Nuclear Renewables TCASE

TCASE 15: Comparison of four ‘clean energy’ projects

How can we compare the cost, performance and value-for-money of alternative large-scale clean energy projects? Actually, it’s pretty tough to try and avoid apples-and-oranges comparisons. Still, some adjustments can be made, such as for capacity factor, to partially levelise comparisons.

Below is a simplified comparison of four recent real-world projects. All can be considered first-of-a-kind installations, except for the wind farm.

1. A large proposed wind farm in South Australia (600 MWe peak)

The wind project will use 180 of the 3.4 MWe Suzlon turbines and “generate enough electricity to power 225,000 homes“. It includes a biomass plant that could produce up to 120 MWe of backup power to cover low-wind periods, and might offset up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. At average 8m/s winds the capacity factor is estimated to be about 35%. A 60 km undersea high voltage direct current cable will connect it with Adelaide. Cost is $1.3 billion for the generating infrastructure and $0.2 billion for the cable.

2. A large Generation III+ nuclear power plant in Finland (1600 MWe peak)

The in(famous) Olkiluoto 3 NP unit, a European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built by the French (AREVA). The project has seen significant delays (first electricity now expected in 2014), and a cost blowout from the original € 3.7 billion to a new figure of € 6.4 billion. Despite this, the Fins have ordered two more EPR units. Assume it runs at the average Finnish capacity factor of 86%. 

3. A large solar PV plant under construction in New South Wales (150 MWe peak)

To be built in Moree, this will cover 3.4 km squared with 645,000 multi-crystalline PV panels, and is forecast to output 404 GWh per year (enough for 45,000 households). Part of the “Solar Flagships” programme, the cost is $A 923 million. Estimated to abate 364,000 tonnes of CO2 per year (based on NSW emission factor 0f 0.9 tCO2/MWh). Estimated capacity factor is 30.7% (based on peak power and GWh forecasts) — this seems high compared to typical PV performance.

4. A state-of-the-art solar concentrating power plant with some energy storage, in Spain (20 MWe peak)

The Gemasolar CSP plant in Andalucía started electricity production in late 2010. There is a detailed summary of projected performance here. Peak output is 19.9 MWe, anticipated output of 110,000 MWh/yr from a mirror field covering 190 ha. Cost of € 230 million (much higher estimate of £ 260 million here). It is a Power Tower facility with 2,650 heliostat units (120 m2 each) and 15 hours of thermal storage (not sure of total amount of thermal energy stored – I presume enough for peak turbine output, which would be just under 300 MWh of final electrical energy). The capacity factor as a result of the thermal storage is anticipated to be 63.1% (the site has 270 productive days per year thanks to the excellent desert siting).


Okay, let’s try a few ways of squaring these options off — and then explore details and alternative assumptions/calculations in the comments. (I know some have already been reported by various commenters in the BNC Open Threads, but this is a good place to centralise and reiterate/update them.)

First, let’s consider the capital cost after standardisation for capacity factor, and bringing output up/down to an equal power rating of a large commercial facility (1 GWe electric average, the size of a big coal-fired power station or the average output of the AP1000 reactor) and then equalise this to $USD. Average exchange rates for 2011 are 1 USD = 0.73 Euro = 1.03 AUD = 0.63 UKPS.

Wind (biomass backup): $US 6.9 billion/GWe

Gen III+ Nuclear: $US 6.0 billion/GWe

Solar PV (no storage/backup): $US 19.6 billion/GWe

Solar CSP (thermal storage): $US 25.1 billion/GWe (or $32.9 billion if the higher cost estimate is correct)

The rank is nuclear, wind, PV, CSP. The first two are one third the cost of the solar options, but the wind has only 20% of its peak output backed by the biomass.

What about the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE)? Such calculation involves many assumptions. Here is just one set, entered into the handy NREL calculator. All discounts set to 8.5%. The nuclear plant has an estimated operational lifespan of 60 years, whereas we can generously assume a 25 year lifespan for the three renewable installations (Q: does anyone know wind/solar farms that have run for longer?). For financing purposes, however, I will set the nuclear option to be a 30-year term, after which the LCOE is lowered for the remaining 30 years of operation.

Wind [ignoring biomass fuel] (Cap $2,427; Fixed O&M 50; Var O&M 0.002; Heat Rate 0; Fuel 0), LCOE = 10.0 c/kWh for 25 years, then infrastructure replaced

Nuclear (Cap $5,137; Fixed O&M 150; Var O&M 0.005; Heat Rate 10,000; Fuel 1), LCOE = 9.9 c/kWh for 30 years, then 3.6 c/kWh for the next 30 years (average = 6.75 c/kWh)

Solar PV (Cap $6,032; rest same as wind), LCOE = 24.4 c/kWh for 25 years, then infrastructure replaced

Solar CSP (Cap $16,833; rest same as wind), LCOE = 29.6 c/kWh for 25 years, then infrastructure replaced

It is clear again which option is most cost effective (especially given the baseload output and load-following capacity of the EPR reactor), based on current or recently proposed costs and performance figures. If people argue strongly below for me to modify any of the LCOE assumptions, I’ll consider it and may edit the above accordingly — I don’t claim these are final or definitive.


By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

150 replies on “TCASE 15: Comparison of four ‘clean energy’ projects”

This dicussion of ERCOT’s problems is interesting, but seems off topic for this thread about the LCOE of various low caarbon alternatives. So I’ll instead provide some history of the Texas grid’s woes on the current open thread.


EL, I’m fairly certain the natural gas prices out of Houston didn’t move much – and no supply issues were put on a lack of gas (one link I’ve given noted lower summer prices out of the Louisiana hub).
Going into the summer NERC had noted Texas had 72255MW ‘existing-Certain’ capacity at peak, which included only 820MW of the 9427 of wind capacity (because the trend is known, the expectations of contribution at peak are now below 9% in Texas).

Click to access 2011%20Summer%20Reliability%20Assessment_ERRATA2.pdf

Actual peak hit 68294 – so the buffer was very thin.
My thesis is that a market will not contain adequate supply if it adds10-15% generation that is expected to make little contribution to supplying peak demand (and is generated on a ‘must take’ basis at all times).
One solution to this may be capacity markets – which pay suppliers for availability (as in PJM in the US), and the other solution might be broader interconnection of grids. This is the European solution – for now. The free-market champion in Europe is increasingly Norway – who has not only the ff’s to benefit from with higher prices, but vast hydro capacity they are promoting as ‘the Norwegian battery.’
Regardless, I suspect Australia would need capacity markets long before hitting 20% renewables.
Texas would seem to, after surpassing only 10%.
This is one reason these comparisons are more entertaining than anything else. I enjoy the game, but … biomass is not really scalable – and the PV solution isn’t of interest to me as I’m in a Canadian climate where peak energy use is in the dark of winter (so 0 contribution at peak). Both PV and wind require other costs in the accounting – costs that are system dependent.
In Ontario, Canada (where I am), I’ve calculated the capacity costs, and the oversupply when we already have too much supply from must-run sources (primarily nuclear and hydro), takes wind from the $135/MWh we see to an estimated $263/MWh.


More info needed on the new Queensland gas fired plants mentioned upthread
$400m for each 500 MW plant is cheap but how much are they paying for gas? What expected capacity factor? Are they additional to and not replacing coal fired power stations? If so the carbon tax has fallen at the first hurdle of reducing national emissions. When we go to a CO2 cap some other emitters will have to close, that’s unless offsets conveniently bail us out.

Even bigger questions are;
-Does this mean no more coal fired plants in Australia?
-Will gas rich regions share with gas poor regions?
-Has coal had the quiet nod to concentrate on exports?
Apparently they expect the area around Gladstone to boom due to cheap energy. Without saying so perhaps they mean people will relocate from other parts of Australia. As in a million people leaving Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.

Call me a cynic but I believe certain State governments notably Queensland (with coal seam gas) and Victoria (brown coal) have not the slightest intention of helping achieve emissions cuts.


EL, 26 October 2011 at 5:55 AM

So I think you have asked the wrong question (and with the wrong assumptions). Why would we want to pay $106.9 billion/GW with 1000 hours of storage, when $6.9 billion/GW of variable generation will be just fine (and a bit of commercially viable short-term storage for improving power quality and stability, load shifting, arbitrage, reserve capacity, and lowering transmission and distribution costs). And wind as a baseload generator (with CAES and transmission as “an integral part of the analysis”) is not anywhere near your $106.9 billion/GW estimate. In fact, it’s pretty close to wind + CCGT, or coal (with a $35/tC GHG emissions price).

You reply is a bit confusing because it was you suggested that energy storage was viable to make wind generation viable. I responded and showed the cost of doing so, ie.e 106.9 billion /GW. Now you seem to be admitting that indeed wind plus storage is not viable and not even close. That was my point.

You say wind plus CAES is pretty close in cost to wind plus CCGT or coal.

I think you are wrong. But let’s see your assumptions and calculations.

This explains why I think you are wrong (based on PHES rather than CAES, but CAES is not widely used): .


Peter Lang wrote:

You say wind plus CAES is pretty close in cost to wind plus CCGT or coal.

I think you are wrong. But let’s see your assumptions and calculations.

The assumptions and calculations are fully documented in the paper I cited from 2007 (peer reviewed, and lead author CV here).

Short list of basic assumptions (it’s a very detailed and quantitatively rich analysis with lots of tables on capital, fixed O&M, variable O&M, fuel, converter, line losses, sensitivity studies, market and distribution costs, and other costs for total COE assessments):

Projections for wind farms coming on line in 2020 (3.5 MW rated output, 100m rotor diameter, 120m hub height, $700/kW cost in 2002 inflation adjusted US dollars, class 4 wind projections, 2.5 year construction period, capital charge rate 11%/year).

Model assumptions: 10% downtime during times of lowest demand (to charge storage units), generation at end of long, high voltage, transmission line (750 km), fully documented assumptions are made on wind speed time series, dispatch costs, and intra-hour market variations (no diurnal or seasonal variations were modeled).

Base case natural gas price: $5/GJ.

CAES storage reservoir assumptions (1 week storage): round trip efficiency 77-89%, underground storage volume ~2.4 x 10e7 m3/week of storage per GW, hard caverns require multiple excavations, aquifer storage assumes layer of 10m thickness and appropriate porosity, can run down to 5% of CAES output, cost of salt cavern ($1/kWh), aquifer (~$0.1/kWh), hard rock (~$30/kWh).

Here are sources for $750/kW cost projection for wind turbines in 2020: Neiji 1999, Junginger and Faaij 2003).

Author also includes extended commentary on where analysis needs to be expanded in future studies: seasonality of wind resource (and correlation with summer peak demand), outage rates (which may advantage wind + CAES), reliability of transmission (for transmission lengths above 750 km), availability of low-cost geologic reservoirs (and coincidence with wind resources), expanding geographic diversity of wind parks to lower supplemental generation costs, running configuration in intermediate-load configuration for higher market value per unit of energy, and more.


The problem about CAES is the considerable natural gas use – which is a fossil fuel leading to CO2 and methane that adds significantly to the GhG profile. Surprisingly, it’s only about 30% lower in natural gas use than a state of the art CCGT (60% efficient). This is ignoring the wind as energy input (ie assuming the wind electricity is free).

You need the adiabatic CAES version – using thermal energy storage – which is theoretical at this point. I’ve modelled a system that uses a huge bed of compartimented sand and rock as a thermal regenerator. It seems very promising. I hope it, or any adiabatic CAES will get developed.

Adiabatic CAES has higher capital costs per unit storage, due to the thermal energy storage component. So it makes more sense to use with a nuclear baseload grid, where less is needed than in an unreliable wind grid.


EL, on 27 October 2011 at 3:39 AM said:

Here are sources for $750/kW cost projection for wind turbines in 2020: Neiji 1999, Junginger and Faaij 2003).

Here is a US DOE 2010 report on cost projections for wind turbines

Click to access 48007.pdf

Figure 5 illustrates the magnitude of the challenge faced by wind energy R&D to meet both energy capture and cost goals. Cohen et al. (2008) estimated that future technology advancements could reduce installed costs by as much as 30%, but modeling based purely on scaling today’s technology suggests installed cost could grow by as much as 80%.

We also have a 2008 report – key statement on page 33

Click to access lbnl-275e-ppt.pdf

Installed Project Costs Are On the Rise, After a Long Period of Decline


harrywr2 wrote:

Figure 5 illustrates the magnitude of the challenge faced by wind energy R&D to meet both energy capture and cost goals. Cohen et al. (2008) estimated that future technology advancements could reduce installed costs by as much as 30%, but modeling based purely on scaling today’s technology suggests installed cost could grow by as much as 80%.

The baseload wind study looks to be consistent with Cohen et al. (2008), upon which this article is based. Cohen places installed costs at $981/kW in 2002 (for 1.5 MW turbine). A 30% cost reduction is $686/kW (which is more optimistic than wind baseload study). Most of these studies find only a modest decrease in future turbine cost, but a much larger decrease in cost of energy (when siting, O&M reductions, rotor size, hub height, and other performance characteristics are taken into account). They seem to be suggesting that manufacturing costs (i.e., “scaling today’s technology” and higher future costs for steel and copper) are going to contribute little to more significant technological and learning curve performance considerations for wind. Junginger (2006) makes the argument that “long-term supply contracts for raw materials” (p. 138) may help to reduce future escalation in raw materials costs.



I quoted –
scaling today’s technology suggests installed cost could grow by as much as 80%

I interpret that to mean that building larger turbines doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced cost per KWh and may actually increase costs by 80%.

In my simple mind It appears to be the force times moment arm problem.

A 3 MW turbine will need the tower and anchoring to be twice as strong as a 1.5 MW turbine only if the tower height remains the same.

So the cost per KW remains the same. As soon as you increase the tower height you need more then double the strength.


I note that this study is based on highly uncompetitive American style pirate power operations. Public power is far cheaper and more efficient.

For example, the US’s TVA is committed to nuke power.

Public power can finance construction cost with a 1% 5 year bond. Negligible cost.

Note the small difference between overnight and investment cost from an MIT report quoted here

Note as well that it really isn’t any cheaper to build most stuff in China. It’s regulation alone that makes western nukes more expensive. That could change overnight in the US when Obama gets the boot.

Finally I’m still scratching my head as to why some wacky not yet built out on a limb proposal for offshore wind with costing designed to attract suckers as investors was chosen. There are lots of enormously expensive examples just built with real costs published in Europe like the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm at more the $16B/ a year old.

Also why choose first of a kind costs of the most expensive reactor on earth. The Candu provides excellent and recent examples of a fairly modern reactor built at $2B/Gw all around the world over the past few decades.


Yes Seth, I used the most conservative approach possible for current nuclear builds, to show that even in this situation, it stills comes out as most cost effective. It makes for a good debating point that way…



Thanks for that link – Candu 6, $2b/GW and 4.5 years construction period for Unit 1. That’s very good.

You mentioned that the Candu 6 has been built in many other countries recently. Could you list some and especially the Total capital cost per kW.


The Wiki entry on Candu reactors has quite a bit of information, including economics on different projects. Candu’s have seen their share of radiophobia incurred cost overruns just like most any reactor in north america, but despite all the screaming about cost overruns and rate payers risk and other exaggerted emotions, the simple numbers bear out that Candus are still quite competitive:

Not as cheap as disgusting 19th century dirt burners, but perfectly affordable.


Cyril R,

Its pretty hard to extract anything meaningful from the Wikipedia article. I think ther have been no new Candu 6s, outside China, for a decade or more.

One of the advantages for Australia is that, at 700 MW, they would slot more easily into our grid than an AP1000 or larger. Another advantage is that we may ba able to avoid, so some extent, having to be involved with the US NRC licencing and regulatory system. So I am interested. But I would like to get some reliable capital cost figures from countries other than China. Do you or Seth have a link to any authoritative, relatively recent capital cost figures?


Various CANDUs have been succesfully constructed over the last few decades, as seen here:

Click to access 09KS_ALIZADEH%20CANDU%20Technology%20IAEA%20Oct%202009.pdf

There are 4 units in South Korea and one in Argentina that were on budget. There are also succesfully built on buget units in Romania (Cernovada Nuclear Plant). They want to build more units but the economic crisis is hurting a lot.×69318


A little different take – and one Seth might not appreciate, so I’ll note I’m citing testimony from the head of a private generator’s testimony at a Canadian Senate hearing in 2010: He’s looking for a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) – where it should be provided (IMO), so this won’t offer an easy comparison, but …
The end of the question, from a Senator Mitchell, and then the response:

“What is the exact cost comparison between a new nuclear plant tomorrow in Southern Alberta and a new coal-fired plant in more or less the same region?”

Mr. Hawthorne: If I do a straightforward comparison, it is logical to compare the type of coal plant you could build in Alberta with the type of nuclear plant you could build there. It is already confirmed that in Alberta no coal plant can come on line after 2011 unless it has the ability to capture carbon. That is a government policy.

I work on the basis that the best economics right now involve carbon capture and sequestration, and the best numbers we have now come from a plant that is being developed in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, which range from $150 to $200 per megawatt. I can put a nuclear plant in Alberta for $100 to $110 per megawatt right now.

The challenge is that we are competitive with the future; we are not comparative with today. I have spoken at length with the premier and the energy minister of Alberta. The challenge is how to migrate from $40 to whatever that other number is.”


There’s some other points of interest in that testimony regarding the building of CANDUs in Romania and China.


Scott Luft — Thanks again. However, I’m having difficulty with a portion of Mr. Hawthorne’s response. Where the transcript states megawatt I have to assume he (menat/said) megawatt-hour.


Scott Luft @ 28 October 2011 at 11:20 PM

Thank you for that link to the Canadian Senate hearing.

The first thing that occurred to me is the contrast in the civility of Canadian Senators to each others compared with Australia Senators.

I’ve extracted this from the bit you quoted::

The challenge is that we are competitive with the future; we are not comparative with today. I have spoken at length with the premier and the energy minister of Alberta. The challenge is how to migrate from $40 to whatever that other number is.”

This quote gets to the nub of the issue.

Canada needs to get from $40 to $110/MWh for nuclear to be viable

Australia needs to get from $30 to $150/MWh for nuclear to be viable.

Alberta has 800 years of coal. Australia has similar.

Importantly, most of the population growth in coming decades will be in the developing countries. So it is those countries that need a cheap clean option. If we want to reduce world emissions we need to provide technologies that are cheap.

It is clear to me we need to reduce the cost of nuclear, not raise the bar on the fossil fuels. Because that will not help reduce world emissions – the developed world simply will not, cannot and should not build expensive power stations.

Regarding world population growth I saw this in a paper a couple of days ago:

World reached or will reach
1804 = 1 bn
1927 = 2 bn
1960 = 3 bn
1974 = 4 bn
1987 = 5 bn
1999 = 6 bn
31 October 2011 = 7 bn
2025 = 8 bn
2043 = 9 bn
2083 = 10 bn

The population distribution proportions in 1950 and projected distribution in 2150 are:

Asia = 55.6%; 57.1%

Africa = 8.8%; 23.7%

Latin America = 6.6%; 9.47%

Europe = 21.7%; 5.3%

North America = 6.8%; 4.1%

Oceania = 0.5%; 0.5%

No wonder Europe wants us all to adopt their CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme!!

The important point is that most of the population growth (and therefore emissions growth) is expected to be in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They will implement what ever energy supply is cheapest. We need to work on how to reduce the cost of nuclear, not raise the cost of fossil fuels, if we want to reduce world emissions.


Peter Lang,

We need to work on how to reduce the cost of nuclear, not raise the cost of fossil fuels, if we want to reduce world emissions.

This is exactly true, the only formula for guaranteed global success in replacing fossil fuels.

One important lower cost driver is nth of a kind economies from standardized nuclear reactors. We’ve seen that this has reduced the cost of the French reactors, they chose a few standardized reactors and just put the engineers in charge to build them. In other countries, the lawyers and managers were in charge, not the engineers, and insufficient standardization was involved.

Looking at the EPRs being built around the world, we see that newer projects are lower cost than the first EPR at Olkiluoto. That’s the nth of a kind economies sinking in. The same is happening with the AP1000 builds in China. In places like the USA this nth of a kind economy is not allowed because no new reactors are allowed to be built (by the infinite delay tactics from lawyers and regulators).

If we want to reduce the cost of nuclear, the nth of a kind reactor standardizing advantage is already happening on its own, its just a question of whether it will be allowed. In the US, the most important development in this respect is to abolish the NRC and replace it with an engineer-led organisation that is focuses on building many safe modern nuclear plants rather than infinitely delaying with absurdly long procedures. The concept of the final deadline must be introduced. All industrial regulators I know (and I know a lot of them) have deadlines. It is important to not put the lawyers and nontechnical managers in charge of such an organisation.


Cyril R,

I agree with you that nth of a kind gives us some cost reduction. But it’s not enough. We need a lot more. We need to halve the projected capital cost of nuclear to make nuclear viable in Australia.

I am not sure why the EPRI’s capital cost for nuclear is nearly twice the Total Plant Cost. It would be interesting to get to the bottom of that. It seems EPRI’s projected Total Plant Cost is consistent with the VC Summers cost when you allow for the fact that Australian labour productivity is lower and labour rates higher than in the USA. Also, the EPRI figures for Australia are for a Greenfield site whereas VC Summers is a brownfield site.

I think, but am not sure, EPRI used a 36 month construction period for an AP1000 as the basis for their estimates. If I am correct, their estimates are already for an nth of a kind construction period. The first NPPs in Australia would probably take 5 to six years if there is no public or industrial disruption.

The ACIL-Tasman (2009) report gave a reduction of about 11% from the first to the fifth power plant. The projected real LCOE (constant A$) drops from $96 to $87 – See Table 52 (p84), Nuclear, 2024-25 to 2028-29, here:

Click to access 419-0035.pdf

Over that same 5-year period, the capital cost drops by about 12% ($4,839 to $4,263) – see Table 35, p58.

Caution: these figures are out of date. The EPRI (2010) figures are the latest forecast for Australia. EPRI projects the LCOE of new nuclear would be $143/MWh (constant 2011 US$). That’s nearly five times the cost of electricity from the existing power stations.

I suggest, we need to look into the specifics of what is making the projected cost of nuclear far more expensive in Australia than the actual cost in Korea. Only a part of it can be blamed on Australian labour rates and productivity. There is more to it than just that. But what are the other impediments to low cost nuclear in Australia?


I don’t think labor rates make much of a difference. The Japanese were able to build their reactors on time on budget in the 1990s and they have very high labor costs. Regulatory ratcheting and regulatory/public suing culture delays seem to be the big factors in driving up the cost. The worst seems to be changes demanded by regulators when a project is already approved and they come with new ‘insights’ when something happens like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island or Fukushima. These cause painful delays to projects that have already broke ground, resulting to painful cost overruns such as requiring entire steam piping layouts to be changed when they’re already installed. The constantly changing requirements eliminated nth of a kind economies since all projects ended up being very different from previous designs.

Cohen explains it quite well in his book:

Considering the critical factors leading to delays leading to cost overruns, it is very important to go with a standardized design of which several have been built around the world already. This will result in minimal wheel reinventing and delays. So I think it is best to go with an ABWR, EPR or AP1000.

The inflation factor is something we have less control over, unfortunately. If the US for example keeps fighting rediculous wars and keeps the money press printing overtime, that hurts all capital intensive projects whether coal or nuclear. That in turn increases the incentive to keep old exisiting dirt burners running, which is of course disgusting.

It is not possible to compete with old coal plants that use sub-BAT pollutant abatement, that do nothing about CO2 emissions, and that have already paid off their construction costs.

If purely looking at the raw financial cost factors then I am not optimistic about nuclear new build anywhere. Even in China its only marginally economic, with slave labour camps to mine the coal you can’t compete with that. Nuclear plants may cost half the amount in China as in most western countries, but so do coal plants. I suspect the only reason the Chinese are doing it right now is that they need all the energy they can get and even then it won’t be enough. They have no luxury of choice.

It requires a supportive country with a pragmatic regulatory body instated to get a speedy transition to nuclear. Finland is a great example. People don’t realize it but Finland is transitioning to >70% nuclear over the next 10 years. Everyone likes to talk about the economic failure of Olkiluoto’s EPR but the fact is despite all the cost overruns it now makes 4 euros per Watt which means it generates power for 7-8 eurocents per kWh which is perfectly affordable (currently European wholesale prices for a flat block of power trade for about this price).


@David Benson – that’s true. Mr. Hawthorne may have adjusted to the terms as the Senators were using them. It’s almost always MWh.

@Peter Lang, I think most comments I’d like to make will be more appropriate on the open thread. I recalled the cited testimony because a firm price was given. Rereading it now, in the context of a number of BNC conversations, it also noted the fuel costs (choice of uranium), it touched on the scale of NPP’s increasing specifically due to a need to spread an, implicitly, high regulatory costs, and it also provides a warning that smaller scale, desirably modular, NPPs won’t be feasible without an adjustment in the regulatory regimes.
Regulation is not simply determining price, but also reducing technological options.


Cyril R. — Actually (although almost unknown to the general public), TVA currently has an NPP under construction. Furthermore, the construction phase on not one but for Westinghouse AP-1000s will begin within a few moths; Westinghouse has already let the contract for the transformers.

[All of that comes for World Nuclear News, which I encourage you to follow several times a week.]


Cyril R @ 29 October 2011 at 9:51 PM

Thank you for those comments. What I am seeking is a drill-down to understand why the capital cost of new new nuclear in Australia would be around four times higher than in Korea. All you have written in your comment is correct, but we’ve been over all that level of generality many times before. There are a lot of comments on this, and some drill down one level, on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread. My main point is that if we want to seriously consider nuclear in Australia we need to:

• Identify all the impediments to low-cost nuclear in Australia, and all the energy market distortions

• Identify which could be removed

• Prioritise them for removal

• Define policy options for removing them

• Define what else would be needed to get nuclear through to the “settled down costs” (in Australia) stage

See this for some background:
Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?

Further Reading

Some impediments to low-cost nuclear

Subsidies that encourage fossil fuel use in Australia.

Click to access CR_2003_paper.pdf

Impediments to low-cost nuclear – Industrial Relations

The excessive cost due to regulatory ratcheting

Suggested Terms of Reference for a “Productivity Commission” Investigation into the impediments to low-cost nuclear

How to remove investor risk premium:

Emissions monitoring – the cost. Is this the best way?

A list of some key comments on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread:


Scott Luft,

it also provides a warning that smaller scale, desirably modular, NPPs won’t be feasible without an adjustment in the regulatory regimes.

Regulation is not simply determining price, but also reducing technological options.

Very important points. But not something Australia can do anything about – other than, perhaps base our future system on one that is not dependent on US NRC regulation.

I think we should seriously consider looking into how we could avoide being tied into the NRC for waht would amount to a very long “life sentence”. Options might be (although I have no idea about this at all):
– Canada
– Finland or Sweden or UK
– Korea
– China.

Let’s just come at this with an open mind.


Peter Lang — For a variety of reasons I suggest using the UK regulatory methods. Of course, the first goal IMHO is to win at least 3/4 voter acceptance of the very thought of NPPs.


David B Bensaon,

the construction phase on not one but four Westinghouse AP-1000s will begin within a few months

Photo’s and video’s from Plant Vogtle. .

I’m not sure what they call what they are doing…but the latest photo shows them assembling the bottom plate of the containment structure

If purely looking at the raw financial cost factors then I am not optimistic about nuclear new build anywhere. Even in China its only marginally economic, with slave labour camps to mine the coal you can’t compete with that

Mine Mouth coal prices in China are higher then domestic coal prices in Australia or the US.
Article on mine mouth coal prices in China for September 2011
625 CNY/tonne for 5500 kcal/kg coal (US $98)
410 CNY/tonne for 4800 kcal/kg coal.(US $64)
The mine mouth price of the US equivalent of 4800 kcal/kg(8500 Btu/lb) coal is $14/ton.

2008 Chinese coal mining presentation

Click to access %28Session%201%29Coal%20Demand-Supply%20Outlook%20in%20China.pdf

In 2008 there were 5.5 million Chinese coal miners that produced 2.8 billion tonnes of coal. An average of 505 tons per man per year.

In the US in 2009 the coal industry employed 87,000 and produced 1.1 billion tons of coal. An average of 12,600 tons per man per year.
24 times as productive as a Chinese coal miner.


harrywr2 — Fascinating. I’m surprised that NRC has allowed the bottom plate construction to proceed. However so-called constuction does not begin until containment concrete is poured; my understanding is that must wait until the COL is issued, in a couple of months I think.


Actually Scott if you reread the parliamentary paper and exclude the nonsense for Hawthorne you will see this line which corresponds to the ACTUAL REAL costs of the last few Candu builds

He was consistently mixing up megawatt and megawatt hours something no engineer would do.

From the minutes

” , the capital cost is $2,000 per kilowatt for nuclear…..ceri report”
(Personal attack deleted)

Once again 2000 to 2500 per kilowatt.

Public power finances at less than 5% so $2B/Gw translates to a 1.3 cents a kwh on 40 year money.
(Personal attacks deleted)
BNC Comments Policy require you to attack the arguments not the man.



Thank you for the link.

The project in northwestern Alberta, which may start in 2017, may cost C$8 billion ($8.1 billion) to C$10 billion, said Chief Executive Officer Duncan Hawthorne

Pardon my scepticism, but I don’t consider this is credible. I suspect it is a case of a proponent giving a low-ball estimate for the Total Plant Cost not the Total Capital Required.

I find it difficult to believe Alberta will make the decision to go nuclear when it has so much coal. I would expect the first regions to build new nuclear plants would be those where there is little or no coal and the majority of industry is located; Ontario and Quebec.


Seth @ 31 October 2011 at 5:25 AM

you will see this line which corresponds to the ACTUAL REAL costs of the last few Candu builds

But you forgot to include the link. Could you also say where to find this line.

Also, could you provide a link to the CERI report and point to the pages you are referring to. I’d like to see, if you have a reference, a list of the recent CANDU builds, the total capital costs for each, the dates when the order was signed, construction started, construction completed, commissioned, start of commercial operation, lifetime capacity factor to date.


Peter Lang, on 31 October 2011 at 8:27 AM said:

I find it difficult to believe Alberta will make the decision to go nuclear when it has so much coal. I would expect the first regions to build new nuclear plants would be those where there is little or no coal and the majority of industry is located; Ontario and Quebec.

Canadian Generating Capacity by provide.

Click to access Electric%20Generating%20Capacity%20in%20Canada%20by%20Province%20and%20Fuel%20Type%20%28Table-GW%29,%202008.pdf

Ontario has 12 GW of nuclear already and Quebec has plenty of hydro.

Alberta’s energy consumption is skyrocketing due to oil sands processing.



Thank you for the link. I did say “the first regions to build new nuclear plants”.

What I meant was Ontario and Quebec do not have access to huge, low cost coal resources like Alberta. Therefore, nuclear is closer to being competitive with coal in Ontario and Quebec than in Alberta. Nuclear at $110/MWh has to compete with coal at $40/MWh in Alberta. So if the nuclear proponents can’t make new nuclear attractive in Ontario an Quebec (and you have to admit they are struggling to demonstrate it is viable) then it has no hope in Alberta – unless, of course, the government implements “direct action” policies to make it so!



I included the link in my first post.

Here is a link to a new nonsequestered Pirate coal facility in Calgary,’

We have 500-megawatt state of the art coal plant at $1.7-billion. According to EIA the capacity factor of these monstrosities is 63%. A filthy radioactive,deadly particulate, GHG, NOX and radioactive radon gas spewing monstrosity of a plant leaving as a class enough forever toxic deadly radioactive arsenic and mercury laced ash to fill Lake Erie 40 feet deep every year.

Lets see $5.4B/Gw + 4 cents kwh for fuel and maintenance financed at Pirate Power’s Wall Street demanded Alberta PUC approved 12% discount rate comes out to 12 cents a kwh.

A nuke plant built in Alberta by public power provider EPCOR would cost around 3 cents a kwh.

Big Oil however owns every politician in Alberta and most in the Federal neoCons party so not a likely scenario.


On October 25, Peter Lang gave a brief costing for the storage requirement necessary to support the SA wind farm. His costing of $100 billion/GW was based on an assumed requirement of 1000 hours (42 days) of storage.
The illogicality of this scenario is exposed by the following thought experiment:
In the simple example of a 6 month good wind season where the wind generator output never falls below average and a 6 month bad season where the output never rises above average, the 42 days of storage is equivalent to a bad season average output of 23% less than the annual average. Now increase the size of the generating plant by 30% …
For an outlay of $2 billion in oversized generation we have saved $100 billion in storage costs.
Obviously this is an over simplification and some storage is required to cover deeper wind lulls, however with very modest allowance for “spill”, these requirements can be much less than Peter suggests, even for a pure wind grid. For a more realistic grid based on wind and solar with some conventional hydro, 10 days is enough storage.
Also for seasonal storage, batteries and other systems in which the cost is proportional to the energy storage do not make sense. Pumped hydro would be far more appropriate as the costs are dominated by power capacity rather than energy capacity.


Even if you divide by 4 (which would give 10.5 days, about what you suggest) you’ll still end up with 25 billion dollars per gigawatt.

I’d also be very surprised if enough pumped hydro could even be built, we certainly don’t have enough rivers in Australia to do it on the scale you propose.


Here in the Pacific Northwest on occasion there is essentially no wind for 6 weeks at a stretch. Last time was last autumn.


Anon (5 May), I agree; 25 billion dollars per GW is too expensive. That is why I made the point about pumped hydro being more appropriate for large energy storages. With pumped hydro you pay a certain amount for the power station and associated tunnels etc. but increasing the stored energy does not increase these costs, they are determined by the power rating alone. More days of storage just means bigger dams which can be a relatively small component of the cost and they may already exist. With any battery scheme, where the cost is proportional to the energy stored, large storages are almost guaranteed to be too expensive. I think this is the real point that Peter Lang was trying to make with his costing.
As for Australian pumped hydro potential; even with Australia’s paucity of high mountains there are many possible sites using a combination of new and existing dams that could provide very large energy storages. It does not require large rivers.
Existing hydro storages attached to the NEM (Eastern Australian grid) have a total capacity of about 20,000 GWH or 35 days of storage at the average load of 23 to 24 GW however they have very very low capacity factor compared with most of the world’s hydro schemes. The existing upper and lower dams (Eucumbene and Blowering)of the Snowy-Tumut scheme alone could store 1100 GWH as a pumped hydro system and it would be quite feasible to convert the existing cascade for this purpose. A new dam could be built above the existing Dartmouth dam to create a pumped storage scheme of 2000 GWH. If the Gordon above Olga dam (proposed as an alternative to the infamous Franklin dam) were built to create a pumped hydro scheme with the existing Gordon dam, it would store more than 500 GWH. Smaller schemes of 200 GWH could be built on various Queensland coastal rivers in association with existing upper dams. Two new dams on the Snowy and Ingegoodbe could provide more than 2000 GWH although I cannot imagine it getting environmental approval.
Hi David – thanks for your comment. We have just implemented a BNC Discussion Forum which is now the place to discuss anything on BNC and to create your own topics to be discussed with the community. There are several topics being discussed right now related to renewable energy systems including hydro. As most have now transferred to the Forum you are less likely to get responses to your comment here.To go directly to the BNC Forum click on the Forum tab, next to Home, at the top of the BNC page. See you there :)


David Benson (6 May); I am not familiar with the US wind regime (I live in SE Australia) but having looked at the NREL wind atlas, it is apparent that the continental USA has a distinct seasonal pattern of strong Winter winds and weak Summer winds. We don’t get such strong seasonal variation here.
Irrespective of this, it would be unlikely that there was a 6 week wind lull simultaneously in the Pacific North West AND Texas AND the Northern Plains etc. etc. The USA being a very large place is usually affected by more than one weather system at a time, as is Australia.
If you look at the wind atlas you also find that there are still some areas in the Pacific North West which have reasonable wind regimes even in Summer. These gaps in the Rockies “funnel” wind and would be a natural location for wind farms. Such places may still have useful amounts of wind even when other places close by have little. You really need to look at actual wind farm generation records to know if that 6 week period was as bad as you think.
I noticed in passing that the Pacific North West has the unusual problem of having too much wind power at times, especially during snow melt (which is presumably summer) and is “spilling” wind to prevent overflow of hydro schemes. It sounds like you need better grid interconnectors to export this power. It also implies that a lack of wind in Summer and probably Fall is not such a big problem.
For the USA as a whole, having a strong Winter wind resource could be a fantastic advantage if balanced by a solar generation capacity which obviously would be Summer biased.
David – Please see my comment above. DBB is commenting over on the Forum now. He has replied to your comment here:Blocking highs block wind turbine power


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