The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s (NEA’s) calculation of the overnight cost for a nuclear power plant built in the OECD rose from about $1900/kWe at the end of the 1990s to $3850/kWe in 2009.
In the 2015 report Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, the overnight costs ranged from $2021/kWe in South Korea to $6215/kWe in Hungary. For China, two comparable figures were $1807/kWe and $2615/kWe. LCOE figures at a 3% discount rate range from $29/MWh in Korea to $64/MWh in the UK, at a 7% discount rate from $40/MWh (Korea) to $101/MWh (UK), and at a 10% rate $51/MWh (Korea) to $136/MWh (UK).
The cost of China’s smaller modular pebble bed nuclear reactors should only be $420 million for a 210 MW version and $1.2 billion for a threepack that could be a dropin replacement for the coal burner at China’s many coal plants.
The US has seen prices for US 1.2 GW AP1000 nuclear plants is far higher. Total costs for two 1.2 GW plants is heading to $25 billion. $12.5 billion for 1.2 GW with AP1000 in the USA versus $2.4 billion for 1.2 GW from six smaller pebble bed modules. Event looking at only capital and construction costs the US plants are at $5.4 billion.
Construction of two additional AP1000 reactors (3 and 4) are underway. The certified construction and capital costs incurred by Georgia Power for these two new units were originally 4,418 million which escalated to an estimated $5,440 million ($7,745 million including financing costs) according to the Sixtenth Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report.
China’s current nuclear power costs>b>
The targeted construction cost of Hualong One was $2.5 million per megawatt of installed capacity when production was scaled up. CGN vice-president Zheng Dongshan said the cost would be “competitive” in the global 3G reactor market. Zheng said CGN and CNNC were both competitors and business partners with Westinghouse and Areva, depending on the project.
China will invest over US$100 billion to construct about seven new reactors annually between now and 2030.
Six Chinese-designed 1000 MW reactors at Yangjiang will be a huge nuclear power base for China General Nuclear, and will cost only US$11.5 billion for over 6000 MWe, a third of the cost in western countries.
Changjang Unit 1, on Hainan Island, has also achieved criticality this year, and is expected to be delivering power by December, again just five years after construction began. A second unit will be completed next year. The total cost of this first pair of Chinese-designed 600 MW units is only about US$3.15 billion. Construction will begin on two additional units in 2018.
In 2015, Fangchenggang Unit 1 achieved criticality five years after construction began in Guangxi province, close to the Vietnam border, the first nuclear reactor in that province. Six reactors are planned at this site at a total cost of about US$12 billion.
5 years and about $2 billion per reactor has become routine for China.
Pebble bed high temperature reactors
China is finishing a 210 MW pebble bed reactor (High temperature pebble bed HTR-PM) in 2018.
China’s HTR-PM project is squarely aimed at being a cost-effective solution that will virtually eliminate air pollution and CO2 production from selected units of China’s large installed base of modern 600 MWe supercritical coal plants.
China plans to construct two 600 MWe HTRs at Ruijin city in China’s Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.
The commercial operation date is six to nine months later than scheduled when construction began, but Prof. Zhang Zuoyi proudly explained that the HTR-PM first-of-a-kind delays were much shorter than the 3-4 year delays that have plagued the EPR and AP1000 construction projects in their country.
The high temperature atomic boilers produce steam conditions that are identical to the design conditions for a large series of modern, 600 MWe steam plants that currently use coal as the heat source.
Prof. Zhang Zuoyi confirmed that some of the pebble-bed atomic boilers will be installed as replacement heat sources for existing steam plants. Those installations will be able to take advantage of the switchyards, the installed transmission networks, the cooling water systems, the sites and in some cases the entire steam plant including the steam turbine.
The overall cost of this first of a kind nuclear plant will be in the neighborhood of $5000.00/kw of capacity. That number is based on signed and mostly executed contracts, not early estimates. It is about twice the initially expected cost. According to Zhang Zuoyi, 35% of the increased cost could be attributed to higher material and component costs that initially budgeted, 31% of the increase was due to increases in labor costs — which Zhang Zuoyi noted were rising rapidly in China — and the remainder due to the increased costs associated with the project delays.
Zhang Zuoyi described the techniques that will be applied to lower the costs; he expects them to soon approach the $2,000 to $2,500 / kw capacity range.
If this can be achieved then the 210 MW reactor would be $420 to $525 million. A 630 MW reactor would be $1.2 to $1.5 billion. It could be less if the 600 MW reactor only had to have the thermal unit and could use the turbine and other parts of an existing coal plant.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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