August 04, 2007
Large Scale Build Of Nuclear Power Plants Possible

Brian Wang of the Advanced Nano blog has figures that answer a question that comes up here on occasion: How big a strain on productive capacity would a massive nuclear power plant construction program impose? Not much.

Building 1,000 one gigawatt nuclear plants per year would use less than 10% of the worlds annual concrete and steel. Modern nuclear reactors need less than 40 metric tons of steel and 190 cubic meters of concrete per megawatt of average capacity. 1,000 one gigawatt nuclear plants per year would need 40 million metric tons of steel and 190 million cubic meters of concrete. World supplies in 2006 are 1.24-billion tons of steel per year & 2.283 billion tons of coal per year.

So what do these raw materials cost? A short ton (2000 lb) of steel costs about $600. (and the metric ton used above equals 2,204.6 pounds)

Spot prices for cold-rolled steel in June averaged $602.24 a short ton, down from $672.95 a year earlier, according to Dow Jones Indexes.

Then (2204.6/2000)*602.24 equals $663.85 per metric ton of steel. Then times 40 metric tons per megawatt of capacity we get to $26554 worth of steel per megawatt of nuclear electric power plant capacity. So then the steel cost for a 1 gigawatt nuclear power plant is only 1000 times that amount or about $26 to $27 million at current steel prices. That's not much for a plant that costs perhaps nearly $2 billion to build. However, note that steel comes in many forms and the steel used in some parts of nuclear power plants is more expensive. A table of highway construction materials costs shows that structural steel can cost as much as double the cost of reinforcing steel. I'm not sure how expensive the most expensive types of nuclear reactor steel get. So my rough steel cost calculation has a large margin of error.

I couldn't come up with good data on concrete costs. Does concrete or steel cost more for nuclear power plant construction?

I am suspicious of the cost numbers I came up with above because they do not fit with the news stories about the rising costs of coal and nuclear power plant construction. A recent New York Times story by Matthew Wald drives home the effects that rising raw materials costs are having on power plant construction:

NEW YORK: When General Electric called in reporters for a briefing on its new nuclear partnership with Hitachi, it said that atomic power plants could be built faster than before, operated reliably and had a vanishingly small chance of an accident.

But what will they cost? After some hemming and hawing, company executives Monday gave figures by the standard industry metric, dollars per kilowatt of capacity, but in a huge range: $2,000 to $3,000.

"There's massive inflation in copper and nickel and stainless steel and concrete," said John Krenecki, president and chief executive of GE Energy. The uncertainty is not just in nuclear plants, he said. Coal plant prices are similarly unstable.

At $3000 per kilowatt that is $3 billion for a 1 Gigawatt nuclear power plant. Seems expensive. Is it? Does anyone know how to get from that to pennies per kilowatt-hour (kwh)? The answer depends on operating costs, fuel costs, interest rate for the capital, and still other factors. A kilowatt of capacity translates into 1 kwh every hour, right? So then 24 kwh per day times 365 days a year or 8760 kwh. But then assume operation of the plant 90% of the time and it goes down to 7884 kwh per year. If that sells for, say, 5 cents per kwh at wholesale (how close is that to actual in various parts of the US) then $3000 of investment generates about $400 in revenue per year. At about 13% of the $3000 that sounds like it more than covers the cost of capital. Is my method of calculation roughly correct?

If my calculation approach above is close to correct then nuclear power at $2000 per kilowatt capacity looks pretty competitive. A $2000 investment generates $400 in revenue at 5 cents per kwh.

Some argue against nuclear power by claiming that nuclear power plant construction requires large amounts of energy usage. But compared to what? How about wind? Brian also quotes Per Peterson of the UC Berkeley Dept. of Nuclear Engineering on the steel and concrete needs per megawatt for wind.

Modern wind energy systems, with good wind conditions, take 460 metric tons of steel and 870 cubic meters of concrete per megawatt.

Does wind power really require 11.5 times as much steel as nuclear power per megawatt? Does wind power really require 4.5 times as much concrete per megawatt? Wind is making strides in terms of size of blades and materials in blades. Do these numbers really represent the state of play right now? Given wind's rapid rate of growth I'm having a hard time believing it takes so much steel and concrete (i.e. so much money) to build.

If anyone has high quality original sources on materials needs per megawatt capacity for various electrical power sources please post in the comments.

I am also looking for authoritative sources on Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI) for nuclear and wind. I've come across claims that nuclear power plants pay back their energy invested within the first 6 months of operation.

I also want to know how much steel and concrete costs can fall as a result of expansion of production facilities. Can nickel's price come down as a result of expanded mining operations? Can copper's price come down or is the world running out of copper? How much of the current high costs of new power generation capacity are long term and how much due to a transitory period where many sources of demand are peaking?

One might argue that China's rapid rate of growth has temporarily caused demand to exceed supply. But isn't China going to continue to expand rapidly? If so, can the mining and raw materials processing industries (e.g. steel, cement) start growing at rates that will prevent Chinese demand from holding prices high for an extended period of time?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 August 04 07:12 AM  Energy Nuclear


Comments
Wolf-Dog said at August 4, 2007 2:41 PM:

The heavy construction issues are for the traditional pressurized light water reactors only.

The helium gas based pebble bed reactor is very compact, and it does not have thick walls, etc. It looks like a grain silo.

Also the molten salt reactors (both the Integral Fast Reactor, as well as the Thorium reactors) do not require heavy construction at all, since radiation containment is much easier in this case.

For the record, if the U.S. builds only 100 additional one gigawatt reactors, these would be enough to charge 200 million pure electric cars, or 300 million plug-in hybrid cars with 40 mile range.

There is enough uranium mines in the world for hundred of years, and even after hundreds of years, sea water based uranium can be extracted for less than $200 per pound, not to mention Thorium, which is abundant, and a great fuel for commercial electric power generation.

Lawrence said at August 4, 2007 3:05 PM:

"I've come across claims that nuclear power plants pay back their energy invested within the first 6 months of operation."

This simply isn't possible. But OTOH, if a nuclear plant can pay back its capital expense in 5 years or so, that's a very good investment. Think about how long nuclear plants operate. It's a service life with a minimum of 30 years and maybe 50 years.

The greater issue today going forward is building a standard design of nuclear plant as France has done. The present situation where every nuclear plant in the U.S. is a one of a kind is an abomination. We would never build airplanes this way and there's no reason to build nuclear plants this way. Got to do better.

Fat Man said at August 4, 2007 8:57 PM:

The first part of the problem is to determine the annual cost of capital. The calculation for amortizing a lump sum over a given time is the same one used to determine mortgage and car loan payments. We need to determine a time period and an interest rate.

For time periods I will use 30 years. The IRS uses 39.5 years as the useful life of buildings. Nuclear plants are typically licensed for 40 years. We know that many reactors built in the 1970s are still in operation 30 or more years later. Further the US Treasury's long bond is 30 years, and is the base line for pricing this type of long term investment.

For an interest rate I will use 7%. Today, A rated corporate debt is trading at about 6%, and US Treasury debt between 4.7%, but we also need to account for the cost of common stock type investment in the plan and some level of risk.

30 year self amortizing loans at 7% will cost $80.59/$1000 principal, or $161 for $2000 principal and $242 for $3000.

Second we need to determine the number of the kilowatt hours over which this charge can be spread. There are 8790 hours in a year. NEI (nei.org) reports that on average they operate about 90% of the time. I will use 7000 hours which is a hair less than 80% to be conservative. Thus the capital cost of a kilowatt hour would be between $161/7000 and $242/7000 or $0.023 and $0.035 cents/kWh.

In addition, there are other costs reported by NEI, including fuel $0.005/kWh, operations & maintenance $0.013/kWh, Federal Nuclear Waste Fund (in case they ever run Yucca Mountain) $0.001/kWh, and decommissioning reserve. That number is said by NEI to be $300 to $500 Million/plant but not counted as an operating cost. Using 40 years and 6%, I calculate that $3 Million a year would sink that cost. In a 1 gW plant that would be $3/Kw/yr and should be less than $0.0005/kWh. Altogether these costs add about $0.0195/kWh to the capital costs given above.

NEI gives the actual 2006 cost of electricity from US nuclear plants as $0.0172/kWh. Why are my calculations so much higher? First, I believe that most US plants are more than 30 years old and have amortized their capital costs. Second, the average plant operates at about 90%, not 80% so it spreads its costs over 7900 hours not 7000.

Finally, I should note that a major source of the cost uncertainty is not materials or labor costs, but regulatory delay. If it takes 4 years to build a plant without regulatory delays (including the time that leftist idiots chain themselves to the plant gates, and the cops do not shoot them) a couple of years wasted trying to placate the idiots in black robes will double your interest costs, which may be 10% or more of your upfront plan. One reason for the industry to push for Federal loan guarantees is to provide the Feds with an incentive to expedite the process rater than delay it.

Randall Parker said at August 4, 2007 10:32 PM:

Fat Man,

Thanks for the NEI numbers and the calculations. But I have one big question: What is the loan cost for a new nuclear plant? I'm guessing it is higher than the interest rate on a mortgage. But I'm not sure.

Also, I wonder whether the O&M costs are for existing plants and whether for new plants those costs are representative.

Also, will new plants end up getting operated for 60 years?

Regulatory delay: That's a much smaller risk than it used to be because an energy bill was passed (in 2002? 2003?) that made fewer regulatory steps. Once the early steps are passed the local and state levels have a far harder time stopping a plant's construction. Also, almost all the new plants (excepting a few in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York) about to start are in the Old South and face little real political opposition.

Mike Oliver said at August 4, 2007 11:23 PM:

The main obstacle against nuclear energy stems from extreme leftists. They hate the U.S. and wish to see it destroyed. Thus, they push energy supplies that are worse than worthless, and condemn energy supplies that truly work. Their sabotage increases the time needed to construct not only nuclear power plants but also power plants that use fossil fuels. By doing this , they discourage investors from providing financing for these plants; then, after creating this problem in the first place, they claim that nuclear power plants are too costly and do not attract much investment capital.

Ethanol is a farce: It works in Brazil because its climate allows it to grow and use sugarcane, not corn, and sugarcane is eight times more efficient in producing ethanol than corn is. Even at that, Brazil announced plans to build new nuclear power plants to add to those it already has, and is also expanding its program to increase its use of oil.

In the U.S., the green nazis oppose tooth and nail not only our nukes, but also access to most of our best oil and gas reserves. Despite claims to the contrary, they still exist in great abundance in Alaska and offshore our states. Greens assert that Alaska's existing oil wells and pipeline kill the caribou, but this proved to be a total farce: there are more caribou now than there ever were in Alaska. Moreover, horizontal drilling now allows access of one oil well to 50 square miles of land. This means that, even if every square inch beneath Alaska's ground were to contain oil, no oil well need be closer to another oil well than 7.9 miles!

Solar electric plants, even in the Mohave Desert, have a capacity factor of 18 to 20%. Nuclear's, regardless of location, is 90%. This means that each installed watt in a nuke plant produces 4.5 times the electric energy of each installed watt in a solar plant even in the sunniest desert land. Wind power varies with the cube of wind speed, and below 17 miles per hour is pracically worthless for producing electricity. Due to variations in wind speeds, wind turbines top off their outputs at wind speeds of 29 miles per hour, so that above that speed they do not produce higher power outputs. Wind speeds aboove 56 miles per hour damage the turbines, so they are turned off and produce no electricity at all. Wind turbines require enormous amounts of space and materials per kilowatt-hour of electric energy. That space can be used for aggriculture and other purposes, but not many locations are available where sustained wind speeds are in the 17 miles per hour or higher speed range.

I preented this information 12 year ago in "Environmentalism Gone Berserk", a book that was endorsed by Dr. Frederick Seitz , Past President of the National Academy of Sciences and President Emeritus of the Rockefeller University. This book was also endorsed by Scientists and Engineers for Secure Energy (SE2), an organization foudned by six Nobel luareates in physics and one in chemistry, as well as other world renouned scientists - individuaols responsible for much of the new 20th century science. However, the news media and Hollywood listened to Jane Fonda and her likes as "experts" on what we must do to gain energy independence, and would not listen to these people.

As to the above book, I went to two publishers, but they refused to print it as they thought my claims were out of bounds, and asked me to make too many changes. So I sold that book only through the Interent and by word-of- mouth recommendations, but nothing much has changed since then. The more we try to use the green alternatives for energy, the more we are forced to use oil from our enemies at ever rising prices, thus, direcly or indirctly, enabling them to fund terrorism. To paraphrase General Patton: Greens are holding us by our collective nose, while the Islamo fascists are kicking us in our collective back. Unless this changes, China will surely bury us. Its rulers impose totalitarianism on the people, but they allow the profit motiff to exist. They do not place impossible burdens on their enterprises.

In summary the green nazis rank amongst the worst charlatans and liars the world has ever seen. A new Dark Aee looms unless they are exposed for what they are to the majority of U.S. citizens.

JMG3Y said at August 5, 2007 7:59 AM:

IMO a really important calculation basis is the energy output per unit input (EROEI) across the entire life cycle of the reactor (or other energy conversion system), including the initial production of major facility ingredients (cement, steel), construction, operation (including mining and production of the nuclear fuel and that required to support the human operators - food is essentially a special form of energy), shut down, decommissioning and site recovery. For example, by its very nature, production of cement requires a great deal of energy (Google wiki cement kiln), whether used in the initial facility, uranium milling or to entomb the radioactive results, however that will be done. Currently, the "costs" of the energy inputs are hidden in the monetary costs of the inputs. As energy is far from a consistent proportion of each of the inputs (a fact overlooked by many, IMO), I suspect that the least cost solution will change considerably over time as we deplete the cheap petroleum supplies and that the long term optimal pathway is somewhat different than it appears irrespective of changes in technology. I wonder if using monetary cost is a convenient and correct solution for current comparisons but a potentially misleading basis for evaluation over the long run.

LKS987 said at August 5, 2007 8:34 AM:

It's about political power now, not logic or balancing the books. In a democracy you can appeal to people's prejudices. If you're good enough at it you can achieve political power. From there it's all about keeping it.

Monetary calculations once dictated infrastructure planning. No longer. Now it's whoever's better at propaganda for public consumption. You'd think that would be the professional media, but really it's the people behind the media.

It would be best to consult George Soros and the Moveon/Daily Kos people who are behind the Democratic Party in the USA before committing to nuclear power.

Randall Parker said at August 5, 2007 9:14 AM:

JMG3Y,

A few points:

1) Yes, some of the energy inputs to making a nuclear power plant (or solar panels or wind towers) are hidden. I wonder about the quality of the data on EROEI for various energy sources.

2) But we have another way to get at EROEI: Look at the cost changes in raw materials (and the profit margins of their makers) before, during, and after big changes in oil prices. Did cement's price go up much when oil's price moved the most? This is hard to tease out because demand for cement was also rising with the housing bubble and with China's explosive growth. But oil's rise hasn't been consistent.

3) How much room is there for substitute of materials should the energy inputs for some materials become too expensive? Do steel and cement have no substitutes for nuclear power plant construction for all uses of steel and cement in nuclear power plants?

4) Decommissioning: Energy will be much cheaper 60 years from now (or maybe 80 or 100 years from now if technological advances in the mean time provide ways to extend reactor life).

5) Rising energy prices should make nuclear power plant construction costs differ more geographically. Places near raw materials should have lower materials costs. But how much will transportation costs matter even at $150 per barrel oil? I do not know.

aa2 said at August 5, 2007 10:57 AM:

Fat Man, Interesting numbers.. I think your maintenance costs are far too high though, at 1.3 cents a kilowatt hour. I think its a lot lower then that. Especially with the new automated and simpler reactors the big international companies are offering. I would guess a lot less replacement too, as materials science has come a long way, especially in the last 10 years.

All your guys numbers show 3000$ per kilowatt hour is getting a little expensive, while 2000$ seems competitive. Over in Asia the reactors I've been reading about seem to be coming in at a little less then 2000$.

One thing to consider and that is some of the regulated utilities are cash flush. For example Duke energy from their balance sheet looks to me to have about 8 billion in investments. If they build a nuclear plant for 2 billion for 1 gig, with no interest payments it would seem a good investment to me.

Dave Herr said at August 5, 2007 11:27 AM:

A large part of the increased cost of concrete, steel, and other raw materials is a decrease in the relative value of the dollar. To keep markets afloat through the dot-com crash and after 9/11, the Federal Reserve effectively printed a lot of dollars, driving down their value, and driving up the cost of raw materials and other commodities. The price of raw materials has not gone up as much in euro terms, etc. The Fed has recently raised rates and the consequent reduction in dollar liquidity will take a few years to work itself through the markets to raise the value of the dollar and reduce commodity prices. Chinese demand will also dampen when the inevitable bubble-bursting occurs (all developing economies, including our own in the late 19th century, have bubbles and crashes). They are using up a lot of steel and concrete building empty buildings, and sooner or later that will stop and they will take a breather until those buildings lower their high vacancy rates.

I think that $.05/kwh wholesale is a bit high, particularly if new nuclear is additive only and does not displace coal. Without environmental regulations to impose on coal power its environmental costs, coal has room to reduce their prices to match nuclear. Nuclear would first displace natural gas, which has become expensive in the US because it is getting harder to find.

Lastly, I think that wind, on a per megawatt basis, would need more concrete and steel than nuclear, because to reliably generate 1 megawatt hour, you might need to build 4 megawatts, because the wind doesn't always blow. The capacity utilization of wind in California is pathetic, on the order of 25%. Nuclear is at 90+%, and probably 95% with new plants, so a megawatt built essentially yields a megawatt available for consumption.

Fat Man said at August 5, 2007 10:11 PM:

Thank You Randall:

"What is the loan cost for a new nuclear plant? I'm guessing it is higher than the interest rate on a mortgage. But I'm not sure."

Interest rates on corporate loans, mortgages and Treasury debt are determined in the bond market. Typically, US Treasury debt is the lowest rate. On Friday 8/4/07, a ten year treasury note was priced to yield ~4.7%. Unsecured long term (10 years +/-) corporate debt from high quality issuers, such as GE and Union Pacific, was about 120 - 130 basis points higher, i.e. ~6.0%. Mortgage rates were around 6.5%. The relations between types of debt fluctuate with market conditions, so it is impossible to predict now.

Future rates will depend on economic conditions, but I am not looking for dramatic changes. Furthermore, the rates payable depend more on the type of borrower than the type of asset. Will the borrower be a stand-alone facility or part of an existing utility.

I think the important facts are these: 1.) 2 or 3 billion $s is not a difficult number for existing markets to handle at market rates and on market terms, and 2.) the availability and cost of money are not a barrier to nuclear power.

Note to aa2: I doubt that anyone would pay all cash for a new nuke, even though some players could do it. A couple of reasons. First if the player is a regulated utility, regulators want to see a prudent amount of debt to minimize cost to ratepayers. second a pure player will need to incentivize management with equity and conserve its cash. You wouldn't take money out of your IRA to buy a new car.

"Also, I wonder whether the O&M costs are for existing plants and whether for new plants those costs are representative."

I do not know NEI's methodology for determining the numbers on their web-site. I assume O&M is based on existing plants.

aa2 thinks the number is too high. I have no attitude nor information. I just used NEI's number. If the real number for new build is lower, and I think the idea is intuitively appealing, that is all to the good.

"Also, will new plants end up getting operated for 60 years?"

Since we are now looking at extending licenses for existing almost 40 year old reactors for another 20 years, I think it is reasonable to expect that new ones will last just as long if not longer.

"Regulatory delay: That's a much smaller risk than it used to be because an energy bill was passed (in 2002? 2003?) that made fewer regulatory steps. ..."

I will believe that regulatory risk has decreased when the last federal judge is strangled with the intestines of the last environmentalist.

David Herr: "I think that $.05/kwh wholesale is a bit high, particularly if new nuclear is additive only and does not displace coal."

First the number is a back of the envelope exercise, and was intended to be high. It satisfies me that we can use nuclear without going broke.

If we are going to have to live with hard CO2 caps, we will not be expanding the use of coal in stationary power plants. We should reserve our Carbon burning for the transportation sector where it might have some advantages.

Further, It is clear that neither solar nor wind can compete. Their capital costs are not less than nuclear, and no study I have seen estimates the cost of energy storage that must accompany their use. That is another capital cost that is likely to be quite substantial, and which nuclear does not have to bear.

Brian Wang said at August 6, 2007 9:08 AM:

Thanks for referencing my articles. Here is some more information on some of the questions

This 34 page pdf has some of the answers in regards to sensitivity analysis that the nuclear industry had about risks and costs. This if from 2002.

http://www.ne.doe.gov/home/bc/ExecOverviewNERAC100102.pdf

Pages 31-33 they have some samples with budget cases including some interest costs.
Pages 17, 18 they are comparing investment feasability with different energy prices.

Economics of nuclear power from wikipedia, tons of useful links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_new_nuclear_power_plants

Here is a UK study that compares the different studies of nuclear power plant costs
http://www.psiru.org/reports/2005-09-E-Nuclear.pdf
Pages 14, 27 and 28 discuss the cost of capital.
It varies based on which country it is and the credit rating of the company, state and country as well as
the way the utility and energy industry is organized.
Cost of capital can vary from 3-15%.

For the US and worldwide nuclear plants and their cost of capital this can be determined
by looking at public financial statements
http://unistarnuclear.com/
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=ARVCF.PK


GE has AAA credit for its bonds
http://www.financialweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070803/REG/70803008

Here is a lookup for the interest rates for bonds 20year
http://finance.yahoo.com/bonds/composite_bond_rates
6.08% AAA
6.31% for a single A high over the last few months
4.41-4.6% for muni bonds

CNN discusses the financing of new nuclear plants
http://money.cnn.com/2007/07/30/magazines/fortune/legthree.fortune/

The largest remaining obstacle to such plans? Cost. Consider a typical scenario in which a utility with a $9 billion market cap wants to build a nuke plant with a $5 billion price tag. "You put that on your balance sheet," as one former utility executive explained to me, "and you know what Wall Street would do with your bond ratings."

The cost factor is the background to the generous set of nuclear subsidies contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Among them: a tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour for early movers, capped at $6 billion; regulatory risk insurance to cover licensing delays, potentially worth $2 billion; and federal loan guarantees that could pay up to 80 percent in the event of default. (Only the risk insurance applies specifically to nukes; the others cover wind, solar and biofuels as well.)


MIT case for pebble beds
http://web.mit.edu/pebble-bed/background.pdf

Dave Gore said at August 6, 2007 9:46 AM:

We don't have to decide whether nuclear is cheaper than wind, solar, etc. All we have to do is give all the alternatives a chance to compete in an open market, perhaps with the addition of a carbon tax. The invisible hand will choose the best energy sources.

Brock said at August 6, 2007 5:25 PM:

"The greater issue today going forward is building a standard design of nuclear plant as France has done. The present situation where every nuclear plant in the U.S. is a one of a kind is an abomination. We would never build airplanes this way and there's no reason to build nuclear plants this way. Got to do better."

Short term savings in exchange for long term innovation? No thanks. The free market appears messy, but letting people "try stuff and see what works" is how we make progress.

Besides, there's no need to mandate a particular design. If one design is clearly superior then all of the players will gravitate to it anyway. It's not like GM, Ford and Toyota make cars with IC engines and circular wheels because "the industry" agreed to or some government told them to. It's just the clear choice.

Randall Parker said at August 6, 2007 6:30 PM:

Fat Man,

I asked the NEI folks: The "operations & maintenance $0.013/kWh" is for existing plants. So that's going to be much lower with newer designs that have more passive systems and longer lasting components.

Brian Wang,

Thanks for all those links. GE's credit rating: Yes, but I'm guessing they won't own the new plants. Dynergy and similar companies will own them.

Randall Parker said at August 6, 2007 7:09 PM:

Dave Gore,

The problem is that nuclear plants, due to potential safety issues, require extremely rigorous regulatory oversight of design and operation. But that oversight distorts the market.

Brock,

But standard designs eliminate the need to have each single nuclear power plant's design evaluated by government regulatory agencies. Sure, every plant can be custom designed. That's how the industry used to work. But that caused regulatory delays and disagreements over what is safe. The industry wants a smaller number of standard designs. That would prevent the development of newer designs. But they'll come less often because few potential plant builders want to try the latest experimental design and if they did then they'd get more delays at the stage of seeking regulatory approval.

Read that Wikipedia Economics Of New Nuclear Power Plants page for insights on this.

Standard designs also allow potential nuclear power plant builders to look at the total costs that came from previous attempts to build a plant using the same design. The capitalists want to reduce costs, risks, and unknowns. Standard designs let them do that.

Brian Wang said at August 6, 2007 8:55 PM:

For energy returned based on energy invested (EROEI).

The nuclear industry has research showing energy return ratios of (diffusion enrichment) 17.5 and (centrifuge enrichment) 58.
http://advancednano.blogspot.com/2007/08/comparison-energy-returned-on-energy.html

The assumptions do not include that about 80% of reactors are being extended to 60 years of usage instead of 40 years and that current operating efficiency is 90% and not 80%.

The environmental activists claim that the EROEI for nuclear is only 5 to 1. 5 times as much energy as invested. Another Green environmental source is conserve magazine

EROEI
Hydro is 43-205
Nuclear centrifuge enrichment 43-59
Nuclear diffusion enrichment 10.5-24
Coal unscrubbed 7-34
NG 5-26
NG LNG 5.6-6
solar 10.6
solar PV 3.7-12
wind 6-80

Conserve magazine claims
Biodiesel 3:1
Coal 1:1 to 10:1
Ethanol 1.2:1
Natural gas 5:1 to 10:1
Hydropower 10:1
Hydrogen 0.5:1
Nuclear 4:1
Oil sands 2:1
Solar** PV 1.1 to 10:1
Wind** 3:1 to 10:1
Again according to conserve, EROEI for gasoline in the 50's 100:1, fell to 25:1 by 1970, and stands at about 10:1 today.


Fat Man said at August 7, 2007 10:52 PM:

"The problem is that nuclear plants, due to potential safety issues, require extremely rigorous regulatory oversight of design and operation. But that oversight distorts the market."

Safety regulation is not usually thought of as being market distorting. It may create entry barriers, but I doubt that there would be more nuclear builders or operators even if there were no governmental regulation at all. At any rate, I do not see how it would increase the cost of capital.

Paul Dietz said at August 17, 2007 1:28 PM:

The environmental activists claim that the EROEI for nuclear is only 5 to 1.

The dominant energy cost in nuclear energy production is in enrichment, not construction, decommissioning, mining, or waste disposal. The 'environmental activists' no doubt slipped in the assumption that enrichment would be done by the very ineffcient gaseous diffusion process, not the much more efficient gas centrifuge process.

When you assume the latter, the energy payback of LWRs over 40 years is about 50 to 1. Yes, they do indeed pay for their energy of construction in much less than a year. This is not hard to believe, since the cost of energy is only a small part of the cost of building a plant. Indeed, it would be difficult to believe that (for a financially sane technology) it wouldn't be this way.

fake consultant said at June 22, 2008 3:40 PM:

how do you cost account for a waste disposal facility and the follow-on million years of monitoring that material that will be required?

Major Mike said at June 12, 2009 8:48 PM:

"how do you cost account for a waste disposal facility and the follow-on million years of monitoring that material that will be required?"

Actually, no waste disposal facility is needed. On-site storage is sufficient because technology advances will make today's waste tomorrow's fuel. Further, most reactor waste is "cool" in one to five years and should be stored on site awaiting reprocessing. The French do it now, and have the cheapest electricity in Europe.

Louise said at March 23, 2010 3:28 AM:

None of the info mentions peak uranium. There is a point when demand outstrips supply. When China starts building more reactors and other nations this will in my opinion be before the estimated maximum 50 years. At the moment a lot of the uranium comes from old russian warheads. These of course are finite too.

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