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First New US Nuclear Reactor In 20 Years Goes Live (cnn.com) 344

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The Tennessee Valley Authority is celebrating an event 43 years in the making: the completion of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. In 1973, the TVA, one of the nation's largest public power providers, began building two reactors that combined promised to generate enough power to light up 1.3 million homes. The first reactor, delayed by design flaws, eventually went live in 1996. Now, after billions of dollars in budget overruns, the second reactor has finally started sending power to homes and businesses. Standing in front of both reactors Wednesday, TVA President Bill Johnson said Watts Bar 2, the first U.S. reactor to enter commercial operation in 20 years, would offer clean, cheap and reliable energy to residents of several southern states for at least another generation. Before Watts Bar 2, the last time an American reactor had fired up was in 1996. It was Watts Bar 1 -- and according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it cost $6.8 billion, far greater than the original price tag at $370 million. In the 2000s, some American power companies, faced with growing environmental regulations, eyed nuclear power again as a top alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil. A handful of companies, taking advantage of federal loan guarantees from the Bush administration, revived nuclear reactor proposals in a period now known as the so-called "nuclear renaissance." Eventually, nuclear regulators started to green light new reactors, including ones in Georgia and South Carolina. In 2007, the TVA resumed construction on Watts Bar 2, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The TVA originally said it would take five years to complete. The TVA, which today serves seven different southern states, relies on nuclear power to light up approximately 4.5 million homes. Watts Bar 2, the company's seventh operating reactor, reaffirms its commitment to nukes for at least four more decades, Johnson said Wednesday. In the end, TVA required more than five years to build the project. The final cost, far exceeding its initial budget, stood at $4.7 billion.
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First New US Nuclear Reactor In 20 Years Goes Live

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  • 6.8 Billion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how many wind and solar plants could be built for a mere 6.8 Billion? And that's without the 10,000 year radioactive waste from a nuke.

    • Re:6.8 Billion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @11:33PM (#53120267) Homepage

      Nuclear power has always been a lot more popular on K Street than on Wall Street. At least these sort of overruns pale in comparison to some of the ones in Europe - one in the UK has now become the second most expensive thing ever made by man [bbc.com] (after the International Space Station). Lots of nuclear plants on that list, too. One in Finland [wikipedia.org] is now a decade overdue and commercial operation still isn't expected until 2018 - assuming there's not even more delays.

      One of nuclear's biggest problems is, it doesn't work very well small. There are some "smallish" modular reactor designs, but as a general rule, nuclear plants are very large structures. Which means, you're not making a lot of them. Which means you don't retire the risk (both financial and safety) very quickly. Nuclear inherently contains a lot of both of those. It can take decades to learn what problems are. And when we redesign systems to start over with a new "generation" of nuclear power plants, that "ironing out the financial and safety kinks" process starts over.

      It's unfortunate, but the very nature of fission means going through every element on the periodic table except the extremely short-lived/superheavy ones. Which automatically means facing very significant corrosion and containment challenges. The very nature of a high neutron flux means degradation on its own. The very nature of having exceedingly toxic materials means that you can't allow even tiny amounts to escape, and have to go to extreme levels to prevent serious problems like fires - and not only is your fuel source challenging from a chemical and materials standpoint, but it also can't be shut down quickly. Criticality can be, but the daughter product decays keep the core hot for a considerable length of time.

      Nuclear is eminently doable from a technological standpoint. But like rocketry, a lot of things conspire to make it very difficult to do affordably and safely.

      • Nuclear is eminently doable from a technological standpoint. But like rocketry, a lot of things conspire to make it very difficult to do affordably and safely.

        True, but the main competitors up until recently - hydro and coal - have their own problems that aren't as bad a nuclear per generator, but in aggregate are bad. Acid rain and global warming come to mind. With hydro, we lose huge amounts of land (although we at least get a lake out of the deal) but imagine if we could have covered that land with solar cells instead of a lake.

        • We've pretty much already dammed every river that's capable of generating reasonable amounts of hydro power, and coal produces more radioactive waste than nuclear reactors: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/ [scientificamerican.com].

          ...imagine if we could have covered that land with solar cells instead of a lake

          Yeah, imagine a huge swath of land with no purpose other than being covered with solar cells that have to be kept clean and maintained. A chunk of land nobody can be allowed to enter, no trees or animals can be allowed to inhabit.. just imagine

          • by necro81 ( 917438 )

            A chunk of land nobody can be allowed to enter, no trees or animals can be allowed to inhabit.. just imagine it all.

            There are a variety of prime places in the American southwest that come to mind. The former nuclear test site in Nevada would be a decent start: it's not going to be turned into casinos and golf courses anytime soon.

          • Re:6.8 Billion (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @07:50AM (#53121569) Homepage

            The GP is correct. Solar farms are a pretty dense energy source - comparable (when the reservoir is included) to all but the highest head dams, and an order of magnitude or two more than a typical dam. And some designs can get even more dense, such as linear fresnel reflectors (which cover a higher percentage of the ground because of less issues with self-shading as the sun moves). Plus, solar can be paired with wind. Wind is a low energy density source with respect to total acreage, but very high with respect to actual surface area required on the ground.

            Beyond this, a few notes. Much solar doesn't have to take up any new land at all, as one notes from rooftop solar (ideally industrual/commercial), parking shelters/covered walkways, etc. And places where solar plants are made are most typically desert areas. And there's a curious reversal in the desert when it comes to life: while shading terrain hinders life in moist areas, it encourages life in desert areas. In the desert, places that provide shade (ironwood trees, saguaro cacti, large rocks, etc) tend to turn into oases of life - not simply by providing relief from the blazing sun, but slowing down the rate of water loss from the soil. Now, this doesn't usually happen with solar plants because at this stage, most are kept cleared. But that does not have to be the case.

        • by necro81 ( 917438 )

          With hydro, we lose huge amounts of land (although we at least get a lake out of the deal) but imagine if we could have covered that land with solar cells instead of a lake

          considering that the lake used to be a deep river valley, I'd say it would be a terrible idea. But, now that we do have a lake there, and the river valley is filled in, I suppose we could deploy floating rafts of solar panels.

      • One of nuclear's biggest problems is, it doesn't work very well small.

        US or Russian naval officers would disagree with you. Or do you think the reactor on a submarine counts as "big?"

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          US or Russian naval officers would disagree with you.

          See what I wrote above. You can make a reactor of any size. But you lose efficiency - both neutron efficiency and cost efficiency - the more you scale down. Nuclear sub reactors' scaledowns are aided by the use of highly enriched uranium as fuel, something you don't want to do with civilian nuclear plants. And note that even nuclear subs' reactors aren't "small". A Los Angeles class, for example, uses a 165MW reactor. And nuclear power plants, unlik

    • I wonder how many wind and solar plants could be built for a mere 6.8 Billion?

      A lot, but their collective energy output would be much much less than the nuclear plant of the next 60 years. In fact, the windmills would need to be replaced 2 or 4 times, the solar panels 2 or 3 times.

    • Re:6.8 Billion (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @08:59AM (#53122065) Journal
      About 3 Ivanpah power stations ($2.2 billion), which produces about 1/10th the amount of power of this new plant. So this new nuclear plant represents about a 3X increase in output-per-dollar spent on construction - and the power costs about 1/10th as much as well, meaning over a 40 year lifespan, the nuclear plant will produce it's power for $78 billion less than Ivanpah.
    • Re:6.8 Billion (Score:5, Informative)

      by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @10:03AM (#53122497) Journal

      Someone on Reddit already ran these numbers. For the money spent on this nuclear plant after it was stopped/restarted/held up by red tape/hit by NIMBY BS/etc, you could build enough solar to power 274,000 homes; a fraction of what the nuclear option provided. You also have to consider how much area that much solar or wind would cover and the impacts to the local environment and wildlife. Finally, there's the death toll. Both solar and wind power - per kWH generated - cause more human deaths than nuclear power. And I don't believe any of this considers actual power generation vs nameplate generation. That solar plant is going to generate roughly 30% of what it's slated peak output suggests due to weather, night time, etc. In the US, we run our nuclear power plants at about ~93% with the remaining time lost to maintenance, refueling, etc.

      In other words, your "renewables" cost several times as much even with all the red tape thrown in nuclear's path, they generate far less power, they kill more humans, have a much greater environmental impact, and basically just fucking suck in every comparison. When we're talking about solar, the panel construction requires all kinds of horrifically toxic stuff to be put together. Both wind and solar require huge amounts of batteries; also a toxic mess. Reprocessing nuclear fuel cuts the waste down to almost nothing. A family of four that has their entire lives powered from birth to death by nuclear will be responsible for nuclear waste that fits in a Coke can. And once you're reusing the high-energy waste products, almost everything that's left is so low-energy it poses no significant risk.

      • Finally, there's the death toll. Both solar and wind power - per kWH generated - cause more human deaths than nuclear power.

        I like Nuclear as an option, but am not sure how people die from solar panels or wind farms?

    • > I wonder how many wind and solar plants could be built for a mere 6.8 Billion?

      No need to guess, google has that answer:
      https://www.lazard.com/media/2390/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-analysis-90.pdf

      Actually these numbers are already out of date, solar in the US is under $1/Watt:
      https://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/and-were-down-under-1/

      So you could buy about 6.8 GWp of PV for that, as opposed to the 1.2 GW of nuclear they did get. Nuclear has a CF around 90% and solar about 32%, so that me

  • Is not design but project management. Plant Vogtle has problems with things like concrete not built to design specs requiring expensive rework and delays. The whole idea with the next gen plants was standardized design an a combined construction operating license, which would keep costs down, IF you built it to the licensed design. Unfortunately that is proving not to be the case. Watts Bar is an old design that was mothballed with plans to restart construction and not a "new" plant.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @01:18AM (#53120469)

      The whole idea with the next gen plants was standardized design an a combined construction operating license, which would keep costs down

      That's what the economists think but they've missed out a very important step the engineers know. You need R&D and pilot plants so that you can design a GOOD standardized design before you build a lot of them. Otherwise your standardized design costs a fortune in the long run from retrofitting a lot of units each time you find a problem.
      Instead of that the R&D money got blown on PR (probably literally on hookers and blow for Senators) and we have nothing to build on apart from reactors from the 1970s and imported Japanese technology (Westinghouse made up for their lack of R&D spending by taking advantage of the Japanese taxpayer instead).
      Maybe we will be like the UK and just give up and buy Chinese?

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @11:07PM (#53120203)

    Uranium "breeder" reactor technology is a throwback to the days of nuclear arms proliferation because if you can continually use the fissile material it generates then it will eventually create weapon's grade Plutonium. What we really need is to invest in the research needed to make a fourth generation reactor that transmutes Thorium a few times before finally making it into a Uranium isotope that is "burned" for power, destroying the fissile material instead of stockpiling it. This makes the possibility of a meltdown physically impossible making it safe enough fully automate without the need for human oversight. If made into small unmanaged units (one buried every X miles) it would be a poor attack target (minimal impact). Basically, you stream in some water, start the reaction and it will churn out electricity and warm water for the century, given a small pile of Thorium.

    The idea has been around a long time and in the 80s, congress even refused to fund the research to build a reactor because it couldn't be used to make weapons.

    It's past time to start using nuclear physics to cleanly and safely power the globe.

    • If that's the case, then why couldn't they use it to create depleted uranium ammunition? I think the military would prefer that over thermonuclear bombs.

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      Thorium is WORSE for proliferation. Thorium breeding produces Np-237 as a by-product. And it can be extracted rather easily - it's a chemical process.
      • by KonoWatakushi ( 910213 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @03:18AM (#53120693)

        Your "easily" is still considerably more difficult than producing weapons grade materials the old fashioned way, so how does it matter? The fuel salt in a molten salt reactor is the safest place for any materials that pose a proliferation threat. It is both thermally and radiologically very hot, and confined to a chemical processing hot cell or the reactor itself, which makes it rather difficult to walk off with. Little of the thorium ends up as Np-237 in the first place, and it doesn't stop there--the reactor will turn it into Pu-238 and so on.

        The standard LFTR design does not have the facilities to separate the Np-237 which comes out of the fuel salt with along with UF6, and goes right back into the core. A thermal breeder using the thorium fuel cycle has a very small margin for neutron loss, and if the fissile is diverted, the reactor will stop. Extra care will need to be taken with machines configured to produce Pu-238, but even that poses a significant challenge for diversion, and similarly will not go unnoticed.

        Furthermore, this is the machine which is capable of making every nation on earth energy independent, and ending essentially all resource conflict. Once a nation has that, there is little motivation to produce bombs and risk losing it. There is also the fact that reactors provide the only means of destroying weapons grade materials, and provide abundant energy as a byproduct. Obstructing nuclear energy prevents that from ever happening, and will pose a substantially greater risk.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      If made into small

      Nuclear, like all thermal power, is only really useful when you scale up. Double the size of a solar panel and you get twice the power, but double the size of a thermal power unit and you get more than twice the power for a lot of reasons (such as a lower percentage of losses - getting turbines moving with a LOT of low pressure steam instead of them staying still with only a little bit of steam from the same pressure). If you want nukes it only makes sense to have them at huge scales unl

    • A melt down has nothing to do with what fissionable material you fission.

      It's past time to start using nuclear physics to cleanly and safely power the globe.
      Can be done with wind and solar and biomass and water as well ... much simpler and on lots of small scale installations instead of a few big bang ones.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Friday October 21, 2016 @02:42AM (#53120633) Homepage Journal

      There are a few governments toying with this technology, but no commercial providers will touch it because it's still too experimental. One of the Japanese experimental rectors is being abandoned because it barely works, and the Chinese ones are having difficulties. Japan is looking at 2040 for a fully operational prototype.

      So given that kind of timeframe, a commercial operator would have to be looking at 2050 at the very earliest for a commercial, profitable plant, and that's assuming the prototype one they have to pour tens of billions into doesn't have any serious problems.

      Meanwhile other forms of clean energy will be getting much, much cheaper along with utility scale energy storage systems.

      The only groups that can justify the cost are governments who want the reactors for reasons other than profit, and even they are going to have to wait decades.

    • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

      Thorium (Th-232) isn't fissile, it needs to be bred up into U-233 to produce energy. U-233 works quite well in a nuclear weapon core (the US fired off at least two test devices back in the day). The U-233 in a proposed thorium reactor is pure, it has no contaminants that make it difficult to weaponise by an unscrupupous operator.

      There are very few commercial breeder reactors still around or in operation since mined uranium is cheap and plentiful and breeders generally have a poor operational record, somethi

  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @11:11PM (#53120215)
    As a proud, card-carrying TreeHugger(TM) I am happy to see nuclear power remaining a viable component of our national electrical baseline capacity. Let's be real: when coal (especially) is the main alternative for providing the huge baseload requirements of a solid electrical infrastructure, it's a no-brainer to have nuclear be a portion of the multi-legged stool we need.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      It makes sense so long as you have military uses so that you can share the vast cost of the nuclear infrastructure.
    • I would start to learn what base load and base line is ... (*facepalm*)
      It does not mean what you think it means.

  • Budget and Timelines (Score:5, Informative)

    by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @11:17PM (#53120233)

    Disclaimer: Until recently, I was in the business of building nuclear plants.

    When I say that over-regulation, discord between the NRC and ASME, NIMBY trolls, and congressional oversight cause cost and lead time issues, I don't mean that energy companies are trying to bypass safety regulations to accelerate building - there are literally too many people who don't know enough about nuclear plants in decision-making positions.

    Here's a true story.

    WEC is the prime contractor constructing Summer and Vogtle. After farming out subs to various entities, with defined scopes of work, timelines required to design / install / test / etc - the entire gamut of a multi-billion dollar project...work began. In 2012, during one of the ASME conferences, the ASME committee changed the definition of SA316 forged steel. I won't bore you with the details, but the change they implemented into ASME standards changed the dimensions that SA 316 bar stock could be forged into (for fear that too large of a bar would create structural weakness in the center) - whereas the primary use of 316SS within the context of ASME Section 7 is for creating safety valve bonnets - in this case, for the valves in containment. A bonnet is cored out - hollowed out - leaving no internal metal in the 4" center radius ASME flagged.

    However, ASME is responsible to no one. Their decision was decried and appealed by the entire nuclear industry, but ASME answers to no one, and the NRC has no input into ASME standards. Since Summer and Vogtle required congressional approval to build, including design approval - ASME changing the definition of 316SS required a design change in the plans for the nuclear plants, which in turn required congressional approval.

    1. Tens of millions in material got scrapped.
    2. Tens of hundreds of millions in labor hours between prime and sub-suppliers were wasted - design, engineering, procurement, project management...

    And this is ONE tiny decision made by ONE body with regulatory oversight amidst dozens of stakeholders making decisions and changing scopes - not least of which are political bodies. I have dozens of stories just like it.

    • by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @11:18PM (#53120239)

      I also forgot to mention that none of this got approved to change until the next congressional session had the time to meet about it, which is where the lead time losses come into play.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @01:24AM (#53120491) Homepage Journal

      When I say that over-regulation, discord between the NRC and ASME, NIMBY trolls, and congressional oversight cause cost and lead time issues, I don't mean that energy companies are trying to bypass safety regulations to accelerate building - there are literally too many people who don't know enough about nuclear plants in decision-making positions.

      True, but on the other hand, I'd argue that Watts Bar 2 is an example of ignoring modern safety standards to accelerate building.

      If I took a house that was 80% built in the early 1980s and tried to finish building it today, they'd literally make me tear it down, because it would be essentially impossible to retrofit all of the additional braces inside the walls that are required for earthquake safety, not to mention that the plumbing wouldn't be of a material that's legally allowed to be used now, the electrical wiring probably wouldn't be up to code, and even the foundation might have to be dug out and replaced. Yet they've allowed a forty-year-old nuclear reactor design to be brought online that doesn't come close to meeting modern design standards for things like passive safety.

      To be fair, TVA has patched the design to mitigate some of the more serious risks based on lessons learned in Fukushima, but even still, it seems completely insane to me that they were allowed to continue building this reactor instead of being told to tear down everything but the outer shell and start over. IMO, this should have been at least a third-generation reactor, if not a III+, not an ancient second-generation design. At some point, they should stop allowing new reactors to be built using old designs, and for second-generation designs, that cutoff date should have been a couple of decades ago, give or take....

      • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @02:09AM (#53120559)
        With respect (fuck I have to use that a LOT here these days - check out the UK series "Yes Minister" for an explanation why) since the US nuclear industry has been in close to a state of statis since the late 1970s there will be very little to change. Major players (Westinghouse et al) lobbied hard AGAINST the Clinton era Thorium research and hounded the guy who was running it out of the industry. The nuclear lobby ate it's own children. Far more money has been spent on PR than R&D, a total waste since people do not trust the spin about the older technology and that money could have been spent on developing something worth cheering for instead.
        The only reason we have any advances at all is because Westinghouse bought a Japanese company that was doing R&D until they were bought out.
        It's so slow moving that pretty well anything designed after the wake-up call of Three Mile Island is going to be good enough today.
      • True, but on the other hand, I'd argue that Watts Bar 2 is an example of ignoring modern safety standards to accelerate building.

        Can you name one single modern safety standard that was ignored? Or are you just making an uninformed assumption?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @01:39AM (#53120511)
      The idiot there is the guy (not you obviously) that didn't put a date on the end of the specified standard to be used in the designs/legislation/whatever. With respect that's a newbie mistake. Standards change. If you don't refer to the one you actually mean and leave things open to referring to one that has not been written yet it's pretty obvious that things are going to go wrong someday. This fuckup looks like what happens when you get office workers with English Lit. degrees to do an engineers job.
      As a former member of ASTM (I stopped paying the fees about 15 years ago) I'm a bit curious as to why the ASME standard was used instead of ASTM which has the advantage of being more recognized internationally so would vastly increase the pool of potential suppliers.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Can you tell us what practical means this sort of issue could be solved by?

      On the one hand you need strong regulation. We have seen time and time again that when regulation is lax, so is safety and accidents happen. On the other hand you seem to want less strict regulation when an engineering case can be made against it. I'm not an expert but it seems that you have ASME engineers and scientists saying the steel needed to be changed, and the nuclear industry with profit as its primary motivator saying it is

    • Would it have been possible for the Congressionally-approved design to have specified "steel meeting the ASME SA316 standard as it existed on X date" to head off the problem at the beginning? Also, did the ASME committee really care about the structural weakness or did some anti-nuclear member(s) of the committee realize it would screw over the reactor construction and do it on purpose?

  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @12:07AM (#53120341) Homepage Journal

    In this area we had 5 reactors being built, one day they just called a halt to them. I had a friend who was studying to be a reactor operator who was told to go home, you haven't a job anymore, just one of the thousands told the same thing.

    In January 1982, the WPPSS board stopped construction on Plants 4 and 5 when total cost for all the plants was projected to exceed $24 billion. Because these plants generated no power and brought in no money, the system was forced to default on $2.25 billion in bonds. This meant that the member utilities, and ultimately the rate payers, were obligated to pay back the borrowed money. In some small towns where unemployment due to the recession was already high, this amounted to more than $12,000 per customer. http://www.historylink.org/Fil... [historylink.org]

    At the time the largest default in the U.S.

  • Economics? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @12:33AM (#53120393) Journal

    $4.7B for a nuclear plant. Is it worth it? Will the company get $4.7B worth of use from this asset? If they put it on the market today, what price would they get?

    Does this price reflect the cost of building a new nuclear plant today, or is it horribly inflated by the troubled construction history?

    The new planed UK Hinkley Point station has (Wikipedia) "estimated construction cost of £18 billion, or £24.5 billion including financing costs." This is two units with combined 3200MW output. Watts Bar II is 1200MW - so the UK is planing on spending more per MW than this plant cost.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      "Greenfields" sites often cost a lot more than adding units to an existing facility.
    • Re:Economics? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @02:31AM (#53120605)
      Nuclear power has a capacity factor of about 0.9. So a 1 GW plant will generate on average 900 MW throughout the year after taking into account downtime for maintenance and refueling.

      8766 hours in a year (taking into account leap years), so that's 7889 GWh per year.

      At a U.S. average rate of 12 cents/kWh = $120/MWh = $0.12 million/GWh, that's $947 million worth of power generated per year.

      Nuclear plants are licensed to operate for 40 years. So that's $37.9 billion worth of power generated over 40 years.

      Most of the older plants have had their license extended to 60 years. Some are requesting an extension to 80 years because everything is working just fine. So the actual power generated over the lifetime of the plant will likely be 1.5x to 2x higher.

      So yeah, the $4.7 billion construction cost is tiny compared to the return you'll get. For your example of a 3.2 GW output plant that costs £24.5 billion ($30 billion) including financing, at the UK average rate of US$0.22/kWh, the expected power generated over 40 years would be worth $222 billion.
      • The CF of a plant depends on hwo the plant is run. Not on its fuel.

        For a new nuclear plant to have 90% CF the surrounding coal plants (or what ever) have to cut their CF.

        E.g. in France where 75% of the power comes from nuclear plants, with a base load factor of about 60%, all nuclear plants have either to adapt load over the day from 60% to 95% (or something) ... hence their CF is only ~70% or a few of them run at > 90% and the rest significantly below 60%.

        You can only feed as much power into the grid as

        • 0.9 is the historical capacity factor for nuclear in the U.S. Yeah, nuclear is really best for base load. It's slow to ramp up or down, so is not very good for peaking power load (the hourly and instantaneous spikes and dips in power consumption for the grid overall). Peaking load is usually handled by hydro and gas plants, sometimes coal.

          The difference is that nuclear power proponents do not advocate making 100% of power generation nuclear. They are ok with using hydro, gas, wind, solar to handle pe
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Nuclear power has a capacity factor of about 0.9. So a 1 GW plant will generate on average 900 MW throughout the year after taking into account downtime for maintenance and refueling. 8766 hours in a year (taking into account leap years), so that's 7889 GWh per year. At a U.S. average rate of 12 cents/kWh = $120/MWh = $0.12 million/GWh, that's $947 million worth of power generated per year. Nuclear plants are licensed to operate for 40 years. So that's $37.9 billion worth of power generated over 40 years. Most of the older plants have had their license extended to 60 years. Some are requesting an extension to 80 years because everything is working just fine. So the actual power generated over the lifetime of the plant will likely be 1.5x to 2x higher. So yeah, the $4.7 billion construction cost is tiny compared to the return you'll get. For your example of a 3.2 GW output plant that costs £24.5 billion ($30 billion) including financing, at the UK average rate of US$0.22/kWh, the expected power generated over 40 years would be worth $222 billion.

        Not only that, but nuclear plants employ a large number of well paid, skilled, and educated people for that entire duration. They also pay huge amounts in local and state taxes. The contributions back to the tax base and the economy from that is worth billions more.

      • That's helpful, but you've failed to include fixed operations and maintenance (O&M), fuel, variable O&M, and, most important perhaps for nuclear, ongoing capital expenditures (capex) necessary to keep the thing running. We're seeing nuclear units retiring in America right now because the $30/MWh they make on the energy market isn't enough to cover their per-unit-energy ongoing costs. When you include the ongoing costs to keep them running, it's far less obvious that new nuclear power plants will be
      • by necro81 ( 917438 )
        A few quibbles with your math:

        At a U.S. average rate of 12 cents/kWh = $120/MWh

        That may be the average retail rate paid by you and me. But as for what the generator can sell the electricity at, you need to look at the wholesale rates. Squinting at this graphic from the EIA [eia.gov], you can see the wholesale rates tend to hover at around $50/MWh, or a bit less than half the figure you were using. Because nuclear tends to supply baseload, rather than peaking, power, it may even be less than that. So you should

      • Most of the older plants have had their license extended to 60 years. Some are requesting an extension to 80 years because everything is working just fine.

        That's not safe, though, because you can't perform a complete metallurgical inspection of the interior of the reactor, and it tends to be damaged over time. Also, many of our older reactors are based on unsafe designs; that they haven't had an incident is laudable, but that they won't have a serious one in the future is still not assurable. And a number of them are proven insecure designs, literally based on the same design as used at Fukushima Daiichi and also storing spent fuel on site.

        I am not wholly aga

      • At a U.S. average rate of 12 cents/kWh = $120/MWh = $0.12 million/GWh, that's $947 million worth of power generated per year.

        The amount of revenue it generates is not the important consideration in determining if a project is economically worthwhile. It has to generate enough PROFIT to repay the investment. If the annual cost of generating your $947M worth of power is $947M then the project will never repay the cost of building the plant. The cost of generation plus the amortized cost of building and maintaining the plant has to be less than the amount of revenue brought in. Presumably the amount charged for a unit of electri

    • The "company" you speak of is the TVA, a government owned company. So, profit or not, they don't care. Cost is no object to the Feds.
  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by whodunit ( 2851793 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @03:36AM (#53120739)

    If you listen closely you can hear mdsolar screaming.

  • by MoarSauce123 ( 3641185 ) on Friday October 21, 2016 @05:50AM (#53120993)
    "after billions of dollars in budget overruns" - How is this cheap? Doesn't even consider the still unsolved problem of long term nuclear waste storage. These billions would have been better spent on battery research so that we have effective means to store the power generated by wind, water, and solar.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by washort ( 6555 )
      "Nuclear waste" is mostly unspent fuel that can be reprocessed and used again. The US just decided not to invest in the facilities to do so. The remainder of the reactor output is short-lived radiologicals useful for medicine and some other isotopes that can be used as fuel in a molten-salt reactor. Nuclear "waste" isn't a fundamentally difficult problem.
  • It's an awful lot of complexity just to make water really hot.

    There's got to be a better. Maybe this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

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