Nuclear Power Costs Up Front
In 2005, a few would-be [nuclear] reactor builders said they could construct a facility generating 1.2 to 1.6 gigawatts for $2,000 per kilowatt of capacity. Now, they put the cost at $4,000 per kilowatt....
...The Electric Power Research Institute, a utility consortium based in Palo Alto, CA, recently put the capital cost of a new coal plant at under $3,000 per kilowatt and that of a natural-gas plant at $800 per kilowatt. _TechnologyReview
A nuclear plant may cost $4,000 per kw to install compared to a solar plant at $10,000 per kw and a large wind plant at $4,000 per kw. A coal plant is cheap at $3,000 per kw and a gas plant is a steal at $800 per kw.
Wind generators, necessarily exposed to the elements, begin to break down after 10 years compared to a projected 60 year life for a nuclear plant. Large solar plants are likewise unproven for endurance over the long haul.
Wind and solar are non-baseload, non-dispatchable power sources -- unreliable. They must be backed up by more reliable forms of power. This increases the expense of power management immensely. It is these long-term costs that pile up over time and make one wish he had built a nuclear plant instead.
Nuclear plants -- like hydroelectric plants -- are very expensive to build, but can provide many decades of reliable service if maintained properly.
Of course the economics shifts when the small, modular reactors come onto the scene. These new factory-built reactors will be cheaper to build, install, and operate. They can be scaled to fit the demand, and used for a wide variety of purposes. They will be baseload power available anywhere on Earth, the oceans, or in space.
Wind energy advocates are fighting a losing battle against time and technology. Wind power is only suitable for particular places and particular niches, at small to intermediate scales.
Solar power has wider application -- particularly considering the eventual placement of solar power off-planet.
Fossil fuel power is doomed by the limited locations and amounts of fossil fuels. Perhaps a century more before almost complete replacement.
Only nuclear (including fusion), off-planet solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and bioenergy can provide the kind of on-demand dispatchable power that future human societies will require.
Labels: energy economics