Skip to main content

On the UC Berkeley Nuclear Study

I'm sure many of you saw stories about a report yesterday out of UC Berkeley about nuclear energy and cost overruns:
The report is based on historical construction cost data. It does not reflect where the industry and the regulatory process are at today. While it cites many studies, including the MIT and University of Chicago, it has some notable omissions. For example, it does not provide any form of reason for the huge cost overruns in the 1980s, it does not explain or reference the new and improved licensing process, nor does it mention the extensive industry efforts relating to standardization.



The licensing process has been improved based on the lessons learned from the 1970s and 1980s. It now resolves safety issues before the start of construction. The standards for the combined license application will result in the designs to be essentially complete prior to starting construction. It provides for greater public participation.



The new licensing process and modern, modularized construction techniques will require a quantum leap in documentation, planning and scheduling compared with the construction of the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. This will alleviate many of the problems of the past, as will incorporating construction management lessons learned from overseas projects.



There is an inference in the report that Gen IV reactors could be better, but a failure to acknowledge that these designs are 15+ years away from commercial deployment in the US.



The report correctly emphasizes that the financial risks are critical. We know that, as do the industry's execs and Wall Street. The executives and boards of directors are not going to authorize the construction of new power plants if the generating costs are going to be 14cts/kWh.



The overall theme of its recommendations is that there should be more debate and look to Gen IV. We're beyond that. It's time to move forward, finalize cost estimates and start the review of license applications. There will be plenty of debate on the financials in the board rooms, across the tables on Wall Street and in the public arena once the first license applications are submitted.
Just another reason to stop by here first after you read the morning paper.

Comments

Two questions.

1. Why are Gen IV reactors necessarily 15 years away from commercial deployment?

2. What article or document are you quoting?

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …