Wednesday, April 04, 2007

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.

2 comments:

Stewart Peterson said...

Two questions.

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

2. What article or document are you quoting?

David Bradish said...

Here's the article.