Guardian Analysis of Nuclear Power has the Typical Bias

Oliver Tickell has a biased analysis of energy in the Guardian UK.

Tickell’s analysis has – At a construction cost of about US$10 billion per reactor, we would need to dedicate US$110 trillion, or about two years’ gross world product, while also providing for long-term liabilities.

NBF Corrections

In 2007, the reported cost for the first two AP1000 units under construction in China was $5.3 billion. The output of the AP1000 is 1,117 MWe. In 2009, the published cost for 4 AP1000 reactors under construction in China was a total of $8 billion. In 2010, the Chinese nuclear commission expect construction costs would fall significantly once full scale mass production is underway. In addition, a domestic CAP1400 design based on the AP1000 is due to start construction in April 2013 with a scheduled start of 2017. Once the CAP1400 design has been proven, work is scheduled for a CAP1700 design with a target construction cost of $1000/kW

China’s nuclear plants are 2.5 times cheaper than the US$10 billion price quoted and could become 4 times cheaper. China is likely to build about half of the world’s expected nuclear reactors and they will begin exporting them. South Korea has prices as good as China. Russia and India are close to the same price range.

Tickell analysis – Assume a 2% growth in primary energy demand per year over the next 35 years, and that demand will double to some 24,000 Mtoe. Rely on nuclear power to accommodate all the growth, and knock out 4,000 Mtoe-worth of coal, and it will have to produce 16,000 Mtoe of energy per year – a 25-fold increase on its current level. Today the world has 440 operational nuclear reactors, so 25 times more means 11,000 reactors.

NBF corrections More mistakes here as well. The world has 433 nuclear reactors that when all operating are producing 369 GWe of power. The average size is 840 MWe. Looking at the large nuclear reactors like the AP1000, CAP1400 and CAP1700 then there would far fewer reactors needed because some would be over twice the size as the average reactor of today. Also, there is new annular fuel uprating that should become commercial in South Korea and around the world in the 2020s. This will boost existing and future reactors by 20-50% in power generation.

The higher per unit price quote does not look at new small modular reactors which are being developed. These units will be factory mass produced and will be smaller in size from 10 to 300 MWe in size.

In total the costs for nuclear energy to replace all additional fossil fuel for the next 35 years would be more in range of $30 trillion. The analysis is not complete because the comparison of costs needs to look at the costs for the alternatives of wind, solar and other power generation. Wind has the problem that if wind was the sole basis for new power generation it would a warming effect as well.

Earth System Dynamics journal – Estimating maximum global land surface wind power extractability and associated climatic consequences. 17 Terawatts of electrical wind power would be 50-95% of the maximum land based wind possible with significant climate effects. There would be temperature and rain differences.

If we used todays costs for wind and solar and the costs for grid buildout and an emissions free system to achieve consistent power, then wind and solar would be far more expensive than nuclear power.

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