Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear power: CO2 fix or cost disaster?

Nuclear power: CO2 fix or cost disaster? E and E News  | 02/04/2022 President Biden’s plan to decarbonize the U.S. electricity sector by 2035 could give a boost to nuclear power, but that may hinge on two key questions: Can carbon targets really incentivize the technology, and can it compete cost wise with natural gas?

It’s a debate that is resurfacing, considering recent surging prices of natural gas.

Yet industry hasn’t answeredwhether nuclear will be more economic for producing power, especially after costs for two new reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia skyrocketed. The actual costs of 75 of the more than 90 existing nuclear power reactorsin the U.S. exceeded the initially estimated costs of the units by over 200 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

There are many facets of the cost question — existing nuclear plants in competitive markets face economic challenges that could force them to close early, saddling operators with stranded costs and removing emissions-free electrons [not really emissions-free]  from the grid. Meanwhile, no large, baseload reactors are on the table. The industry is working to develop smaller, next-generation reactors by the next decade, but the fate and final costs of projects are uncertain.

“There doesn’t seem to be, in the near term, a big thing that’s going to be pushing” nuclear, said Paul Patterson, a utility analyst with Glenrock Associates LLC. Whether the nuclear industry builds new reactors could help shape the electricity mix for decades. Falling renewable energy costs and higher gas prices may also influence investment decisions for nuclear in unexpected ways.

………… Southern Co.’s Vogtle expansion project hasn’t helped the case for baseload nuclear. The project, which was supposed to lead a resurgence of larger reactors in the 2000s, remains theonly major nuclear power construction project in the United States. Vogtle’sprice tag is twice an earlier $14 billion budget, andthe project is more than seven years behind schedule.

……more than one big electric company has shelved its plans to build large reactors using similar technology because of the litany of troubles at Vogtle…………………….

it’s unclear whether SMRs will face some of the same cost challenges as traditional reactors.

In the past, the higher price tag for nuclearin comparison to expectations was tied to safety regulations, which are the most stringent of all power plants. What’s more, if any work needs to be redone to meet strict codes, that pushes out the deadline to finish the plant.

The longer it takes to get it right, the more expensive the reactors become.

“There are so many concerns about radioactive material, etc., so that’s what drives much of the cost,” Glenrock’s Patterson said. “You don’t have the same issues associated with regulations for other power plants, understandably so.”

………… A group of former nuclear regulators in the United States, Germany and France argued last month that nuclear isn’t safe, clean or smart.

It’smore expensive than renewables in terms of producing energy and mitigating carbon dioxide, even accounting for costs such as pairing renewable energy with storage, according to the group, which alsoincludes a former secretary to a United Kingdom radiation protection committee.

The former regulators said nuclear is unlikely “to make a relevant contribution to necessary climate change mitigation” that’s needed by the 2030s………………………………..

Gas and renewables

Ultimately, the trajectory of nuclear will directly affect how wind, solar, batteries and fossil fuels are used in the coming decades.

Coyle pointed out that while the cost of Vogtle has doubled during the seven-year delay, the price of renewables, including storage, has dropped. Going forward, she argues that Georgia Power should compare the cost of planned generation with not only combined-cycle natural gas but also with renewable options such as utility-scale solar and long-term agreements to buy wind power.

“This argument that, ‘Well, it’s reliable, it’s low-cost, it’s carbon-free,’ then why are we still comparing it to combined-cycle natural gas?” Coyle said.

“There are now significantly more cost-effective renewable energy options than any of us anticipated back in the day when Vogtle 3 and 4 were certified.”……………

February 5, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: