Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nuclear Plants Delayed Again

More news this week from the dismal world of building a new nuclear power plant. As if the AREVA-designed project in Finland is not having enough troubles, now the same design is having serious problems and delays in France, at Flamanville. (on the Normandy coast near the English channel). see this link for one of several stories.

New nuclear power plants are routinely plagued by costly delays, and cost over-runs. The recent news states a two-year delay, from 2014 to 2016, and a cost over-run of 1 billion Euros (from 5 billion up to 6 billion). As always with these monstrosities, it is very likely that neither target will be met. Startup will likely be later than 2016, and the final cost much more. How much more, it is difficult to say.

In a perfect world, governments would require each nuclear power plant to be a self-contained business entity, responsible for its own profits and losses. If this were the case, the true costs of nuclear power would be transparent and available for all to see. Would the new reactor in Finland sell power for 3 cents per kWh, as so many pro-nuclear advocates insist is the true cost of nuclear power? That is very unlikely, since approximately 25 to 3o cents per kWh is required just to pay off the capital costs, and the operating costs. How about the new reactor at Flamanville? Same thing holds true.

In the USA, the South Texas Nuclear Project Expansion has been scrapped, which is a shame actually. It would have been very instructive to have that project proceed, with massive cost over-runs, and lengthy schedule delays so that the true cost of nuclear power from it would be at least 30 cents per kWh. In a world literally running over with natural gas at $4 per million Btu, and technology easily available to build efficient Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plants that produce almost 60 units of electrical power for each unit of natural gas input, 30 cents per kWh puts nuclear power plants out of the running.

Still, there are a couple of other candidates for demonstrating the nuttiness of new nuclear power plants in the USA, in particular the Vogtle proposed plant. Perhaps it will be the new poster-boy for why the USA cannot afford any more nuclear power plants, and inflict high utility bills on the good customers in the South.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

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