Friends, Sorry. In the text below, a small portion between "(11, 12)" and "(13)" appears garbled. The corresponding clear text -- covering a somewhat longer portion -- is: "The Vogtle nuclear plant being built in the state of Georgia, involving two AP1000 reactors designed to generate around 1,100 megawatts of electricity each, is currently estimated to cost nearly $35 billion (11,12). In 2011, when the utility building the reactor sought permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it projected a total cost of $14 billion, and “in-service dates of 2016 and 2017” for the two units (13)."
Sukla On Fri, Apr 7, 2023, 08:33 Sukla Sen <sukla....@gmail.com> wrote: > > https://engage.aps.org/fps/resources/newsletters/april-2023#Articles > Infeasible: Nuclear Energy as a solution to Climate Change > > *M. V. Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human > Security, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British > Columbia, m.v.ram...@ubc.ca <m.v.ram...@ubc.ca>* > > Nuclear energy reached a major landmark in 2021. Its share of the total > electrical energy generated globally declined to below 10 percent, 9.8 > percent to be precise (1). That fraction is lower than it has been since at > least 1985, and around 45 percent lower than its peak in 1996, when nuclear > energy provided 17.5 percent of worldwide electricity fed into the grid. > The declining trend has been continuous and will likely continue. > > The declining trend might seem odd given all the talk one hears about > nuclear energy undergoing yet another "renaissance" or "resurgence" (2–4). > Although such claims were always questionable (5–7), they have propelled > enormous amounts of public and private capital going into nuclear power. > Further, this trend would seem doubly odd in the face of high-profile > assertions about the inevitability of nuclear energy to mitigating carbon > emissions (8–10). > > The key reason for the decline in the share of nuclear power is > economical: generating power with nuclear reactors is costly compared with > other low-carbon sources of energy, and the gap is widening. The second > reason for this decline is the very long time it takes to build a nuclear > reactor. > > Combined, these two trends imply that nuclear energy will not help solve > climate change. For nuclear energy to play a significant role in mitigating > climate change, its share of the electrical energy produced around the > world has to necessarily increase, as fossil fuels are replaced by uranium. > And the shift has to occur rapidly. Nuclear energy is simply not up to this > challenge. > > There is a separate and well-known set of reasons about why nuclear power > is not a desirable way to even trying to mitigate climate change: the > unavoidable risk of severe accidents, the inextricable connection to > nuclear weapons proliferation, and the inevitable production of hazardous > radioactive waste. Since nuclear power is incapable of contributing > significantly to mitigating climate change, expanding nuclear energy and > exacerbating these undesirable outcomes makes no sense. > > The economics of nuclear power > > Despite countries around the world investing vast amounts of money in > nuclear power, the technology continues to be economically uncompetitive. > Two separate cost problems afflict nuclear power. First, nuclear reactors > are extremely expensive to build. The Vogtle nuclear > > plant being built in the state of Georgia, involving two AP1000 reactors > designed to generate around 1,100 megawatts of electricity each, is > currently estimated to cost nearly 35billion(11,12).In2011,whentheutilityb > uildingthereactorsoughtpermissionfromtheNuclearRegulatoryCommission,itproj > ectedatotalcostof > 35�������(11,12).��2011,�ℎ���ℎ�����������������ℎ������������ℎ����������������ℎ����������������������������,�����������������������14 > billion, and “in-service dates of 2016 and 2017” for the two units (13). > > As of March 2023, neither unit has started operating. Westinghouse, the > company developing the design, originally projected a time period of three > years to construct each AP1000 reactor (14). Vogtle has exceeded that > projection by a factor of three. > > Vogtle is by no means the only delayed reactor. In Finland, building of > the Olkiluoto-3 European Pressurized reactor (EPR) started in August 2005; > its builders expected it to start operating in 2009, but it was first > connected to the grid only in 2022, a thirteen year delay (15). The story > of its sister EPR at Flamanville in France is similar. Although its > construction started two years later—and presumably the builders had some > time to learn from the experience in Finland—that reactor is now expected > to start operations in 2024, a dozen years after the expected 2012 (16). > Like Vogtle, its cost has escalated dramatically, from €3.2 billion to > €13.2 billion. > > These construction delays are occurring in United States, which has built > more reactors than any other country, and France, which has the highest > nuclear share in the world. In other words, these problems are not being > encountered by some neophyte country embarking on building its first > nuclear power plant. > > There is no reason to expect things will get better in the future. > Historical experience in the United States and France shows that nuclear > construction costs have typically gone up, not down, as more reactors are > built (17–20). Cost estimates of the European Pressurized reactors being > built at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom are greater than the costs of > the Flamanville and Olkiluoto reactors; the estimated costs of the Russian > VVER reactors proposed for Turkey and Bangladesh are higher than the cost > of the first two Koodankulam reactors operating in India. > > The second cost problem afflicting nuclear power involve the high > operating expenses of nuclear reactors. These expenses do not include what > is involved in servicing the extremely high capital costs, and yet are high > enough to make nuclear energy uncompetitive with natural gas, solar, and > wind power. > > Over the last decade or so, this second cost problem has forced utilities > to shut down multiple old reactors despite having active operating licenses > (21–24). In the United States, 104 nuclear reactors were operating at the > end of 2010 (25). A decade later, in December 2020, that was down to 94 > (26). The number of operating reactors declined from 19 to 15 in the United > Kingdom; and from 10 to 6 reactors in Sweden. The nuclear fleet would be > even smaller but for governments shoveling exorbitant subsidies at > utilities owning nuclear plants, partly due to misguided beliefs about the > importance of nuclear power for mitigating climate change. But an > > equally important reason has been lobbying by the nuclear industry and its > supporters, as well as systemic corruption (27,28). > > Caption: Plot of trends in the cost of generating electricity (the > so-called Levelized Cost of Energy) from the 2022 World Nuclear Industry > Status Report (1) which is based on cost estimates reported by the Wall > Street advisory firm Lazard from 2009 to 2021. > > Nuclear power’s economic challenge is graphically shown in the figure > above, which is drawn using data presented in successive cost reports by > the Wall Street advisory firm Lazard (29,1). At nearly $170 per > megawatt-hour of electricity, generating nuclear power costs over four > times the corresponding figure for utility-scale solar and wind farms. > > The comparison between nuclear power and variable renewables like solar > and wind is complicated by the fact that the latter sources do not generate > power steadily, and depend on how much wind is blowing and whether the sun > is shining. But the very large cost differential between nuclear and > renewables should be more than enough to allow for complementary > technologies to compensate for variations in the outputs of solar and wind > farms (30). There is also a vast literature that explores how renewables > can support a reliable electrical grid provided suitable and affordable > options, such as energy efficiency, demand response, technological and > geographic diversity, and some storage, are incorporated (31). > > *The question of time * > > Nuclear reactors are not just expensive. They take a very long time to > construct. The average nuclear plant takes around a decade to go from when > the first concrete is poured on the ground to the first units of power > flowing into the grid (1). The requisite planning, getting permits, and > raising the billions of dollars in funding needed to construct a plant, > might take up to a decade too. > > Consider the case of Hinkley Point C in the United Kingdom where two EPRs > are being built at Hinkley Point. In 2008, the U.K. government issued a > White Paper that envisioned new reactors producing power by 2018, further > recommending Hinkley Point as where the first nuclear plant could be built > because it already had the requisite environmental clearances (32). In > reality, it was December 2018 by the time the first of the two EPRs began > to be built at Hinkley Point C; the second unit started being built in > December 2019. The currently projected start date for the first of the > reactors is 2027, with the cost estimate of the two EPR units touching $40 > billion (33). > > This is the case in the United Kingdom, which is very familiar with this > process. Over the decades, the country has built 45 power reactors. > Experience with nuclear power is not an advantage that many other countries > have. > > Although may propose to expand nuclear power to combat climate change, few > discuss where these new nuclear plants are to be built. For nuclear power > to contribute significantly to mitigating climate change, much of this new > nuclear capacity would have to be built in developing countries. These are > the countries that have fast expanding energy needs and growing > populations. But, few developing countries use nuclear energy. > > One of the few attempts at identifying a potential geographical > distribution of new nuclear reactors was the influential study published by > the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2003 (34). The MIT study > developed a scenario where nuclear power contributes significantly to > mitigating climate change by 2050 and came up with a hypothetical > allocation of new nuclear power plants to countries around the world. > > That scenario foresaw a number of countries like Algeria, Indonesia, > Malaysia, North Korea, the Philippines, Venezuela, and Vietnam all > acquiring their first nuclear power plants by 2050. Indonesia, for example, > would have to build up 39 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2050. To reach > that target, Indonesia should build around 25 large nuclear reactors like > the ones at Hinkley Point C or 35 reactors like the ones at Vogtle. Today, > two decades after the MIT report came out, Indonesia still has no operating > nuclear power plant; nor is one being built. > > There is a good reason why developing countries, despite a desire to build > nuclear capacity, have not built nuclear power plants in large numbers. > Financial resources for capital intensive projects are scarce in > cash-strapped developing countries, and nuclear plants are prohibitively > expensive. Nor should these countries be considering nuclear power, for it > is an expensive and inefficient way to deliver energy to the developing > world’s unserved people. > > Despite these reasons for foreswearing nuclear technology, perhaps many > developing countries might develop nuclear power plants after all. But that > is unrealistic within the next few decades. In April 2022, the > Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that “global temperature > will stabilise when carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero. For 1.5°C > (2.7°F), this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in > the early 2050s” (35). > > In other words, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world has to > stop emitting carbon dioxide, or find ways of absorbing the emitted carbon > dioxide, within three decades. Nuclear power’s track record and technical > constraints make it clear that it cannot play any significant role in > reaching this target. > > *Can new small modular nuclear reactor designs help? * > > When faced with these facts, some proponents of nuclear energy argue that > alternate nuclear reactor designs will solve the problems confronting > nuclear power. A particular focus has been on what are called Small Modular > (Nuclear) Reactors (SMRs). SMR designs typically have power levels between > 10 and 300 megawatts, much smaller than the 1,000–1,600 megawatt reactor > designs being built today (36). > > Nuclear proponents also talk about so-called advanced reactors, or > Generation IV nuclear energy systems, which are based on designs not > involving cooling by water: such designs include gas-cooled high > temperature reactors, sodium cooled fast neutron reactors, and molten salt > reactors cooled by, well, molten salts. Many of these reactor designs also > fit into the category of small modular reactors because they are intended > to produce less than 300 megawatts. > > First, let us discuss SMRs. Because SMRs produce less power, nuclear > advocates expect building these would cost less. Therefore, in principle, > smaller private companies and countries with smaller economic capacity > (i.e., GDP) can invest in nuclear power. While the lower total cost may > help deal with the first problem, the second problem becomes worse because > small reactors lose out on economies of scale. > > Larger reactors are cheaper on a per megawatt basis because their material > and work requirements do not scale linearly with power capacity. A general > rule of thumb followed in industrial engineering postulates a 0.6 power > relation between the capital cost and the size of the facility (37). All > else being equal, constructing a SMR designed to produce 200 megawatts > would cost around 40 percent of what it would cost to build a 1000 megawatt > reactor, whereas it would generate only 20 percent of the electricity. > Thus, the 200 megawatt SMR would have roughly twice the cost per kilowatt > of capacity, which directly translates into a higher cost per unit of > electricity generated. > > Cost estimates of SMRs under development offer evidence of higher per kW > costs. The UAMPS project involving six NuScale units proposed to be built > in Idaho is estimated to cost an eye-popping $9.3 billion for just 462 > megawatts of power capacity (38). That amounts to over > > $20,000 per kilowatt. In comparison to the Vogtle project in Georgia, when > that project was at a comparable stage—that is, when it was still on > paper—the estimate for the UAMPS project is around 250% more than the > initial per kilowatt cost of the Vogtle project. Of course, the Vogtle cost > has since exploded, but there is every reason to expect a similar fate for > the UAMPS project if and when construction starts. Even without such an > increase during construction, the NuScale SMR design is more expensive than > large reactors on a per kilowatt basis. > > SMR proponents have a counter argument: the lost economies of scale will > be compensated by savings through mass manufacture in factories and > resultant learning. But, for the price per kilowatt for a small reactor to > be comparable to large reactors, SMRs have to be manufactured by the > hundreds, maybe thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about > rates of learning (36). If and when all those SMRs are manufactured, then, > perhaps, the cost per kilowatt of SMRs might match the cost per kilowatt of > large nuclear reactors. Even then, SMRs will only economically competitive > with the likes of the Vogtle nuclear plant, and generate power at costs > that are many times that of renewable sources of energy. > > Even that sombre outlook might be too optimistic for the real world where > multiple theoretical assumptions made by SMR developers will not hold. For > example, they assume that costs of nuclear power plants will decline as > more of these are built; but, in both the United States and France, costs > rose with time (19,20). The theoretical prerequisite for such learning is > that most reactor builders would choose a standardised design. But there > are currently dozens of SMR designs being developed around the world. This > makes it very unlikely that one, or even a few designs, will be chosen by > different countries and private companies. > > Building SMRs has also been subject to delays. Russia’s first SMR is the > KLT-40S, which is based on the design of reactors used in the > nuclear-powered icebreakers operated by Russia for decades. When > construction started in 2007, the KLT-40S reactor was expected to start > operating in October 2010. It began producing power a whole decade later, > in May 2020 (39). > > Even in the case of designs being developed, there are significant delays. > NuScale, the design closest to being deployed in the United States, has > gone from planning to first generate power in 2015-16 to the current > expectation that the first reactor will start producing power in 2029-30 > (40) > > Turning to the so-called advanced reactor designs, there is a long history > of reactor designs not based on standard light-water-reactor technology > being built around the world. And this history shows that these designs > will have a number of technical problems that make them unreliable for > electricity generation (41,42). > > When it was established in 2000, the Generation IV initiative’s aimed for > “commercial deployment by 2020–2030” (43). In 2018, the Generation IV forum > concluded that “readiness for commercial fleet deployment” might occur only > “around 2045 (for the first systems)” (44). The delay should not come as a > surprise: these designs are challenged by major technological problems. In > 2015, France’s Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) > examined > > these challenges, concluding that “the SFR [Sodium‐cooled Fast Reactor] > system [is] the only one of the various nuclear systems considered by GIF > [Generation IV International Forum] to have reached a degree of maturity > compatible with the construction of a Generation IV reactor prototype > during the first half of the 21st century; such a realization, however, > requires the completion of studies and technological developments mostly > already identified” (45). > > But even sodium-cooled fast reactors are unlikely to be built quickly, and > there is a long history of delays, poor performance, and nagging problems > afflicting these designs (46). India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor > (PFBR) offers an illustration of the lengthy delays associated with even > new sodium cooled reactor designs. The government started planning to > building the PFBR in the early 1980s, after a quarter century of dreaming > about breeder reactors (47). In 2004, when the first concrete was poured, > the PFBR was expected to start operating in 2010. The reactor has been > delayed repeatedly and is now expected to start operating in 2024 (48). > > The bottom line is that new reactor designs, whether these are termed > small modular reactors or advanced reactors or Generation IV reactors, > cannot help nuclear power be deployed fast enough to meet the urgency of > climate change mitigation. > > *Conclusion * > > Nearly a quarter century ago, the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote, “the > characteristic feature of an ideologically driven technology is that it is > not allowed to fail. And that is why nuclear energy got into trouble. The > ideology said that nuclear energy must win. The promoters of nuclear energy > believed as a matter of faith that it would be safe and clean and cheap and > a blessing to humanity. When evidence to the contrary emerged, the > promoters found ways to ignore the evidence” (49). > > Dyson’s characterization of nuclear power’s promoters holds till today. > Nuclear advocates continue to ignore the evidence for the decline in > importance of nuclear energy and its inability to compete economically with > renewable sources of energy. New reactor designs will not rescue nuclear > power from this fate. > > The climate crisis is urgent. The world has neither the financial > resources or the luxury of time to expand nuclear power. In the 2019 issue > of the *World Nuclear Industry Status Report*, Amory Lovins, another > physicist, expressed this idea succinctly: “to protect the climate, we must > abate the most carbon at the least cost—and in the least time—*so we must > pay attention to carbon, cost, and time, not to carbon alone” *(50). > > From the perspective of minimizing cost and time, expanding nuclear energy > only makes the climate problem worse. First, the money invested in nuclear > energy would save far more carbon dioxide if it were invested in further > the switch to renewables. There is thus an economic opportunity cost to > investing in nuclear energy. And the long timescales involved in expanding > nuclear power means that the reduction in emissions from alternative > investments would not only be greater, but also quicker. > > *References * > > *1. Schneider M, Froggatt A. The world nuclear industry status report 2022 > [Internet]. Paris: Mycle Schneider Consulting; 2022 Oct. 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