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An Assessment of the Economics of Future Electric Power Generation Options and the Implications for Fusion

Jerry G. Delene, John Sheffield, Kent A. Williams, R. Lowell Reid, Stan Hadley

Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 39 / Number 2 / March 2001 / Pages 228-248

Technical Paper

This study examines the potential range of electric power costs for some major alternatives to fusion electric power generation when it is ultimately deployed in the middle of the 21st century and, thus, offers a perspective on the cost levels that fusion must achieve to be competitive. The alternative technologies include coal burning, coal gasification, natural gas, nuclear fission, and renewable energy. The cost of electricity (COE) from the alternatives to fusion should be in a 30 to 53 mills/kWh (1999 dollars) range if carbon sequestration is not needed, 30 to 61 mills/kWh if sequestration is required, or as high as 83 mills/kWh for the worst-case scenario for cost uncertainty. The reference COE range for fusion was estimated at 65 to 102 mills/kWh for 1- to 1.3-GW(electric) scale power plants, based on the tokamak concept. Tokamak fusion costs will have to be reduced and/or cost-effective alternative nontokamak concepts devised before fusion will be competitive with the alternatives for the future production of electricity. Fortunately, there are routes to achieve this goal. Recent results from fusion experiments and developments in technology and engineering solutions indicate that lower cost fusion power plants are possible at the 1-GW(electric) level. Another general route for fusion to reduce costs is to go to large plant sizes [multigigawatts (electric)].

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