Nuclear plant designers focus on safety and efficiency, and rightly so. But the next steps for new nuclear power technologies and new-build programs are typically focused on “overnight costs,” or the costs to develop the site and construct the nuclear power plant. The problem is that the overnight costs are only the “table stakes” in a much longer game. Investors and stakeholders must have the staying power to play until the end, which now looks to be close to 100 years after the start of a new-build program.
Assuming that the initial estimates of overnight costs are surmountable, total life-cycle costs (TLCs) should be next on the agenda, as they will significantly drive the final levelized cost of energy. TLCs include overnight costs, the operating company’s startup and development (or expansion) costs, life-cycle O&M costs, life-cycle capital reinvestment, shutdown/SAFSTOR, decommissioning and dismantling, and site remediation. The largest element of TLCs will be the non-fuel portion of life-cycle O&M costs, and the largest portion of those costs will be for labor.