The economics of nuclear power

  • Thread starter aquitaine
  • Start date
There are pilot applications being tested in Europe, and I support continuing that research, even though it would probably involve direct Government subsidies and risk of another Solyndra. I just do not believe any utility today could take the bet that this is practical yet.

Every renewable except traditional hydro and geo is very heavily subsidized, often with either interest free loans, feed in tarrifs, direct handouts, or some combination of all three. That creates a hugely inflated market that is skewed by flushing tax dollars down the drain. This is not sustainable.

At 10 cents/kw hr, the plant will produce $1000 worth of electricity twice a day.
Looking at the scale of the structure and the engineering required for massive spinning blades with apparently variable pitch, the economics seem challenging.
Rance also uses turbines, but adds a tidal barrier to create a race for a longer interval. The barrier is of course an additional cost.
Which is why wave and tidal are an even bigger joke than wind and solar. Despite its limitations solar actually does have some very real niche applications where it is useful, but that thing? A symbol of insanity and waste.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
Every renewable except traditional hydro and geo is very heavily subsidized,
Not compared to fossil depletion tax deductions and nuclear loans.

Which is why wave and tidal are an even bigger joke than wind and solar. Despite its limitations solar actually does have some very real niche applications where it is useful, but that thing? A symbol of insanity and waste.
The benefit is that tidal/current is reliable, if variable, unlike solar and wind. Spread out the collection and it should be possible to make base load power out of current/tidal, though I have little idea if it has a chance at becoming economic.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
Not necessary, I am not trying to be tedious. You were correct about the fact that I have not provided a citation for the total estimated cost. Here it is:

https://www.progress-energy.com/company/media-room/news-archive/press-release.page?title=Progress+Energy+Florida+signs+contract+for+new%2C+advanced-design+nuclear+plant&pubdate=01-05-2009 [Broken]
...
Yes, that was in 2009 which listed a total price of $17B including transmission. Since then however,

Tampa Bay Times said:
In 2009, the company announced a 20-month delay in the project after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told Progress it could not begin building the foundation for the plant until the NRC approved its license, a hurdle the company did not expect.

Last year, the utility postponed the start date until 2021 because of delays in obtaining the federal license. The latest cost projection has soared to around $20 billion.
Also, with regard to pre-construction costs:
Tampa Bay Times said:
...Progress Energy already has racked up about $1 billion in expenses related to the Levy nuclear project. Customers have paid just $471 million through the end of June.
http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/article1185702.ece [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Not compared to fossil depletion tax deductions and nuclear loans.
No.


In particular I'd like to point out this tidbit:

Since 1999, federal energy subsidies have more than doubled—from $8.2 billion to $16.6 billion in 2007. Who gets the most? “Renewables” landed $4.8 billion last year, but that includes $3.25 billion for ethanol and other biofuels. Coal and cleaner-burning “refined” coal took home $3.3 billion, while the nuclear power industry got $1.3 billion. In all, about 40% of the energy subsidy pie went toward electricity production; the rest for things like alternative fuels and energy conservation.

Federal energy subsidies seem to dominate discussion on the Hill (and overseas), from appeals by the renewable-energy industry to extend tax breaks for wind and solar power, to U.S. support for corn-derived ethanol. Sen. Alexander, armed with the EIA numbers, argued against the current subsidy mix in proposing his own version of clean-energy subsidies a few weeks ago.

But the raw numbers don’t tell the story. What does is how much cash the government hands out per unit of electricity produced. The winner there is refined coal, at $29.81 per megawatt hour. That’s even more than solar power ($24.34) or wind ($23.37). Nuclear power received $1.59 per megawatt hour. Regular coal took home $0.44 per megawatt hour, while the least-subsidized of power fuels was natural gas, which got just a $0.25 boost per megawatt hour.
The reason it looks like it is more is because they dont actually contribute that much to our grid. Also, nuclear subsidies go almost entirely to R&D and waste handling, unlike renewables which mostly end up going towards production in a manner such as a feed in tariff.

EDIT: I'll also point out that "nuclear loans" are simply garuntees, not interest free loans. There is a big difference.

Yes, that was in 2009 which listed a total price of $17B including transmission. Since then however,
Regulatory delays in and of themselves inflate the costs of construction. Also, this project appearently is for the construction of two reactors, not one, which makes the cost for each about $10 billion. Now, since these are new they will be Generation 3, which has a designed lifespan of 80 years, and it is reasonable to expect their service life to be extended to a full century. Also, depending on the reactor type that generates between 2 and 3 GW.

To try and duplicate that with wind would take many thousands of turbines easily costing more than $20 billion, and they only have a designed lifespan of 20 or so years.

The benefit is that tidal/current is reliable, if variable, unlike solar and wind. Spread out the collection and it should be possible to make base load power out of current/tidal, though I have little idea if it has a chance at becoming economic.
How can tidal possibly be reliable if it only works twice a day? There's other issues too, such as low energy density which requires a great many more structures than would otherwise be needed, meaning it often takes several times the amount of materials to build the equivilent wattage output (nameplate) compared with hydro, geo, fossil fuel, and nuclear.
 
Last edited:

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
Yes.

In particular I'd like to point out this tidbit:
Trotting out the dollars spent per unit energy, and just this year, is not persuasive. "[H]ow much cash the government hands out per unit of electricity produced" does not "tell the story", by itself, either. The 'story' would include the total tax dollars spent on the fossil fuel industry over the last century helping to enable efficiency of scale, it would include pollution, it would include foreign dependence, on and on. The horse and buggy business could have made similar arguments about the nascent auto industry. When the taxpayer looks at the tax dollars actually leaving his wallet for energy purposes it is overwhelmingly all fossil fuel dollars. Fossil energy tax dollars dwarf renewable energy dollars; its in the noise. I would eliminate both if I could, but starting with fossil fuel tax deductions.

To try and duplicate that with wind would take many thousands of turbines easily costing more than $20 billion, and they only have a designed lifespan of 20 or so years.
Do the math. The Levy county plant is pricing in at ~$10,000/KW including transmission. One can argue that it should not be that high, others can have done better, etc, and I'd agree, but for the moment it is what it is. Wind (not really applicable to onshore Florida, but for instance) is $2-3000/KW, with O&M costs even less than nuclear. Other wind advantages: no major water source required, no 10 mile radius evacuation plan required, no waste piling up (because the administration killed Yucca mountain), no bet-the-company capital outlays, and no waiting until 2021 for first power when wind turbines could be producing power in two years.

How can tidal possibly be reliable if it only works twice a day?
Because it works twice a day, every day. You're conflating reliable with variable. Both are relevant, though different. Granted nothing compares with nuclear's base load suitable capacity factor (>90%). At the moment however it seems to make a lot more sense to get that from natural gas plants - cheap to build and cheap to operate.

There's other issues too, such as low energy density which requires a great many more structures than would otherwise be needed, meaning it often takes several times the amount of materials to build the equivilent wattage output (nameplate) compared with hydro, geo, fossil fuel, and nuclear.
Perhaps, perhaps not. Nuclear containment and cooling towers require a large amount of concrete. Wind requires substantially more steel than nuclear per average Watt.
 
Last edited:

NUCENG

Science Advisor
914
0
Yes, that was in 2009 which listed a total price of $17B including transmission. Since then however,



Also, with regard to pre-construction costs:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/article1185702.ece
I have to ask for the source of the Tampa Bay Times article estimate of the $20B cost. It is wrong to include the $3B estimate for transmission line upgrades since that cost will apply no matter what the source of generation. As far as I know the Westinghouse contract cost of construction has not changed. I know that the NRC is just finalizing the design certification of the AP1000 design, so I expect there will be a chance for construction approval soon.

I am still trying to find references of what is included in "capital" costs of construction for other generation alternatives. As you said time is money. Also, I am researching what types of incentives or charges will apply to meet Florida emission goals.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
I have to ask for the source of the Tampa Bay Times article estimate of the $20B cost.
? I don't know. They could be mistaken, but I don't see any contemporary contradiction from Progress.
It is wrong to include the $3B estimate for transmission line upgrades since that cost will apply no matter what the source of generation.
Transmission is not necessarily a wash. Current nuclear plant design is large and remote so transmission costs are typically going to be high for new plants.

On the other hand, gas plants are frequently built directly in urban areas. Con Ed has its two plants (700MW total) actually in Manhattan , which co-gen steam heat for buildings. Washington, DC has a plant less than a mile from the Capital. Distributed residential and industrial solar PV need no transmission, nor would load reducing measures such as more efficient air conditioners, LED lighting, etc.
 
Last edited:

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
I was curious about the limits of what might be done to the electrical load in the Florida example by reducing, say, lighting load by replacing existing lighting with LEDs. FL's total electric consumption rate is ~28GW per EIA. For the US at large, about 13% of the load is lighting. In FL electric use is above average due to air conditioning load, so I guess lighting is only 10% of FL electric consumption, or 2.8GW. LED lighting is roughly 10X more efficient than incandescent and 2X more efficient than florescent. Thus the FL load would fall as much as 2.5GW (all existing incand.) to 0.28GW and as little as 1.4GW (all existing florescent) to 1.4GW if every light was replaced with an LED. LED lighting costs about $3/W (and falling), so worst case the material cost is $4.2B. That's still considerably more expensive than a new 2GW gas plant, but considerably less than the cost of the proposed Levy county nuclear plant.
 
Last edited:

NUCENG

Science Advisor
914
0
? I don't know. They could be mistaken, but I don't see any contemporary contradiction from Progress.
Transmission is not necessarily a wash. Current nuclear plant design is large and remote so transmission costs are typically going to be high for new plants.

On the other hand, gas plants are frequently built directly in urban areas. Con Ed has its two plants (700MW total) actually in Manhattan , which co-gen steam heat for buildings. Washington, DC has a plant less than a mile from the Capital. Distributed residential and industrial solar PV need no transmission, nor would load reducing measures such as more efficient air conditioners, LED lighting, etc.
Okay, so the land purchase cossts go up by several orders of magnitude to build in an urban area. Like I said I am trying to find the costs which are included in the capital costs of alternative sources. So far it looks like costs such as transmission, land purchase, carrying costs, and regulatory review costs may NOT be included in EIA estimates. But I am not certain yet, so please stand by. I am almost certain now that the cost of natural gas generation does not include pipeline costs.
 

NUCENG

Science Advisor
914
0
I was curious about the limits of what might be done to the electrical load in the Florida example by reducing, say, lighting load by replacing existing lighting with LEDs. FL's total electric consumption rate is ~28GW per EIA. For the US at large, about 13% of the load is lighting. In FL electric use is above average due to air conditioning load, so I guess lighting is only 10% of FL electric consumption, or 2.8GW. LED lighting is roughly 10X more efficient than incandescent and 2X more efficient than florescent. Thus the FL load would fall as much as 2.5GW (all existing incand.) to 0.28GW and as little as 1.4GW (all existing florescent) to 1.4GW if every light was replaced with an LED. LED lighting costs about $3/W (and falling), so worst case the material cost is $4.2B. That's still considerably more expensive than a new 2GW gas plant, but considerably less than the cost of the proposed Levy county nuclear plant.
I am sure you are aware that LED and flourescent lighting have already achieved some market penetration, so your numbers probably overstate the savings. I acknowledge that there are efficiency gains to be had and there is discussion in the EIS for Levy county of that potential (see discussion of no construction alternative). But even if your numbers are correct, you have only covered the generation of the nuclear plants for load growth(see certification of need for Levy county), but haven't covered the replacement power of the shutdown of the older coal plants to achieve Florida and EPA emission goals.

Finally, even with efficiency savings, and the (supposedly) cheap alternative of natural gas, there will still be the issue of CO2 emmissions and Florida goals to consider. Again, this is still under research, if you have any details about that, please post.

This seems to be a valuable discussion. So please hang in there. This is all good information, even if we don't agree.
 

NUCENG

Science Advisor
914
0
I was curious about the limits of what might be done to the electrical load in the Florida example by reducing, say, lighting load by replacing existing lighting with LEDs. FL's total electric consumption rate is ~28GW per EIA. For the US at large, about 13% of the load is lighting. In FL electric use is above average due to air conditioning load, so I guess lighting is only 10% of FL electric consumption, or 2.8GW. LED lighting is roughly 10X more efficient than incandescent and 2X more efficient than florescent. Thus the FL load would fall as much as 2.5GW (all existing incand.) to 0.28GW and as little as 1.4GW (all existing florescent) to 1.4GW if every light was replaced with an LED. LED lighting costs about $3/W (and falling), so worst case the material cost is $4.2B. That's still considerably more expensive than a new 2GW gas plant, but considerably less than the cost of the proposed Levy county nuclear plant.
Just found some other information about lighting. Residential load is dominated by refrigeration, washers, dryers, cooking, water heaters, electrical heating, and air conditioning. Converting residential lighting loads to LEDs is only part of the total lighting story. The bulk of lighting loads is from municipal street lighting and similar loads. Typically these large loads have the highest price and are significant to utility bottom lines. First, can these lighting loads be replaced with LEDs? Second, if these loads are reduced significantly, won't that lead to higher prices for residential customers?
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
I am sure you are aware that LED and flourescent lighting have already achieved some market penetration, so your numbers probably overstate the savings.
Flourescent yes, and I accounted for that in the calculation (only 2X improvement or 1.4GW). LED no, nothing significant yet.


I acknowledge that there are efficiency gains to be had and there is discussion in the EIS for Levy county of that potential (see discussion of no construction alternative). But even if your numbers are correct, you have only covered the generation of the nuclear plants for load growth(see certification of need for Levy county),
Yes, agreed.

but haven't covered the replacement power of the shutdown of the older coal plants to achieve Florida and EPA emission goals.
Which is a different issue and different costs. Levy nuclear's additional ~2GW does not cover this either.

Finally, even with efficiency savings, and the (supposedly) cheap alternative of natural gas, there will still be the issue of CO2 emmissions and Florida goals to consider.
Emissions from efficiency savings? How so?
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
Okay, so the land purchase cossts go up by several orders of magnitude to build in an urban area. ...
Well, several multiples at least. In any case urban land in and around, say, Miami and Orlando will account for nothing close to Levy's $3B for transmission.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
Just found some other information about lighting. Residential load is dominated by refrigeration, washers, dryers, cooking, water heaters, electrical heating, and air conditioning.
Yes, as posted above lighting averages 13.5% of the load in the US, and I guess less in FL. I chose lighting just as an example of what might be done and at what cost.

Converting residential lighting loads to LEDs is only part of the total lighting story. The bulk of lighting loads is from municipal street lighting and similar loads. Typically these large loads have the highest price and are significant to utility bottom lines.
I didn't single out residential, but gamed out replacing all 2.5GW of existing lighting in the state of FL. Street lighting appears to be a good place to start. If one also counts the reduced chiller load due to lighting induced heat in buildings in the FL summer I expect the savings would be even greater.

First, can these lighting loads be replaced with LEDs?
A hand full of cities across the US have LED street light projects underway - LA, Seattle, Ann Arbor, Atlantic City, etc.

Second, if these loads are reduced significantly, won't that lead to higher prices for residential customers?
Eh? Are we not talking about an increasing load (or decreasing supply) situation in FL that is driving the need for a new 2GW nuclear plant? The new plant is due either to increasing load or retiring sources. I'm suggesting an alternative: decreased load through improved efficiency.
 
Last edited:
1,403
408
... LED lighting costs about $3/W (and falling), so worst case the material cost is $4.2B. That's still considerably more expensive than a new 2GW gas plant, but considerably less than the cost of the proposed Levy county nuclear plant.
What's the lifetime of those 4.2 B$ LEDs?
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
What's the lifetime of those 4.2 B$ LEDs?
50,000 hours, or 40X that of an incandescent bulb.
http://www.designrecycleinc.com/led%20comp%20chart.html [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
50,000 hours, or 40X that of an incandescent bulb.
http://www.designrecycleinc.com/led%20comp%20chart.html [Broken]
The WSJ had an article Saturday on LED replacement of street lighting. One draw back I missed above is that one doesn't get 50,000 hours of LED life if the street light is hit by lightning or destroyed by a hurricane, forcing full cost replacement, something about which the FL utilities are particularly aware.

On the other hand LED street lighting is taking off much faster than I knew, with considerable push back from utilities. Aside from the accident problem, the utilities don't want their night time, i.e. off peak production, load lowered. They want exactly the fleet they have, building no more, to pay day and night as much as possible. Street light customers, i.e. municipalities, want the lower bills.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jim hardy

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
Dearly Missed
9,813
4,866
the utilities don't want their night time, i.e. off peak production, load lowered...
there's some basis for this in real world.

electric generators are huge machines that don't lend themselves to stop-and-go operation like your car does... the electric company needs enough nighttime load to keep several generators online.. else all your generating eggs are in one basket and it's a setup for a widespread blackout.

that's the nature of huge machinery, it's not nimble.

expect decreased reliability as the nation's electric system is squeezed for economy.
 
The WSJ had an article Saturday on LED replacement of street lighting. One draw back I missed above is that one doesn't get 50,000 hours of LED life if the street light is hit by lightning or destroyed by a hurricane, forcing full cost replacement, something about which the FL utilities are particularly aware.
Back where my parents live the local authorities experimented with LED street lighting a couple of years ago. Those new LED lights didn't last for longer than a month.
Drunks always tried to "kick them out" temporarily (which's possible with old-style lighting) and when they didn't succeed, they just tried harder. Wrecking the light in the process... :rolleyes:
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
there's some basis for this in real world.

electric generators are huge machines that don't lend themselves to stop-and-go operation like your car does... the electric company needs enough nighttime load to keep several generators online.. else all your generating eggs are in one basket and it's a setup for a widespread blackout.

that's the nature of huge machinery, it's not nimble.

expect decreased reliability as the nation's electric system is squeezed for economy.
Note that lowering the overnight load favors solar power, which does not require huge machines.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
255
727
The WSJ had an article Saturday on LED replacement of street lighting. One draw back I missed above is that one doesn't get 50,000 hours of LED life if the street light is hit by lightning or destroyed by a hurricane, forcing full cost replacement, something about which the FL utilities are particularly aware.

On the other hand LED street lighting is taking off much faster than I knew, with considerable push back from utilities. Aside from the accident problem, the utilities don't want their night time, i.e. off peak production, load lowered. They want exactly the fleet they have, building no more, to pay day and night as much as possible. Street light customers, i.e. municipalities, want the lower bills.
Edit:
NA-BO686_STREET_G_20111223181508.jpg

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204083204577078202836500244.html
 

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top