Sometimes, in the often heated and intense discussion of nuclear technologies between commentators for and against, it seems like the only people we don’t hear from are those within the actual nuclear industry! I think that’s unfortunate and needs to change, so I am delighted to have the opportunity to publish this post from David Hess, the Communication Manager at the World Nuclear Association. I think David’s contribution is a remarkably frank, fresh and valuable perspective that hits something approaching sensible middle-ground in the decarbonisation discussion. Over to you, David.

David Hess
David Hess, Communication Manager, World Nuclear Association

An increasing number of climate scientists are getting vocal in support of nuclear energy. There are reasonable objections being raised against them, but unfortunately a lot more unreasonable ones. The reasonable ones are where, collectively, we should be seeking to improve, not give up on the technology

In the margins of the Paris climate talks, a refreshing dialogue was taking place. Nuclear energy was being put forward for serious consideration by some of the very scientists responsible for putting climate change on the public agenda. The views of James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley are summarised in this editorial. They have in effect thrown a gauntlet at the feet of the organisations and governments that claim to work towards preventing a greater than two-degree rise in average global temperatures. This is a gauntlet that sorely needed to be thrown. Among the country exhibitions at the talks, only the USA was brave enough to promote nuclear energy as a climate solution, and then partly in the context of advanced (i.e. not yet commercially available) technology. This in France which acquires about 75% of its electricity from nuclear and which has almost completely decarbonised electricity supply as a result.

The depressing fact of the matter is that fear of the reaction against nuclear energy has become so great that countries would prefer not to openly acknowledge the CO2 reducing potential of the technology, even when the fate of the climate may, in part, rest upon it. This culture of silence from those who claim to represent our collective interests is deeply disturbing. Nuclear may supply only 11% of current global electricity generation but it is more than either wind or solar provides. Gas and coal still account for the majority of electricity production worldwide, with coal still providing about 40%. Someone needed to point out that the low-carbon energy emperor is still not wearing any clothes.

Predictably the climate scientists inspired a negative response in some quarters, with an article in particular by Joe Romm garnering a lot of attention on social media. Romm claims that nuclear energy can play at best only a minor role in preventing climate change because of its economics. He goes further than this, attempting to undermine the credibility of the scientists based on what he seems to think is their envisioned projected nuclear growth rate, and for what he sees as blaming environmentalists for holding nuclear energy back. Romm dismissively describes the climate scientists’ arguments as “handwaving”. While he is not all negative on nuclear, you certainly get the sense that he’s not exactly keen to see industry prospects improve.

Several individuals (notably David Gattie and Ben Heard) have already responded to Romm and done a thorough job in refuting his major contentions and perhaps more importantly challenging his attitude. I won’t try to duplicate this but will instead offer my own perspective – that of a nuclear industry insider – on some of the points Romm raises.

 Building anticipation

For starters I share Romm’s reaction that a build rate of 115 reactors per year seems… let’s say optimistic. It would certainly require a massive ramp-up of construction rates, plus many more countries developing nuclear energy than do so currently. This is a very long way from where we are now, but that is precisely the point. We need to see this kind of dramatic change in mentality occur globally if we are going to have a snowball’s chance in hell of preventing runaway climate change. This goes not only for nuclear but all low-carbon technology. Does Romm think that ramping up renewable capacity additions to meet a ‘100% renewable’ vision is somehow more achievable than for nuclear? This would obviously require a massive expansion of supply chains and build rates. Of course it is not impossible if countries and companies invest in it, but then again the same is true for nuclear energy.

A concerted, supportive effort is needed to enable nuclear energy expansion, just as has been achieved with many renewables. This requires the nuclear industry to improve its performance, but even more importantly it requires the commitment of governments and supporting institutions. At the moment there is hardly a level playing field. The deck is clearly stacked against nuclear. There are many Western countries which maintain outright bans against developing nuclear energy on what can only be described as purely ideological grounds. They often try and inflict these views on others. The trade of nuclear technologies and materials internationally is highly restricted and subjected to onerous requirements, which rather puts a dampener on reactor growth prospects. As mentioned above, the culture of silence on nuclear means that even many countries/regions which boast proud nuclear histories will exclude almost any mention of it from high-level policy documents and it is often excluded from the financial support mechanisms open to other low-carbon energy sources.

I would note here that the 115 reactors per year scenario which Romm attacks seems mainly intended for illustrative purposes. Hansen et al were demonstrating what it would take for nuclear energy alone to completely decarbonise global electricity. Interestingly, no one I know actually supports this idea. The OECD doesn’t and the World Nuclear Association (where I work) certainly doesn’t. The World Nuclear Association’s vision for the future of electricity is a mix of low-carbon technologies, with nuclear energy operating in harmony with other sources and the environment. To be even reasonably on track towards a less-than two degree target, we believe that nuclear energy needs to supply at least 25% of global electricity, a figure that requires roughly 1000 GWe of new nuclear to be constructed by 2050 (depending on other factors like reactor retirements, electricity demand growth etc). This is clearly very ‘technically’ achievable.

Far from being nuclear zealots, what Hansen et al actually say in their editorial is that “We urge an all-of-the-above approach that includes increased investment in renewables combined with an accelerated deployment of new nuclear reactors”. I completely agree with this.

Costly mistakes – and how to avoid them

Yes, nuclear capital upfront costs (per kilowatt) appear high, but it seems to me that the bigger issue lies with people’s willingness to pay as well as their tendency to get shocked by large upfront numbers, to quickly forget about the past (i.e. previous energy shocks) and to favour short-term returns over long-term ones especially in ‘deregulated’ energy markets.

Let’s remember that consumer energy bills reflect the cost of the entire energy system rather than individual generating units. So sure, the costs of wind and solar may be falling but how much extra consumer value does this create? We now know that large amounts of insufficiently planned, subsidised intermittent renewable generation plays havoc with markets. It drives down the spot price (although not necessarily the consumer price) sometimes even making it negative when there is a lot of wind and sun, but it drives up the price at other time as dispatchable generators still need to cover fixed costs. Of course some marginal dispatchable generators are driven to closure, leading to concerns over system reliability since the intermittent generation can’t be counted on.

This is not to criticise either wind or solar, but it does underscore the need for the right policies to ensure the resilience and affordability of the overall energy system. This is best achieved by a balanced mix of low-carbon energy options. One which maximises the benefits of individual energy technologies, while minimising their disadvantages. For a really good discussion of the challenges facing renewable economics I would point readers to a two part essay written by Alex Trembath and Jesse Jenkins – here and here. Put simply, nuclear is not the only energy technology to face serious economic challenges.

OL3 3.12.2012
Way over budget and way cheaper than solar thermal with storage. Olkiluoto III reactor, Finland

And yes, to be absolutely clear and transparent about it, new nuclear also faces considerable economic challenges. Cost and schedule overruns in new reactor projects especially in Western Europe and the USA have been well and oft reported. However, there are reasons to be optimistic that the industry can learn from mistakes in these projects (and of decades past). Both of these regions have recently emerged from a lengthy hiatus in reactor construction. We need to see, and should expect to see, future costs reductions as first-of-a-kind issues for new reactor designs are overcome. This of course can only happen if these regions keep building nuclear. It surely won’t if they stop.

Cost escalation in previous national reactor programmes is not some kind of immutable law of nuclear construction but rather a symptom of other factors. The drivers of nuclear construction economics are many and worthy of their own post. They consists of things such as worker skills and availability, supply chain qualification and diversity, materials costs, reactor design, licensing and regulatory approach, contract structuring, policy framework, financing options – to name just a few. It is naive to suggest that environmentalist opposition – which has often caused plants to be delayed, cancelled and also led to increasing amounts of regulatory and policy risk – does not negatively affect some of these. While it can be hard to objectively quantify the cost and schedule increase caused by organised opposition, we can be reasonably assured that it exists since it is the (cynical) reason that many such actions are undertaken in the first place.

Note, at no point do Hansen et al blame environmental groups for all of the problems facing nuclear, as Romm implies: they simply ask for these groups to drop their blanket opposition. It seems pretty obvious to me that this would indeed help both in getting project approvals and controlling costs.

At this point some readers will probably have realised that I have neglected to mention energy storage – particularly extensive/grid-scale scale battery storage. Romm includes this in the list of technologies which have undergone “stunning price drops” and which are in “competition” to nuclear. Well, when such energy storage is a genuinely economically feasible option I will mention it. I will mention it alongside words like – “wow, don’t batteries really help to smooth the peaks and troughs of energy demand, facilitating even better integration of high-levels of nuclear energy and renewables.” I feel pretty confident that this is what I will say, given that it is how I feel towards hydro-power today, which performs very much the same function. In the absence of this demonstrated feasibility Romm is really just making a ‘hand waving’ argument of his own, and a short-sighted one at that. Author Will Boisvert examines some common assumed fallacies about energy storage in this exceptional piece.

What Romm gets wrong

Romm’s major error is that he mistakes stumbling points for insurmountable barriers. In common with anti-nuclear activists he seeks only to highlight problems instead of canvassing how they might efficiently be addressed. He allows this pervasive nuclear negativity to colour his reading of resources and events. Both the IEA’s Nuclear Technology Roadmap and Sweden’s nuclear build history highlight how the nuclear industry can be successfully expanded, not why it should be downplayed and ignored.

His economic arguments place far too much emphasis on the Western countries which have experienced recent difficulty with nuclear projects and not enough on the places where nuclear projects are proceeding well. Most additions in electricity generating capacity will continue to happen in Asia and other growing economies. Asian countries, (especially China, South Korea and Japan) have demonstrated the capability of delivering reactor projects to cost and budget. Three things need to be said about this.

  • Most nuclear growth is expected to happen in these regions which therefore boosts the viability of projects.
  • There are things which can be learned here by Western countries/companies to get their construction costs down, and
  • The market environment and policies in many of these developing economies clearly favour nuclear construction. A large part of the overall costs of nuclear comes down to financing, which is influenced by market structure. If Western countries want nuclear to be cheaper they need to introduce the right market frameworks and policies as a starting point – and commit to a series programme rather than single units here and there.
Sanmen_April2014_1
This site in China will house four x 1100 MW nuclear reactors

Yet another fallacy – nuclear energy is not ‘highly subsidised’ as Romm claims. In fact most operating nuclear plants are heavily taxed and still manage to generate substantial financial benefits for local communities as I have previously expanded on in detail (link, link). New nuclear plants will likely require support in deregulated markets, but as we can see with the published UK strike prices, it still sits low in the list of low-carbon options.

The bottom line is that if we really want to decarbonise energy supply and successfully limit climate change then nuclear has to help balance the energy mix. It is an important part of the solution.

Nuclear energy is already a competitive low-carbon energy option, especially when considered from the vantage of the overall energy system. This means that like other low-carbon technologies it needs policy support in deregulated markets.

Let’s face it however. We would all like to see nuclear energy be cheaper and new reactors built more quickly, with less fuss. We need to refocus the nuclear debate on how best to achieve this, rather than repeatedly lament to the occasions where we haven’t managed to.

 

24 comments

  1. Right now batteries are perceived as the great hope with a prime time program on ABC TV last night. Believers may have drawn breath at the fully installed cost but no doubt are reassuring themselves those costs will plummet. Just five years ago the big hope was dry rock geothermal (based on radioactive decay heat) but that got nowhere. Ironically South Australia is the leader in both home PV uptake and dry geothermal but is now seriously considering nuclear. You have to think nuclear opponents will clutch at some other straw as a stalling tactic.

    Another fact opponents might chew on is the failure of generous subsidies and quotas to reduce emissions. We’re supposed to jump from 19 Twh non-hydro renewables in 2015 to 33 Twh in 2020. Yet our mainly coal derived emissions are going up 1.3% a year. Maybe the bad numbers don’t matter when it’s a faith based thing.

  2. Thank you David, for a balanced and reasoned post.

    The World Nuclear Association’s vision for the future of electricity is a mix of low-carbon technologies, with nuclear energy operating in harmony with other sources and the environment

    is a widely shared vision and one that I too would like to share. Could you or Ben or anyone else link to a study that shows how nuclear energy can operate in harmony with any other sources but hydro and gas? And sure wind and solar as well, to the extent they can operate in harmony with hydro and gas. But I would like to see some energy flows, and economics of the proposed harmonious marriage.

    A while back Peter Lang described some simple modeling whose results were frankly rather discouraging: if the purpose of the exercise were to minimize total ghg emissions, one would plunk all of one’s resources into nuclear and gas to eliminate coal generation as rapidly as possible, then phase out all but peaking gas with time as nuclear builds out.

    Wind and solar are realities. They are here and work well with gas — where “well” may be subjective.

    How can we do better?

    1. Nuclear can operate in harmony with wind and solar about as well as those can work in harmony with gas. Which means not so well. Of note in considering how well they really integrate with gas must be considered the fact that in Europe, the development of wind and solar has killed gas. For example, every year we get told that there’s so little gas left in Germany, that it won’t reduce anymore the next year, but still the next year there’s even less gas left in Germany. What’s more though Germany has long being an electric powerhouse of Europe, it was more in terms of the reserve fossil capacity it had, which meant that during cold wave it could start a lot of unit to export to the neighboring countries, but as soon as the demand wasn’t that high, it would stop those units, since the reduced price made them not profitable anymore. But today with the development of renewable, it has became also an exportation powerhouse, like France, because during peak of renewable production, the generation of it’s coal and lignite plants will be exported, killing gas in other European countries.
      Why is that so different from the US ? Because wind and solar kill the marginal most expensive power production, and in Europe that’s gas.
      Now we can maybe forget the economical aspect, and focus only on the technical one, then clearly a recent nuclear plant like the EPR can follow load as efficiently as a recent combined cycle gas plant. Still in real life, economical aspects are decisive, and they clearly don’t really favor nuclear + wind and solar. But they don’t really favor gas + wind and solar either, the capital cost of a recent CCGT are high, that’s what has killed gas in Europe in recent years, against amortized older fossil power or nuclear.

    2. I would point to Spain as pretty much the epitome of a balanced electricity mix. Here nuclear operates alongside wind and other renewables as well as a comparatively small amount of fossil http://cleantechnica.com/2015/04/08/spains-generation-mix-almost-70-carbon-free/.

      Different academics seem able to create very divergent models wrt ‘ideal’ electricity sector decarbonisation and the preferred mix of technologies. Others are better qualified than me to comment on how this manages to be the case. I would simply note that while simplified ‘idealised’ models are one thing, it is nice to have some diversity and redundancy in the real world. Generally speaking, the more diversified your portfolio is the better. Second point, there is no one-sized-fits-all energy mix. Each country faces a unique situation (eg: geography, local energy resources, population density and distribution, grid infrastructure, water access, seismology etc) which will favour different energy mixes.

  3. Many commentators seem to struggle with scale in more than a few ways. The scale of the combined challenges of decarbonising power supply simultaneously with expanding it to both transport and other sectors, and further to developing countries. The scale of whatever storage must be invoked to hypothetically surplant fossil fuel backup of intermittent technologies. The scale of the potential failure if we don’t bring enough might to bear against the challenge.

    Nuclear is big scale. Big price tag, heaps of supply, long life. It’s understandable that the importance of this can get lost when it’s simpler to relate to much more human scale technologies like solar panels.

    Nobody denies the high price tag. It’s the myth of nuclear’s unique reverse learning curve which is the problem. Fortunately the latest research has made good progress in exposing it and examining the real, hardly-unique factors contributing to some cost increases.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106

    Furthermore, many of the same commentators can’t resist directly comparing LCOE estimates for low emissions sources, invariably to nuclear’s apparent disadvantage.

    http://erpuk.org/project/managing-flexibility-of-the-electricity-sytem/
    https://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/ElecCost2015SUM.pdf

    This is increasingly being rejected by serious researchers due to the emergent system effects and their associated costs.

    http://iiesi.org/assets/pdfs/iiesi_belgium_cometto.pdf

  4. It’s the same deal with electricity system engineers. They are quiet publicly, but when you talk to them they really put into perspective the challenges facing 100% RE plans.

    It’s frustrating because academics who develop models don’t get them checked with those that have experience managing electricity systems, who then go on to use the models and results as a from of advocacy. That could lead to an Energy Minister legislating a system based on that model, where the poor systems engineers then have to try to make work. Square pegs and round holes.

    It’s further frustrating as we all agree on the end, Decarbonisation, and the means, Electricifacion with low emission sources, but one camp have the means as the end and use the end as the means to get the electricity system they want i.e. 100% RE.

    Need to have a stiff drink now.

  5. Naomi Oreskes (who did early work on Olympic Dam) tells us that gas is the missing link to a high renewables nirvana. That might be true in the US but unconventional gas in Australia looks troubled
    http://www.theage.com.au/environment/agl-exits-nsw-queensland-coal-seam-gas-in-major-win-for-opponents-20160203-gml6qs.html
    The gas price was supposed to have doubled by now but for various reasons it didn’t happen. In SA Torrens Island and Pelican Point will retire gas fired capacity. I hope that doesn’t mean Australia will follow Germany and try to back up mandatory renewables with coal. It’d be nice if AGL considered NP if their new mission is low carbon.

  6. Perhaps the time has come for us to get back to the well understood and respected concept of the electricity load curve involving Base Load, Intermediate Load and Peak Load. Some so called experts like Mark Diesendorf pour ridicule on this concept: http://theconversation.com/baseload-power-is-a-myth-even-intermittent-renewables-will-work-13210

    Base load represents about 60% of peak load so it clearly can’t be considered to be a myth. Nuclear power, coal power and CCGT plants are great at delivering this 60% of the total load. Solar and wind without very expensive storage cannot guarantee to deliver this base load irrespective of what Diesendorf would wish.

    As we all know, the non-nuclear plants that deliver this much needed baseload today all use fossil fuels. If we are to radically reduce our CO2 emissions we need to significantly reduce our use of fossil fuels. Setting aside carbon capture and storage, that leaves us with nuclear power.

    It’s either invest in expensive energy storage, charged with hydro, solar and wind, or build emission free base load nuclear plants. Which is most cost effective over the life of the plants?

  7. Some 100% renewable advocates do actually understand that electricity will get much more expensive if their vision is implemented.

    I confronted one of them (a Dutch civil servant) about this and asked her how she was going to deal with the problem of lower income families people not being able to afford electricity in the future. She replied that the government would create a special benefits system to protect lower income families from high electricity costs. I asked her when she was going to explain this part of her vision to the public. She smiled and said: “I’m explaining it to you now, aren’t I”?

  8. South Australia is indeed an interesting case. Not only does it have the world’s largest uranium deposit but it also has the world’s highest regional uptake of rooftop PV at one in four homes. If batteries are to succeed anywhere it should likely be in SA.

    However the numbers are daunting. Australia uses about 248 Twh of electricity annually call it 5 Twh per week. Check my calcs but for a week’s national battery backup with fully dischargable 7 kwh home batteries ignoring line losses that’s
    5 X 10^12 watt-hours / 7 X 10 ^3 watt-hours > 714 million Powerwall equivalents
    or nearly 77 Powerwalls for each of Australia’s 9.3m electricity ratepayers assuming they have enough onsite generation. I have trouble seeing that implemented but evidently there’s some out there who think it will be easy. I blame schools for not teaching kids properly.

  9. When using a top down approach are you joining industrial and domestic users together under the term ratepayers? From a household perspective a bottom up approach may give a more useful measure, ie 16 x 7 kWh Tesla batteries could hold a week’s supply, eg 112 kWh for a frugal household (frugal does not extend the cost which may require a second mortgage).

    A good question that cuts through on the inadequacies of battery storage is “for how long could all the World’s batteries supply the World’s electrical demand?”. I would think most people would instinctively guess the answer would be a few days rather than the reality of a few minutes.

  10. The 100% renewables scenario seems to me to be a lot like creationism. Creationists claim that their belief is scientific and not related to their religious fundamentalism but in practice the creationist viewpoint is 100% correlated with this ideology. There are precisely zero secular creationists. Similarly, 100% renewable believers claim that their belief is scientific and not related to their anti – nuclear fundamentalism but in practice the 100% renewable viewpoint is 100% correlated with their ideology. There are precisely zero energy agnostic scientists who believe the 100% renewable scenario.
    Both are examples of the need to believe trumping common sense.

  11. “…Yes, nuclear capital upfront costs (per kilowatt) appear high…”

    It’s saddening to witness the “Communication Manager, World Nuclear Association” go into print with a statement like this, when a simple bit of arithmetic would communicate the fact that “nuclear capital upfront costs (per kWh) are extremely low”.

    Over here in the UK, our first bit of ‘New Nuclear’ is the Hinkley Point C (EPR) nuclear power plant, rated at 3.2 GW and costing [up to] £24.5 billion. That’s £7,656 capital upfront cost (per kW).

    In the UK, more onshore wind is too abhorrent to make a further substantial contribution, so the competitive low-carbon technology to nuclear is offshore wind.

    Obfuscation is the weapon of choice for the wind power industry and it is nigh impossible to get capital costs for offshore wind park projects – however, the recently cancelled Navitus Bay project had that titbit of information which allows comparison to be done.

    Navitus Bay would have cost £3.5 billion for 0.968 GW of installed capacity – that’s a mere £3,616 capital upfront cost (per kW) – less than half of Hinkley’s figure.

    But, when you compare the design lives and capacity factors of the 2 projects:
    For Hinkley, it’s £0.016 capital upfront cost (per kWh).
    For Navitus Bay, it’s £0.047 capital upfront cost (per kWh) – just about 3 x as much as Hinkley.

    http://prismsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/hinkley-point-c-16-pkwh-navitus-bay-47.html

    Yes, nuclear capital upfront costs (per kW) appear high, but nuclear’s capital upfront costs (per kWh of 24/7, low carbon electricity) is about one-third that of offshore wind’s capital upfront costs (per kWh of intermittent, low-carbon electricity).

    1. If you wish to try and convince people that nuclear capital costs appear low then please be my guest ;-). To most people (including me) I think it is safe to say that they appear rather high, especially on a per kilowatt basis. Currently available designs cost upwards of $5 billion (USD) for even a single operating unit. Do you have that kind of money lying about? Does you local council, city or even state have that kind of cash stashed away for a rainy day?

      It doesn’t mean that nuclear energy is not good (enough) value however, for some of the reasons you set out. It could certainly be much better value. You might want to check out this incredible new article from the Breakthrough Institute researchers, published not long after I wrote this http://www.vox.com/2016/2/29/11132930/nuclear-power-costs-us-france-korea , http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106

      1. It’s interesting to look at what that $5B pays for, when one buys a modern nuclear power plant.

        A nuke engineer friend of mine told me that of that $5B, he supposed that less than $1B goes toward the actual manufacturing and installation of the nuclear section and the rest of the power plant equipment, fueling the thing, and connecting it to the grid. The other $4B concerns everything that the different players in our societies – seeking to leech off the power of the atom – have managed to appropriate for themselves, but which does nothing toward actually producing clean kWh-ers. We are talking lawyers, bankers, public treasuries, safety and regulatory service providers, commissioners, consultants and what not.

        Stripped of all the superfluous, expensive fluff, a modern nuclear power plant does not have to cost more than $1B.

        If a country-block like the EU would decide to go nuclear and order 300 nuclear power plants to be built throughout the next couple of decades, then a significant portion of those plants would cost about $1B. The average cost per plant would be less than $2B.

        So yes, ultimately, nuclear is not only the cheapest energy source, but also the cheapest in terms of up front costs. But only if we choose to allow nuclear to be cheap. This is politics, nothing inherent in nuclear technology.

      2. I’m afraid both articles you link suffer from the same ‘shortcoming’ as yours by concentrating on the capital costs without any reference to the fantastic value for money nuclear power plants represent, in terms of the massive amount of electricity delivered and the 24/7, base load quality of that electricity.

        The only half-practical competitor to nuclear is wind power and comparison of ‘what you git for what you pay’ is most revealing and ought to enter into every article defending the capital cost of nuclear power plants.

        Here is my take on the UK’s comparative analysis:

        Hinkley Point C 3.2 GW nuclear power plant will deliver 1513.7 TWh of 24/7, low-carbon electricity over its 60 year design life.

        The whole 13.649 GW of the UK’s 6,680 wind turbines will deliver 679.6 TWh of intermittent, low-carbon electricity over their [dubious] 20 year lifespan: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2254901/Wind-turbines-half-long-previously-thought-study-shows-signs-wearing-just-12-years.html

        We’d have to install another 16.75 GW [8,198 turbines] to deliver the same amount of electricity as Hinkley, which will sit on a site 870 metres square.

        The total 30.4 GW of wind turbines comes in at a minimum £1.5 billion/GW installed [averaging across onshore and offshore costs], totalling £45.6 billion – we could just about get 2 Hinkleys for that !!

        I do appeal to you to consider promoting this value-for-money aspect of nuclear power in any of your future articles discussing the capital costs of nuclear power plants.

        1. @ Joris van Dorp and Colin Megson.

          It does not appear as if Mr. Hess argues with either of you:

          1. “It doesn’t mean that nuclear energy is not good (enough) value however, for some of the reasons you set out.”
          2. “It could certainly be much better value.”

          He only argues — or states the obvious — that the sticker-shock of new GW-scale nuclear is a heart-stopper. The 80 – 100 year lifespans of these things, and the low-cost electricity averaged over that time frame, simply does not matter. If one cannot finance them, they cannot be built.

          Mr. Hess has done the same math on Hinckley Point as the rest of us. And notes that financing is still not in place and might not ever be. Rosatom and KNHP build their GW plants on time and in budget — of about $5.50 / Watt. Customers are either deep pocket governments e.g. UAE with KHP, or are financed by the Russian government through Rosatom itself. How is U.K. financing Hitachi Horizon ABWR’s at Wylfa Newydd and Oldbury-on-Severn? Does EU Competition Commission know?

          Here in the States, the new builds at Vogtle and VC Summer are being done by Southern Company and SCG&E. They operate in a regulated market subject to oversight by Public Utility Commissions. In Southern’s case they have persuaded their PUC that nuclear is worthwhile, and part of the financing is obtained by surcharge on customer utility bills today, while the plants remain under construction. Such mechanisms are not universally popular: the idea that *we* should for some reason foot the up-front infrastructure costs for the benefit of our great-grand kids is antiquated, a relic of a by-gone era.

          Back in Europe, EDF calls for urgent EU electricity market reform: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE-EDF-calls-for-urgent-EU-electricity-market-reform-2402164.html. Specifically, “a ‘significant’ floor price for carbon dioxide to be established within the EU to encourage investment in generation facilities using non-fossil fuels.”

          In other words, a steep carbon tax. Seriously???

          [/irony]

          1. Ed, please note about EU electricity markets, that *nothing* can be financed in most of Europe currently, it’s not a specific nuclear problem. They are just a few markets where price are still high enough to build something but the many cases in recent years where new gas units were built to be mothballed immediately after would make any utility careful about how conditions may change within the few years needed for completion.

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