Confidently building foundations for successful nuclear energy growth 1

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  1. The best we should hope for is the construction of 30 AP1000s in North America in the remainder of our lifetimes. It’s not happening today, but hope springs eternal. If Poland can stay out of war, maybe they’ll keep the supply chain moving after Vogtle is completed. We don’t want to see that supply chain get cold.

    Is the “1995 Settlement Agreement” going to be an impediment to half a dozen new reactors at INL?

    The link to the proposed INL MARVEL reactor contains a nice, syrupy diversity story. I wonder how the Westinghouse eVinci program has been able to continue after INL poached that one guy with “exactly the right mix of technical acumen and drive”.

    Holtec puts out a press release a year since 2012 and has had 600% turnover in its SMR engineering staff over that time. The design has oscillated rather than converged as Holtec sought partnerships with GE, then Framatome and others like Hyundai. In the latest scheme, Singh dangles the prospect of building the SMR factory near the first taker of their design outlined nowhere (no DCA, no PSAR). Perhaps we’ll hear about the SMR160 for another decade.

    The future of nuclear power is the AP1000, VVER-TOI, APR-1400, CAP1400 and the other Gen3 LWRs – maybe some BWRs – maybe.

    1. I don’t think any AP1000s will be greenlit again in North America, the model is just too hard and expensive to build.

      The Vogtle build is running at about $12,000 per kw, and that’s for the 5th and 6th AP1000s built, with the assist of being able to scavenge VC Summer for parts and labor and supply chain. God bless the Poles for giving it another go, but I don’t see any reason to expect the cost to come down very much.

      Maybe the Chinese can build cheap Gen 3, but the pricetags I’ve seen for their proposed overseas builds don’t leave me optimistic that they can export that.

      The APR-1400 has the best Gen 3 record outside China, but the UAE project ran at least $5,000 per kw, and probably well north of that all told. That’s not competitive given regulatory and political obstacles.

      Gen 3 is just too gold-plated and therefore too expensive to build. You can argue that over a plant’s 80 + year lifetime the average cost of the power is pretty cheap, and it is, but utilities and politicians don’t have that long a horizon.

      I’m not arguing for Gen 4 either. No one knows how much that will cost.

      My solution is to just go back to 1960s Gen 2. Oyster Creek, circa 1969, was a fine plant, safe and productive, and cost about $1100-1200 per kw to build (in today’s $$). No Gen 3 or 4 design has as good a balance of safety and cost as Oyster Creek. So, let’s dust off the blueprints and build more.

      1. @Will Boisvert

        I’d argue that the BWRX-300 is an updated and simplified descendent of the turnkey BWRs like Oyster Creek.

        As a matter of historical interest, Oyster Creek was the first of what has been called a “bandwagon market.” It competed head to head with a coal plant proposal and won. That choice happened in 1963.

        Jan 11, 1963 New York Times headline – “Nuclear Power Entering the Competitive World; Cost of Electricity From Reactor Has Dropped Sharply Since ’57”

  2. I started as a GE Field Engineer (GE Installation & Services Engineering, Nuclear Plant Services, out of Schenectady) and I remember hearing the story that Oyster Creek was bid below cost with the expectation that the loss would easily be recouped with future sales and services. If the story is true, it seems that it was a good strategy. I would hope NuScale is not factoring too much profit into the cost estimates for the demonstration plant.

    The fact that the licensed NuScale design does not require backup emergency AC power should go a long way towards reducing construction risks, and I am surprised this does not get more attention.

    I like the BWRX-300. Good to see the return of the Isolation Condenser! I once tried to research why GE eliminated it from the design, but I did not find anything. I assume the regulator was not happy with the single barrier to the environment. In a real event, the benefit significantly outweighs the risk from a potential tube leak.

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