Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Hair Shirt?

From Gar W. Lipow's Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming:

Hotter than the Sun: The Mandatory Section on Nuclear Electricity

Inexpensive sustained net-energy fusion would be wonderful if we had it; but we don’t.

The last time we built nuclear power plants in the U.S. their capital costs averaged over $3,000 per KW in mid-80s dollars.

The nuclear industry insists that modern plants could be built more quickly and would cost much less; they promise their plants won’t end up costing four to seven times budget as they have in the past.

The pebble bed reactor is one example often promoted of a new generation technology for producing less expensive, safer fission reactors. The consortium building a pebble bed reaction in South Africa has finally revealed the cost – just short of $9,800+ per KW in capital costs
; that cost has no chance of falling, but may yet increase.

We can build solar thermal with storage at two thirds of that price, fully dispatchable wind at one third – and not have to worry about uranium mining, waste transport and storage, and the liability issues (which in the U.S. are dealt with through the special privileges of the Price/Anderson act not given to any other power source).

Wait, where's the argument? Where's the per-kWh cost comparison? What about the fact that the existing nuclear plants ultimately became highly profitable despite the massive initial cost overruns?

I'm also impressed how he knows that technologies that we do not have are cheaper than nuclear (although his argument is weakened by the fact that he chose to compare these conjectural technologies with a novel type of nuclear plant; installed costs for an AP-1000 stand to be around 1/3 of the stated figure too, with capacity factors 3x as high. At least I think so; I have no idea what his terminology is supposed to mean, so I have to guess.)

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