A Critique of the Canadian Think Tank Report That Claims There Will be No Nuclear Energy Revival Before 2030

Centre for International Governance Innovation – The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and its Implications for Safety, Security and Nonproliferation [40 page pdf]

The purpose of this project was three-fold:
• to investigate the likely size, shape and nature of the purported nuclear energy revival to 2030 – not to make a judgement on the merits of nuclear energy, but rather to predict its future;
• to consider the implications for global governance in the areas of nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation; and
• to make recommendations to policy makers in Canada and abroad on ways to strengthen global governance in these areas.

The report is broadly biased in what is included and how it is presented and the conclusions are wrong. The report can be summarized – “we think that nuclear power will develop slowly up to 2030 but then in case it does not let use push for legislation to make sure it does go even slower.”

They say that there will be little net nuclear power added but do not
have a breakdown of which nuclear reactors will be shutdown and when. There will be no more German reactors shut down as the politics have shifted.

The report tries to also claim high prices for world nuclear build as the major factor in preventing more nuclear build. They also claim that lack of subsidies for nuclear will prevent it as well. The report does not look at prices for nuclear build in China and South Korea or Russia or India. Most of the future world nuclear build is on order for Asia. So any failure for world wide nuclear build has to look at the prices in Asia.

This is like saying there will be no growth in human population from now to 2030 and only looking at the birth rate of europeans and americans while ignoring African and asian birth rates.

They also say that maybe China will generate 5% of electricity from
nuclear power. They do not also then quantify that amount as 70GW in 2020 and 160-200 GW in 2030. Those would be significant additions.

They looked at nuclear energy in terms of number of reactors and nameplate Gigawatts in order to say that things have been flat from 2000 to 2008. In 2000, there was 2449.92 billion kwh generated by nuclear energy. The world total was 2601 billion kwh in 2008. So even in a time of no new nuclear reactors there was an increase of 5.8% in nuclear power generation. The nuclear revival is only starting to kick into gear this year in terms of significant nuclear reactor additions.

Here is the expected new nuclear power generation from 2010-2014

2010 9 new reactors, 6.2 GWe (shifted the two Canadian Reactors to 2011)
2011 11 new reactors, 9.3 GWe
2012 10 new reactors, 9.92 GWe
2013 12 new reactors, 13.08 GWe
2014 14 new reactors, 13.63 GWe

by 2014 the world generation should be about 3120 billion kwh.

500 billion kwh will be comparable to added generation from solar and wind power. Wind generated about 260 billion kwh in 2008.

China is expected to add 70GWe of nuclear power by 2020 and have about 300 GWe by 2030.

There will be significant conventional uprating of existing reactors and South Korea is developing annular fuel (dual cooled fuel) technology which can uprate existing reactors by up to 50%. The dual cooled fuel technology could begin implementation around 2020 and could be widespread for the legacy reactors by 2030. Also, existing reactors are getting operational extensions for have 70-80 year lives. This will mean there will be very few reactors shutdown by 2030.

* The report states that the thorium fuel cycle will not be viable by 2030.

Ironically, China was investigating the use of Thorium in CANDU reactors (from Canada)

Lightbridge formerly Thorium Power on Track for Thorium fuel Assemblies for 2021

Lightbridge is certifying thorium/uranium fuel assemblies in Russia which will be usable in existing and future pressure water reactors [40 page pdf]

Started construction of a 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam and this is now under construction by BHAVINI. The unit is expected to be operating in 2010, fuelled with uranium-plutonium oxide (the reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs). It will have a blanket with thorium and uranium to breed fissile U-233 and plutonium respectively. This will take India’s ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for eventual full utilization of the country’s abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Four more such fast reactors have been announced for construction by 2020. Initial FBRs will be have mixed oxide fuel but these will be followed by metallic-fuelled ones to enable shorter doubling time.

* the CIGA report also dismissed breeder reactors

China has bought two of the Russian 880 MWe fast neutron reactors

The BN800 has a fuel burn-up of 70-100 GWd/t. Maximum fuel burn up is 950 GWd/t (Gigawatt days per ton) and current reactors have a burnup of 30-60 GWd/t. This will reduce the amount of nuclear waste or unburned fuel, which is also cited as an issue in the report. India should have five breeders by 2020.

There are factory mass produced small reactors under development by China, Russia, and Hyperion Power Generation. China’s first 200 MWe pebble bed should be ready by 2013. Russia has plans for several 100 MWe SVBR-100 reactors. Hyperion Power Generation could have the first of its 25 MWe fast neutron reactors in 2013.

* the CIGA report also quotes Amory Lovins for its impact of nuclear power to offset carbon dioxide.

This site has noted the problems with Amory Lovins work before more than once

I also disagree with the CIGA take on proliferation and security, but wanted to focus on how their prediction for 2030 is wrong. Basically the CIGA point of view -we think that nuclear power will develop slowly up to 2030 but then in case it does not let use push for legislation to make sure it does go even slower. The position here is nuclear power will develop far more quickly than the CIGA position and CIGA is misguided on proliferation and security.

The Toronto Star has an article by Tyler Hamilton on the research report

Nextbigfuture discussed the issue of nuclear proliferation and incremental risk and lack of correlation in this article

Here is a discussion of nuclear costs analysis and wind energy costs

The project was delayed for more than a year partially due to bad weather (on second thought, that might not be just a first of a kind issue for off-shore wind farms). The projected total cost will be $357 million, approximately $85 million more than the initial estimate. Considering the size of the array and its capacity factor, that cost overrun is comparable to exceeding the budget for a 1600 MWe Areva EPR by more than $5 Billion dollars.

Assuming a generous 40% CF for the 60 MWe peak capacity wind farm, the total cost of $357 million is equivalent to paying $19 Billion for a single 1600 MWe nuclear power plant that can operate at a modest average capacity factor – for a nuclear plant – of 80%.

However, please do not cry for the investors in the project. Their profitability will be assured by the rules of Germany’s feed in tariff laws which will guarantee that the project owners will receive $0.18 per kilowatt hour for their generated power.

Observers of the political turmoil now underway in Ontario over the media reports that AECL bid $26 billion to build two new ACR1000 reactors (2,220 MW) are in good company trying to make sense of these figures.

The news media, notably the Toronto Star, had a field day with the numbers sticking provincial politicians like they were morsels on a shish-ka-bob skewer. The problem with all the fire, smoke, and spit from the grill is that the numbers are undoubtedly wrong and wrongly reported in the news media.

First, $26 billion is an aggregate number that includes two reactors, turbines, transmission and distribution infrastructure (power lines or T&D), plant infrastructure, and nuclear fuel for 60 years as well as decommissioning costs. The most important number in the whole controversy has gone largely without notice and that is the delivered cost of electricity from the plants is in the range of five cents per kilowatt hour.

In a conference call with nuclear energy bloggers on July 17, a spokesman for Areva declined to provide exact numbers, but did not specifically dispute a report in the Toronto Star on July 14 which pegged the cost of two 1,650 EPR reactors at $7.8 billion. Doing the math, that comes out to just under $2,400/Kw which is a very competitive price.