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Black and Veach on the Future Cost of Energy

Nuclear Power Report

I recently called attention to Breakthrough Institute’s report, How to Make Nuclear Power Cheap. This report called attention to the potential use of advanced nuclear technology to lower and even dramatically lower nuclear costs.  This point has been repeatedly argued in Nuclear Green since 2008.  Thus it should not be assumed that nuclear costs will remain constant over the next 35 years.   My findings which are based on the Research of Dr. Per Petersen, other nuclear engineers and scientists, ORNL, MIT, and UC Berkley, is that advanced nuclear technology, using liquid salts holds great promise for lowering nuclear costs, even with a modest investment in research and development.

Black and Veach also touched on Nuclear costs in a Report titled,  Cost and performance Data for power generation technologies. The report was prepaired for of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s as a supporting document to the NREL’s report: Renewables Electricity Futures Study

There are several flaws to the B&V cost study.  First only one type of Reactor is mentioned, the Westinghouse AP-1000.  At least one other type of reactor, the B&W mPower is planned to come online within 5 years.  The mPower has several advanced features, including factory construction of the core, and a construction cycle of as little as 18 months.  Other factors including the mPower’s small size, could potentially contribute to mPower construction lowering nuclear cost.  The mPower is ignored in the B&V report, despite its potential for lowering nuclear costs.  Even given the limited nuclear technology options in the B&V report, that report failed to mention the effects of serial manufacture on costs.  Thus producijng 100 AP-1000 units will cost less per unit than 10 units would.

In addition, the study fails to recognize that future energy costs are estimates, guesses with considerable cost ranges.  Cost ranges ought to be reported in any future costs reports, if those ranges are known.  This is true for both nuclear power and renewable energy, but not the case in this report.

Thus we must conclude that the the B&V future energy costs report cannot serve as an accurate basis for determining future energy costs.  This raises questions in turn about NREL research standards, and the reliability of the NREL’s future energy study.  Due to my vision problems, I cannot explor the problem further.  I can only point to it and rely on others to explore the question.

Photo Credit: Nuclear Power and Energy Costs/shutterstock

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