in the same way they were building coal plants cheaper. Or they were countries (like Japan) that had poor quality coal. Has there been any actual studies actually done on where the investment cost into nuclear goes, and where potential cost savings can arise? Any links?

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  56. Peter, David answered your 2 questions in his own way.

    You say that he did not, but this is not really so. I may or may not agree with his logic – that is beside the point. What matters is that he has offered his reasonings for us all to form opinions about.

    Australia at present runs a very good example of the full and complete answer to Q1. Many power stations, coal, GT and hydro are owned publicly. Some, also coal, GT and hydro, are owned privately. Some of the private stations are owned by sov ereign funds which may or may not require the same rates of return on capital employed that Aussies seek. So what? They compete in accordance with the same set of rules, in the same marketplace (NEM).

    It is irrelevant who constructs the next Australian power station. Whay matters most is that it is carbon-free and is constructed to adequate safety standards. Secondary considerations include reliability, availability and long life.

    This discussion must not degenerate into a debate about means of obtaining finance – the base cost of competing technologies is much more relevant, as also reliability and so forth.

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  57. 13 Japan firms to found new company to drive nuclear plant sales abroad

    Twelve private-sector Japanese firms and the government-controlled Innovation Network Corporation of Japan will found a new company on Oct 22 to promote nuclear power plant sales in emerging countries. The new company will allow the Japanese private and public sectors to cooperate in promoting nuclear plant construction and maintenance know-how to secure nuclear plant orders from these countries.

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  58. @gallopingcamel, – Unlikely. However one can be sure that they will export a very good product at a very competitive price.

    The fact that South Korea, and now Japan are entering this market is very significant, and in many ways is a game changer.

    Again from Australia’s point of view, this is a very good thing in the context of this thread. Nether of those countries has an indigenous supply of uranium, and that gives Oz a massive amount of leverage with both of them. You guys are probably in the position to get the least expensive NNP of any of the first time buyers, anywhere, if you play your cards right.

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  59. John Bennetts, on 17 October 2010 at 0.12 Said:

    Peter, David answered your 2 questions in his own way.

    You say that he did not, but this is not really so. I may or may not agree with his logic – that is beside the point. What matters is that he has offered his reasonings for us all to form opinions about.

    True. And my appologies to David Walters. You did answer the questions on this thread.

    The questions I was referring to (which was clear in my mind but couldn’t have been clear to anyone else), was the questions I’d been asking on the previous thread. Here is an extract from the post of 9 October 2010 at 11.47 https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/09/29/2060-nuclear-scenarios-p2/#comment-103305 where, after many preceding posts discussing these issues, I said:

    If you could take me through the steps that Australia would need to follow to get least cost, clean energy in Australia, and a roll out plan to achieve the maximum impact for least cost over the coming decades, then this would be a much more valuable discussion. If you can show that the least cost solution involves public ownership, or whatever else it is that you are advocating, and can show how it could be achieved in Australia, then this would be also be valuable, however, I’ll take some persuading that a move to reintroduce public ownership of the electricity industry has any chance at all of getting off the ground.

    John Bennetts, for your information, there is a long history to the discussions between David Wlters, Greg Meyerson, others and me about: public versus private ownership of organisations, private sector “robber barrons”, power to the workers, companies are evil, globalisation is bad, we need trade protectionism and a whole host more of this sort of stuff. These beliefs are advocated by many BNC contributors. I’m fed up with it because it is so far away from mainstream economic thinking that I feel it is a total waste of time discussing it. From my perspective these arguments are what I call “pub talk” But it keeps coming up and distracting us from what is important.

    Please don’t bother lecturing me about what I should and shouldn’t reply to others and how I should present my arguments. Tell someone who cares. Perhaps you’d be better off focusing on improving your own presentation. I do not intend to engage with you given past history, but felt I needed to address this fair criticism of my incorrect response to David Walters.

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  60. DV82XL,

    Thank you for that link.

    One thing that comes to my mind is the opportunity Australia has missed out on. We developed world best practice expertise for hydro-electric engineering in environments like Australia. We used that expertise to build many hydro, irrigation, road, infrastructure strengthening and other development projects in Asia. We are still doing it. Australia is very competitive and very popular in these countries for a variety of reasons. Had we never stopped nuclear development in the 1970’s, or had we allowed nuclear to restart in the early 1990’s (when the Hawke Government firmly banned it to appease the Greens), we’d now be providing the sort of services that Japan is setting up to develop. And we’d do well at it. That is the real clean energy export potential we should be chasing, not wind and solar power. But we can’t because we prohibit it.

    And, yes, that would be a joint initiative between public and private organisations.

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  61. Response to DV82XL, on 17 October 2010 at 12.45 Said::

    “The fact that South Korea, and now Japan are entering this market is very significant, and in many ways is a game changer.

    “Again from Australia’s point of view, this is a very good thing in the context of this thread. Nether of those countries has an indigenous supply of uranium, and that gives Oz a massive amount of leverage with both of them.”

    DV8, be careful with the assumption that a goodly supply of uranium will provide a massive amount of leverage. Fact is that India, Russia, China, and Japan are all going for the fast breeder reactor. In that case, the fresh uranium requirement for a 1 gigawatt machine drops to around 2-3 metric tons per year. (Depleted uranium will do the job just as well as the fresh stuff). In any case, more uranium than that passes through the condenser, dissolved in cooling water, each year — this makes the ocean yet another source of uranium in addition to the many other land-based sources that are popping up.

    Add to this the fact that India and China are now both going after thorium as fuel. This gives me pause when I think of any long-term future for uranium as leverage.

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  62. DV8, be careful with the assumption that a goodly supply of uranium will provide a massive amount of leverage. Fact is that India, Russia, China, and Japan are all going for the fast breeder reactor.

    This is true, and a most welcome development to boot, but S Korea, Japan and the rest will initially be marketing PWRs internationally, and there is surely scope to join in this effort if we wish by offering out plentiful U reserves to their other customers as part of a multilateral deal. If, that is, we’re clever enough to do it soon.

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  63. I’m not sure about this argument that we can get a much cheaper price for nuclear power stations by negotiating a cheap secure supply of uranium. Has Canada managed such a deal with any of its customers?

    I suspect uranium is mined and sold at the going market price by mining companies. They have to pay dividends to their shareholders. Who pays these companies to sell at a lower price? These companies are not the same companies as those that will build the NPP’s. So how do we negotiate the deal being suggested here? Does the government intervene in the world price the mining companies demand for their product? Do the mining companies get a tax break? Why? How could such a deal be guaranteed to the extent that foreign companies would trust a future Australian government to not renege on the deal?

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  64. DV82XL,

    Thanks. I still do not understand how the deal would be structured between the Australian Government, the state Governments, the sellers of uranium (mining companies), the nuclear power vendors, and the plant owners.

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  65. I’m just not familiar enough with Australian internal policy to remark on that. However Cameco, a uranium mining company, is also part owner of Bruce Power, an NPP operator, so there are some synergies that can be explored there too.

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  66. How could Australia implement nuclear at a cost competitive with coal?

    I’ve been thinking some more about how we could implement low cost nuclear in Australia. I think I’ve just had an elegant idea.

    Low cost, clean electricity is in society’s interest. We are subsidising and mandating renewable energy in the belief that it is the best solution to achieve our goals. So there is precedent for the government to intervene to facilitate the outcome society wants.

    We could make nuclear an ‘honorary renewable’ as others have suggested before. But doing so would still increase the cost of electricity enormously. What we want is to get clean electricity at least cost and to make any public subsidies for any form of clean energy explicit and visible. By doing so, the community will be inclined to evaluate the cost of the public support and eradicate the costs it does not feel are justified. There will be widespread community interest and pressure to reduce the impediments to low cost clean electricity.

    We could implement lots of complicated regulations, mandatory obligations, subsidies etc, as we have done for renewables and fossil fuels.

    Or we could implement something like:

    1. The government will fully compensate for the cost of any delays (including the interest costs) that are not the contractor’s or owner’s fault (until the plant is commissioned).

    2. The government will fully and fairly compensate for any changes to laws or regulations that disadvantage the owner over the life of the plant.

    3. The government carries the insurance for damages to the public caused by major nuclear accidents (just as we do for major chemical accidents and have undertaken to do for any CCS leakages)

    4. The government will pay the difference between the cost of a new coal plant and new nuclear plant.

    The last point is important. What it means is that the cost of the impediments to nuclear will be carried by society. So it is in society’s interest to require that the impediments are explicit and costed so it can decide which impediments it wants to keep and understand the cost of doing so. That will create pressure for the public to really understand what the risks are, weigh them against other risks such as from fossil fuel and renewables generation, and remove those it doesn’t feel are justified.

    I expect this would result in the impediments being removed relatively quickly. That is what we want. Least cost, clean electricity as quickly as possible.

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  67. cont from above …

    Furthermore, I advocate we should establish an Administrative Appeals Tribunal where any generator could appeal against regulations that discriminate against one type of generator. That is how we can most rapidly expose the imposts that are biased against a type of generator. Then society, through the government of the day, can decide what action, if any, it wants to take to remove the impediment, leave it in place and pay compensation, or tell the appellant to wear the cost.

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  68. Another point I should add. The above approach leaves the incentive with the owner to buy a plant that will have the lowest operating cost over the long term. That will allow the NPP to produce electricity at a lower cost than from new coal plants.

    Ah!, I hear you all exclaim, but what about the cost disadvantage compared with the existing coal power stations? Hmmm. Good point. Thinking …

    The old coal plants have to be replaced eventually. For a while we have to catch up on building new baseload capacity to keep up with growing demand. We wouldn’t be ready to start replacing existing power stations with nuclear until about 2025. In the meantime we’ll be replacing the retiring coal plants with CCGT. (I am basing this on the schedule I used in the Emission Cuts Realities paper, Appendix 3):
    https://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/lang_2010_emissions_cuts_realities_v1a1.pdf

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  69. @Peter Lang:

    I tend to agree with your outline, as espoused in the preceding 3 posts.

    The regulatory and financial incentives for green power are presently an indefensible confusion of hidden subsidies, to cost of the taxpayer and consumer (us all). The sooner this mess is exposed to the light and rationalised, the better.

    I can’t see why nuclear would then need specific further subsidy by way of “1. Compensation for delays”.

    All projects suffer delays. The better-run projects overcome causes of delay early, with less effect on the critical path. I can see a role for Government in being pro-active regarding site selection and planning approval.

    NSW provides examples in this regard. The government, as part of its privatisation of retailers, has obtained approval for half a dozen projects, for example a new coal or gas thermal 2GW station near Muswellbrook, CCGT adjacent to Tomago aluminium smelter and so on.

    At the very least, we need legislative support for NPP’s.

    Once the site, planning approvals and legislative risks are resolved, the government doesn’t need to be active in this area… or should it?

    2. Full and fair compensation for legislative change. Including regulatory change? This is perhaps too broad to administer, after all there is already constitutional right for property acquisition and further on down the line, to local government land rates. Fair is fair, but I don’t believe that you intended to accidentally set the scene for compensation for legislative change affecting businesses generally. Suggestion: Compensate for the effect of changes which apply specifically to the NP industry or a group of industries including NP, though this may also be too broad in the hands of a determined litigant.

    3. Certain insurance risks to be carried by the State. Fair enough… provided behaviour on the part of the Owner and the Operator complies with relevant design and operationg approvals.

    4. Crown to reimburse the difference between coal and NPP. I don’t agree at this stage. It is too close to the totally unjustified support which currently is available to wind and solar PV, supposedly justified by a need to get them up and running till such a time as they become magically cost-competitive. Your previous thrust to level the playing field by removing subsidies seems to be cleaner to me. More details?

    Re the cost disadvantage compared with existing coal. Existing coal plus emissions trading could see a few of them fade away. Old age seems not to be sufficient, because we end up with Grand-dad’s Axe: 2 new heads and 5 new handles, 50 years old, but what a good axe it has been. I know very well through direct experience that, provided the foundations remian OK, the remainder of a coal fired station can be maintained and life extended for ever.

    I hear you say “no carbon price”, but that is exactly what will sort out the difference between coal and nuclear. There must be a way found to include, however crudely, a costs of externalities of fossil fuel fired electricity and process steam. Perhaps we will differ on this for a while yet. The common ground? Perhaps limiting the type of support which you propose to (say) a figure which compares fairly with the carbon prices which apply elsewhere in the world, perhaps $20 per tonne CO2-e or whatever. That places a specific cap on cost to the State, whilst linking this to something which can be compared across international boundaries.

    I would add a sunset clause of, say, 25 years, for various reasons which I will not go into here.

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  70. I mucked up Point 2 above.

    2. Full and fair compensation for legislative change. This is perhaps too broad to administer, after all there is already constitutional right for property acquisition. How wide is the ambit of the compensation? Does it apply down through all levels, through State laws to local government action such as local government rates and charges?

    Fair is fair, but I don’t believe that you intended to accidentally set the scene for compensation for legislative change affecting businesses generally. Suggestion: Compensate for the effect of changes which apply specifically to the NP industry or a group of industries including NP, though even this may also be too broad in the hands of a determined litigant.

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  71. John Bennetts,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I can’t see why nuclear would then need specific further subsidy by way of “1. Compensation for delays”.

    Because, our democratic system allows delays by any rag bag protest group. (Greenpeace, for example, are experts in obstructing and delaying tactics. The unions, if they do not agree with something, take it as their responsibility to act on behalf of the community. They see their role as above our parliament. There are many examples of this.) The result is that construction times for nuclear in the western democracies are typically about twice as long as in the Asian countries. Some US reactors were held up for 20 years and the owners went bankrupt. That is often the goal of the anti-nuclear movement. This is public disruption caused by our system. If we, the public, are prepared to tolerate this, then it is only fair that we the public compensate the owner who is abiding by his contract. If we cannot get this sorted out so the investors are satisfied their investment is safe, they will not invest. This problem, which causes excessive investment risk premium, is one of the main things causing nuclear to be not viable in many of the western democracies given the politics at this time.

    2. Full and fair compensation for legislative change. Including regulatory change? This is perhaps too broad to administer, after all there is already constitutional right for property acquisition. How wide is the ambit of the compensation? Does it apply down through all levels, through State laws to local government action such as local government rates and charges?

    Fair is fair, but I don’t believe that you intended to accidentally set the scene for compensation for legislative change affecting businesses generally. Suggestion: Compensate for the effect of changes which apply specifically to the NP industry or a group of industries including NP, though even this may also be too broad in the hands of a determined litigant.

    If we don’t sort this out, we won’t get low cost nuclear. It is that simple. The investors will not invest in a project with a 60 year life unless they can be assured that their investment is secure from the government changing the rules. This is the fundamental problem that has to be solved. Some will argue the only option to overcome this is to nationalise the electricity supply industry. This may be true given the politics. But it means we’ll just go with gas until we’ve burnt it or we see sense.

    4. Crown to reimburse the difference between coal and NPP. I don’t agree at this stage. It is too close to the totally unjustified support which currently is available to wind and solar PV, supposedly justified by a need to get them up and running till such a time as they become magically cost-competitive.

    I agree. My suggestion is thrown up for discussion. We’ve discussed many other options and none seem viable to me. Even if we could contract the Korean consortium, that won the UAE contract, to build our first four units at the same price as they are building the first few units in UAE (i.e. $3700/kW), that is nearly twice the price of new coal. So, clearly, we have to subsidise until we have reached the stage of “settled down costs”. How do we do that? I suggest the subsidy should be considered a ‘community service obligation’. If we don’t get rid of the impediments to nuclear, nuclear will not be competitive with coal in Australia without some other economically damaging imposition – such as a carbon price, unless it is an international, economically efficient ETS (let’s not start on that again).

    I hear you say “no carbon price”, but that is exactly what will sort out the difference between coal and nuclear.

    I don’t agree. A carbin price will favour gas, renewables, big-taxing big-spending governments, bankers, traders, cheats. It will disadvantage Australia. It will not favour nuclear while we avoid facing up to the impediments blocking nculear. If we impose a carbon price the community will feel the climate threat has now been removed and we don’t have to tackle the nuclear issue. They’ll think that energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy will save us. Their beliefs will be reinforced. This would be a continuation of spin over substance. No change.

    There must be a way found to include, however crudely, a cost of externalities of fossil fuel fired electricity and process steam.

    USA, EU, Canada, Australia have been trying to do that for 30+ years. But we have to weigh up the benefit of low cost electricity against the externalities. This is often forgotten by those who only see the down sides. Generally internalising externalities is done by regulating emissions of toxic substances, or requiring reclamation of mining areas for example, not by ETS or tax. (There is the exception of ETS for SOx and NOx in the USA.).

    We need to recognise thar cutting CO2 emissions in Australia will not help reduce world emissions if we move our emissions elsewhere (as EU has done by moving its manufacturing to China, India and other countries).

    Even more important, we need to recognise that cutting CO2 emissions in Australia will not help reduce world emissions if, by increasing the cost of electricity, we cause the developing countries to stay in the fossil fuel stage for longer. That is what will happen if we don’t confront what is making clean electricity higher cost than coal.

    Perhaps limiting the type of support which you propose to (say) a figure which compares fairly with the carbon prices which apply elsewhere in the world, perhaps $20 per tonne CO2-e or whatever. That places a specific cap on cost to the State, whilst linking this to something which can be compared across international boundaries.

    Once the main emitters, e.g. the G20, agree to a workable, international ETS, then of course Australia should and would be part of that. There is little sign of that happening at the moment. I do not advocate we succumb to the EU’s play for economic advantage (that is what is behind a lot of what the EU is up to!)

    I answered you on ETS and Carbon tax here, but could you post on this subject on the “Alternative to the CPRS” thread.

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  72. I forgot to mention – and this should also end up at the “alternatives to a CPRS” thread – State load based licence fees for polluters. At present, CO2 emissions of power stations (in NSW, for example) cost a bit but not much in the big picture.

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  73. Barry, DV82XL, Gene Preston, Charles Barton, anyone else,

    Could you please comment on this article:
    http://scitizen.com/future-energies/how-much-will-new-nuclear-power-plants-cost-_a-14-2287.html

    If what this article presents is mainly true, and if Australia will have the same cost structures and impeduments to low cost nuclear as in the USA (which I fear we will unless we can convince people these impediments are not necessary and not in our best interests), then I would question whether we should proceed with nuclear in Australia – yet!

    It may be better to wait a while and allow the directions that the main emitters are taking to become more certain.

    Perhaps we should wait unti public opinion turns towards demanding least cost, low emissions electricity generation.

    It is a pity to have to wait because it will cost us more in the long run.

    Electricity prices are rising and are forecast to increase by (from memory) a factor of about 3 over the next 5 years.

    Perhaps the increasing price of electricity will focus voters minds.

    But we’ll have to wait, and just keep on presenting the case.

    By waiting, we may (perhaps) be able to get nuclear after the revival is established and the costs are coming down. (I don’t really think it is better to wait, but the discussion at John Quiggin’s web site is amazingly insightful as to just how irrational, passionate, lllogical, and venemous are the anti nuclear proponents.

    See this morning’s spray for example (start here):
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2010/10/09/sandpit/comment-page-11/#comment-269769

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  74. I agree with DV8:
    Peter’s linked article has been shot to pieces in the comments, so it proves little evidence for or against higher prices for NPP’s.

    Australian first best action still must be for politicians to change the stupid anti-thought legislation which currently bars consideration of nuclear options at any price.

    Alternatively, is there a small atoll available for sale off our coast somewhere, where 20GW of NPP’s can be constructed and connected to Sydney and Melbourne by underwater DC cable?

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  75. I’m going to extract some pieces from the lead article, string them together and add some of my own comments to reinforce some points I’ve been making.

    South Africa is poised to restart its stalled nuclear power program in the coming months, seeking a solution less costly than the Westinghouse and Areva bids it received in early 2008.

    My point: the SA program was delayed because the bids were higher than expected and more than South Africa could justify. The same will be the case in Australia if we don’t get our act together on what really are our requirements. If the cost is too high, the program will be shelved while we look at other alternatives. This will delay us three to five years. So, it is in our interest to define our minimum acceptable requirements and focus on how to achieve them at least cost. We need to focus on this now, not wait. We need to stop asking for all the ‘bells and whistles’.

    Among the possibilities the government is considering, …, are reactors from China and South Korea that rivals say lack 21st century safety features.

    The CEO of state utility Eskom, Brian Dames, has said that South Africa “may not be able to afford” a Generation III reactor design,

    The point I emphjasise is that safety costs money. Do we need the additional safety that Gen III’s offer compared with Gen II. I say we don’t.

    Gen III are higher cost than Gen II, not cheaper (yet). Do we really need the features that come with the higher cost. I’d only advocate Gen III in preference to Gen II if there is convincing evidence the electricity costs will be lower over the life of the plant (in real $ terms).

    the [South African] government is expected to approve next month an integrated resource plan that foresees construction of 11,000 MW of nuclear capacity by the late 2020s, with initial construction in 2020.

    If South Africa can achieve that build rate, then it would seem reasonable to assume that Australia could too – if we wanted to.

    Eskom invited Westinghouse and Areva to submit bids for their flagship products, AP1000 and EPR respectively. Eskom had asked for two bids, one called “Nuclear 1” for initial capacity of 3,200 MW-3,500 MW and a second for a fleet of 10 to 12 replicate units. But Eskom and the government were taken aback by the cost of the bids when they were submitted in January 2008, South African officials said last month. Eskom repeatedly delayed a decision on Nuclear 1, as the utility found itself caught between what loomed as a huge capital investment for the turnkey plants …

    Australia will have a similar experience if we keep focusing on wanting all the ‘bells and whistles’. We need to define our minimum requirements. I’d say they are: least cost, cost competitive with coal, low emissions, safety not less than what we accept now and will improve faster than what we have now, low pollution, Australian industry involvement similar to what we demand for major defence procurements.

    South African officials said the government was looking for an alternative model for building the reactor fleet that would involve a “bigger opportunity for South African companies” and bring the unit cost of nuclear power plants down.

    We’ll want local industry involvement too, as have all other countries that have implemented nuclear power.

    [South Africa’s] Department of Energy “is also leading the development of a nuclear energy implementation strategy” to develop necessary infrastructure, including “localization and industrialization and nuclear fuel security.” “We will work with international partners with the most cost-effective plans that address these issues with minimum impact on cost and delivery schedule,”

    We will want to do this too.

    With the experience of the failed 2008 tender, the new South African government and the new Eskom board might be more receptive to a reactor design that is not labelled Generation III and doesn’t have the same price tag. Chinese utility Cgnpc has announced unit overnight costs for its CPR-1000 built in China that are less than half those of the AP1000 or EPR (NW, 1 July, 3).

    If the CPR-1000 has lower capital cost, and the whole of life costs are likely to be lower than for a western Gen II or Gen III,. I’d be open to the CPR-1000 for Australia. (or the CANDU 6 if the whole of life costs are similar. We know the CANDU has been proven over 40 years and we know the whole of life costs).

    The five-member commission of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority, ASN, issued a statement July 6 asserting that reactors built today should include features to prevent core melt accidents and to limit radioactive releases in the event of such an accident, notably systems to recover molten corium that might melt through the reactor vessel. EPR has such a system, but some other reactors do not, including the CPR-1000 and the South Korean version of the APR-1400 PWR that is to be built in the United Arab Emirates. The commissioners wrote, “We don’t want two-speed safety and we will continue to promote in Europe and internationally safety goals that take into account the lessons of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and September 11, 2001. Faced with projects to export reactors that don’t meet these safety goals, ASN will not hesitate to say that such reactors could not be built in France.”

    I interpret this as France trying to use its influence to force the IAEA to tighten its regulations in a way that favours the French reactors.

    But doing so raises the cost of the reactors and makes nuclear less competitive with coal, which will slow the rate they are bought (as the South African experience demonstrates) and, therefore, will slow the rate that the world’s CO2 emissions will be reduced.

    Do we need all theses extra safety features or is it going over the top? When will they be safe enough?

    I argue that the old Gen II’s that have been running for 40 years have demonstrated they are 10 to 100 times safer than electricity generation from coal; and even more safe than many other industries we accept as safe enough. So Gen II is more than adequate. If Gen IIs are cheaper than Gen III’s they will replace coal power stations faster and therefore will improve overall safety faster than if we demand Gen IIIs.

    So we should forget the safety requirements and focus on how to get nuclear implemented at least cost and quickest, because any nuclear plant is more than safe enough.

    Safe enough?

    In a separate interview September 22 in Vienna, Bernard Bigot, chairman of France’s Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies, or CEA, said France was promoting an agreement among countries exporting nuclear reactor technology on new design criteria. They are: reduction of the risk of core melt by a factor of 10 compared to existing units, practical elimination of radioactive releases outside the reactor building, and resistance to extreme external events, including voluntary attacks. “The whole world must share this [approach],” Bigot said. He said the CPR-1000 “does not meet the three criteria,” in particular because it doesn’t have a double protective shell surrounding the reactor building. France’s Nuclear Policy Council, chaired by President Nicolas Sarkozy, said last July that “we won’t export low-cost reactors,” Bigot recalled.

    France is arguing for the world to mandate extra safety requirements. There is no limit to how far this will go on. France is using greater safety as a market discriminator to favour sales of the EPR. But is this approach helping to cut world CO2 emissions or safety? I’d argue it is not. I’d also argue it is not increasing safety or health because it is causing the roll out of nuclear to be delayed and slowed.

    If nuclear is higher cost, the rate it is implemented and the rate it replaces fossil fuels throughout the world will be slower.

    The CEA’s Bigot said that buying a nuclear reactor today is a commitment for 60 years or more, so entrants into the market should look for the highest safety standard available today.

    I disagree. We should not look for the highest safety standard. We should look for what will give the least cost electricity over the life of the plant. Safety standards of any currently available nuclear plant are more than adequate.

    This is a very interesting article by Ann MacLachlan. There si so much in it that is of relevance to Australia’s situation. Its well wroth reading again.

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  76. Peter Lang, on 24 October 2010 at 11:23 AM — I suggest also looking into
    http://www.nuscalepower.com/
    an other mini to mid range NPPs. The projected cost (for installation in the USA) is expected to be in the US$4000/MWe range, maybe just a bit more. This is more expensive than the Kororean UAE bid, but not by that much. Incidently, the Nuscale projected safety factor is about 10 times to current NRC requirement.

    If many of these factory built untis are ordered, the price will drop, although I don’t know by how much; can’t even begin to estimate.

    Anyway, there is much more information in
    Conf. on small modular nuclear reactors; Nuscale in presentation session I:
    http://bnrc.berkeley.edu/documents/forum-2010/
    and indeed, one of the other designs might appear the better choice to you.

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  77. Redundant emergency shutdown features need not add too much extra expense. CANDU, for example, uses an injectable neutron poison that is driven by a mechanical system into the moderator that stops fission RIGHT NOW. This is the final fail safe, the other two systems being adequate to SCRAM the reactor down.

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  78. Peter Lang, on 24 October 2010 at 12:01 PM — I first found this cost estimate range in an article in the online version of Der Spiegel about these small modular designs. I think you can find out more from the second of my two links in the prior post, downloading the presentation by the Nuscale marketing guy.

    My understanding, which well could be wrong, is that this is turnkey cost, same as for the South Korean work in UAE. Nuscale keeps costs down by using completely standard components for everything, even control rods. What is new is the small modular pressurized water design with conventive return; hard to imagine anything safer or simpler. Probably the highest cost component is the factory built pressure vessel.

    All of the standard components come with a 30 year design life expectancy; AFAIK no manufacturer will claim more. But experience shows that if an NPP is not cycled the equipment actually lasts much longer. The reactor vessel itself? I assumed that Nuscale is also claiming a 30 year design life, but haven’t found this in any of the documentation yet. Nevertheless, there are no moving parts inside the pressure vessel except for control rods and the semiyearly reloading of fuel. So all one worries about is radiation damage accumulating at the heat exchanger and pressure vessel walls. But both of those are effectively insulated by the pressurized water well away from the fuel assemblies; I’ll hazard a guess that all of that will last through at least 3 full replacements of pumps and steam turbines.

    I’m not suggesting that Nuscale’s design is better than say, B&W’s mPower; I haven’t the time nor expertise to compare. But I am going to attempt to gen4rate local interest in setting up a one module Nuscale NPP nearby. I think I might be able to find interest and $$ to do so.

    It turns out that NRC is going to finish approving the Nuscale design by the end of 2015 CE. Presumable Pieter Kiewit Co. will begin manufacture directly thereafter and they need a 40 month lead time between order and site delivery. Putting that all together, I’m hoping to obtain approvals, permitting and site preparation on a schedule to actually have the thing running in 2020 CE.

    However, the powers-that-be may choose a different design or even put the whole thing off; the Pacific Northwest is fairly pissed regarding NPPs after the WPPS regulatory fiasco. Dunno.

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  79. The problem with Nuscale and the other minis, is that there is going to be a shakedown period, and there will be problems, there always are with new designs. At any rate at this moment they are nothing but a lot of promises written on paper.

    Thus I would not consider these ideal plants to install in a country just starting out in nuclear power. An existing design with a long history would be better, and the wealth of experience that it has accrued is just what a new entrant needs to get their program up to speed.

    Let the countries that are backing the new types work the bugs out before exporting them.

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  80. DV82XL, on 24 October 2010 at 12:37 PM — Does not that also hold for the South Korean and Chinese designs?

    As for Nuscale’s, it is so simple, just a PWR about which there is vast operating experience in the USA alone, that I have some difficulty with the idea of design flaws only found during shakedown. If you actually read the links, you’ll see that it has already been estensively prototyped.

    A radically new design, Hyperion’s, is a better sized unit to attempt to push around here, only 20–25 MWe. But it is so different that it’ll be quite a long time before NRC approves it.

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  81. Another advantage of these small modular designs is that one can start without expending vast sums of $$.

    In my earlier comments I appear to have the wrong units. The point is that these modular designs only costs, per unit, just somewhat more than the South Korean bid for the UAE and Nuscale’s modules are 45MWe, so one doesn’t have to lay out big sums for a 1200 MWe NPP.

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  82. I’ve spent a lifetime dealing with technology that isn’t preforming as it should, and I have worked for several early adopters. I guess I have become jaded. I love new tech, I just want someone else to deal with the inevitable teething issues.

    From my perspective, the pronuclear side in Australia has enough to do just selling nuclear in the first place. Its just not prudent, in my opinion, to hitch your wagon to a technology that may well give your critics a regular supply of ammunition.

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  83. BHP Billiton might make use of a pair of small modular units, plus existing GT’s and transmission line capacity to power Roxby Downs if they thought that regulatory hurdles were manageable and the price right. With dry cooling, of course.

    Major advantages include:
    … Reduction in fuel transport costs to the remote location.
    … No need for transmission line upgrade
    … BHP-B are already experienced in managing radiation risks – they would not have the same emotional hangups as some other potential operators.
    … Avoids site difficulties associated with current proposals near Port Augusta.

    I couldn’t think of a more appropriate location or operator for Australia’s first NPP.

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  84. @ John Bennetts
    Agreed, (for visitors to this blog not familiar with BHP , Roxby Downs is an enormous uranium/copper mine in the Sth Australian desert) However John don’t forget there is also an enormous amount of recoverable hot rock energy available , within a stone’s throw of the mine ,so to speak .

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  85. Unclepete:

    there is also an enormous amount of recoverable hot rock energy available

    If you leave out the word “recoverable” I’d agree with your statement.

    There is a lot of heat, just as there is in the sun. But it is diffuse and difficult to extract. We’ve been working on trying to engineer hot dry rock and hot fractured rock systems since 1973. There are no commercially viable electricity generation plants anywhere in the world despite attempts by many countries over that time. (Don’t confuse the geothermal energy from volcanic areas with what we are trying to do in Australia; it is not the same. We do not have any volcanic areas in Australia).

    The heat in the rock is diffuse and there are major technical difficluties with extracting the heat from the rock mass. Also don’t get overly taken in by the hypes that will follow initial installations. Early apparent success will come from mining the hot water that is in the rockmass. This is not the same as extracting heat from the rock mass on an ongoing basis over the long term.

    I agree there will be some small geothermal plants, but I do not expect geothernal to be a major supplier of our electricity. I expect it will be a small bit player like solar and perhaps a few other finge, non-hydro renewables.

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  86. @ Peter,

    I’ve heard there are some (large) issues surrounding transmission of dry-rock geothermal generated electricity from their typically remote locations. E.g. there would be a lot of energy loss from Coober Pedy to Adelaide.

    What do you make of this? It is only something I’ve *heard*, it’s never been substantiated to me.

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  87. Tom Keen,

    Transmissions is not the main concern. High Voltage DC transmission lines would be used and they are proven. They are economic for large baseload power generation (Churchill Falls Canada to New York, Brazil and many nother places).

    The real problem is extracting the heat from the rock. The fractures in the rock are not parallel plates through which the water flows evenly and extrac ts the heat evenly from the whole fracture surface. The water is disobedient. It takes the easiest path through the rock mass which is through “channels” of the highest hydraulic conductivity.

    You’ll hear a lot of spin (especially from the modellers and proponents), but this is the real world of fractured rock masses.

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  88. There’s no need to go to Canada’s Churchill Falls to find operating HVDC transmission. The Vic-Tas interconnector beneath Bass Straight is DC, as also several links already operating within the National Electricity Market of SE Australia.

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