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Nuclear Swan Song

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Sandy Lawrence's picture
retired MD, I write and lecture on energy, climate, grid, and epidemiology

I post almost daily on science topics, dealing with energy systems, the climate system, the electric grid and epidemiology. Background is in academic medicine, but I have also been teaching in...

  • Member since 2021
  • 40 items added with 6,842 views
  • Mar 14, 2023

CanaryMedia: "Georgia's big new nuclear reactors could be the last built in the US" Vogtle 3 is one of a pair of 1,100-megawatt nuclear reactors nearing end of construction in the state of Georgia. Vogtle 1 + 2 have been in operation for several decades, but the two new reactors Vogtle 3 + 4 are arriving 6 yrs overdue + will cost utility customer well north of $30 billion, more than double the original $14 billion projected. And we as taxpayers are footing the bill for the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office [which] provided about $12 billion in loan guarantees to help complete the project against a backdrop of spending freezes and lawsuits. "The Vogtle expansion entails installing two AP1000 pressurized-water reactors from Westinghouse — the first deployment of that model in the U.S." China already has 4 of these in operation + four more under construction. For the U.S. these may be the last 2 big reactors ever built for a long time, if ever. The industry is turning its attention to 'small modular reactors (SMRs) under development [which] face a raft of economic, regulatory, technological and temporal risks.' The advanced reactor closest to market in the U.S. is being developed by NuScale, which has a nonbinding agreement to build a first-of-its-kind SMR project in Idaho. "Company has already raised its projected power cost from $58 per megawatt-hour to $89, even though it’s still years away from even beginning construction." This translates to 5.8¢ per kWh ramping up to 8.9¢ per kWh. Contrast that to the current retail residential electricity rate of about 15¢ per kWh. Would somebody please explain to me how NuScale anticipates bidding into a competitive electricity market where new solar + wind projects are already bidding in at 2-3¢ per kWh? The only possible answer is ongoing state + federal subsidies. #nuclearenergy  #climatechange

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 15, 2023

Thanks for this update. It looks like Vogtle 3 may soon start generating power. But, in answer to your question about how SMRs will compete,  it beats me!

I suppose they think SMRs will roll off the assembly line and be cheaper. I think the real answer may be to fill niche market needs where solar and wind are not practical locally and connection to other sources is not affordable. Alaska maybe? Siberia?

Julian Silk's picture
Julian Silk on Mar 15, 2023

There is an obvious answer to this question - SMRs will be subsidized so they can compete.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Mar 15, 2023

Thanks for the updated FACTS. The price of wind and solar are impossicle to beat. When you add in the no pollution orxwater use it is a miracle. New battery storage also keeps getting better with new chemistries bring the cost down even more. The future is very bright. 

Sandy Lawrence's picture
Sandy Lawrence on Mar 15, 2023

Some of the new battery chemistries are very interesting. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a conductive polymer coating — called HOS-PFM — that could enable longer lasting, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) sparked the interest of the battery industry in July 2021 when it unveiled its first-generation sodium-ion (Na-ion) cells. The Li-Fe-phosphate batteries installed in a guest house on our property for backup in case of grid outage are interesting as they contain zero cobalt. Tons of research in this arena.

Sandy Lawrence's picture
Thank Sandy for the Post!
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