Hope springs eternal …

… for the nuclear power faithful. Over the last couple of months, it’s become apparent that the Westinghouse AP1000, by far the most promising hope for a modern Generation III+ design, is dead in the water. Toshiba, which bought Westinghouse a while ago, is writing off billions of dollars, and seems unlikely to stay in the nuclear business after the remaining projects (all overdue and overtime) are completed. The other developed country candidates, including EPR and Candu are in an even worse state.

But wait! It seems there is a project that is on time, and possibly even on budget. It’s being built in the United Emirates by Korean company KEPCO, and consists of four plants using KEPCO’s APR-1400 design. That’s been the basis for some new optimism.

A quick look at Wikipedia’s APR-1400 article suggests this optimism may be misplaced. Among the problems

(i) This is a Gen III design, dating back to the 1990s. It hasn’t yet been certified as safe in the US, and it may not be
(ii) While the UAE project appears to have gone well, projects in South Korea have been subject to delays and cost overruns
(iii) The UAE deal was signed in 2009. There hasn’t been another export deal since then.
(iv) Although there were plans to build more plants in South Korea, they appear to have been shelved. There hasn’t been a new APR-1400 plant started there since 2013.

7 thoughts on “Hope springs eternal …

  1. Hope springs eternal … and is dashed, eternally.

    D’you think we could get the LNP nongs to go passing round a few kilos of U235 in Parliament ?

    I think that the only real future for nuclear fission is if China persists – only the Chinese have the resources, the determination and the autocracy to make it happen.

    I was interested to note, on the web, in answer to the question “When did China become a nuclear power” ? the answer given was:

    In a thirty-two-month period, China successfully exploded its first atomic bomb (October 16, 1964), launched its first nuclear missile (October 25, 1966), and detonated its first hydrogen bomb (June 14, 1967. The first Chinese nuclear test was conducted at Lop Nor on 16 October 1964 (CHIC 1).

    All that ingenuity, and they still can’t put together a half-way decent nuclear power generator design.

  2. @BilB
    That is interesting. The USA apparently has now got 140 nuclear powered ships ranging from the large Nimitz class carriers down to submarines and icebreakers. But they are, indeed, small scale for shipping.

    It’ll take a while to actually build and commission the floating nuclear, so I guess we’ll have to wait just a while until the ‘true’ intent becomes obvious.

  3. I wonder if Will Boisvert will show up in the comments? It must be very disheartening for the dwindling band of informed supporters if nuclear power. The steady drip of bad news is accompanied by a fountain of good news on renewables. SolarReserve’s contract for 260 MW of CSP power in Chile at 6.3c/kWh is for 24/7 output for mining operations: that is, it replaces a reactor at half the price in a quarter of the time and no safety issues.

  4. @James Wimberley

    Yes, nuclear power advocates are dinosaurs. Clean, green renewable IS the future, the only possible sustainable future. The other thing about nuclear power advocates is that most of them are open or closet advocates of nuclear weapon arsenals.

  5. “The other thing about nuclear power advocates is that most of them are open or closet advocates of nuclear weapon arsenals.”

    See, Ikonoclast, this is the sort of statement that makes comment threads much less useful than they should be. The first part of your comment is true, but it loses any chance of persuading some mildly pro nuclear power dinosaur because you then accuse them of bad faith – of being closet advocates of another position.

    One of the great things about our host is that he generally avoids that. I’ve also learned by experience that we should try hard not to do it (though yes, a google search will show I haven’t always succeeded).

  6. As JQ noted, any company putting R&D effort into designing a large nuclear reactor are wasting time and money due to lack of buyers. No politician, particularly in Australia, wants to spend political capital of over-turning the nuclear ban, finding sites, then spending $10bn+ and a decade building the reactor. They will be handing their opponents valuable ammunition and earn the ire and opprobrium of environmentalists who will raise the risk of the project via lawfare, protest and civil disobedience. A company with money to spend that builds a solar plant will get a much quicker ROI.

    While large reactors now seem consigned to history, there will still be development of small reactors for military ships. There is one small modular reactor (NuScale) design going through approval in the USA now. According to Forbes it has cost USD$30 million just to prepare the applications process which will take at least 40 months. A big disincentive to everyone else. From the NuScale’s 2014 data I think they suggest the price per kW of output will be nearly USD$5300 in today’s dollars. In contrast it probably costs ~$2-3000/kW to build an ultra-supercritical coal plant. Lastly, by the time NuScale is allowed to build a plant it is possible that solar will be $1000/kW, Citigroup suggest it will be $250/kW max generating capacity. Perhaps they will find a market in regions with no renewable resources, but they are going to have to get their prices seriously down to be competitive.

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