What are the key cost drivers for microreactors?

May 17, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

Microreactors upend the traditional economics of nuclear power plants by shifting the paradigm from economies of scale (large reactors) to economies of multiple (mass production). While shrinking power output per unit may increase costs per kilowatt compared to large plants, offsetting gains can be expected from simplified and standardized designs, factory fabrication, inherent safety, lower radionuclide inventories, fast installation, and low financing costs. For instance, the lower power density in a microreactor core leads to a greatly reduced decay heat source, simplifying emergency cooling needs. These design aspects can lead to innovations including substantial simplifications to safety and control needs, minimized human operational requirements, a very compact balance of plant, the ability to fabricate almost every component in a factory, shortened construction time, and less daunting financing.

Addressing the economics of clean energy

May 10, 2022, 12:01PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit
president@ans.org

I often say that nuclear energy will play a key role in our clean energy future, and I believe that is true. However, it won’t happen automatically. There is no “divine right” behind nuclear energy. We like to admire the fascinating aspects of nuclear technology, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the money, and that’s where we stubbed our toe badly over the past two decades.

The “Nuclear Renaissance” foundered when advanced light water reactors turned out to be much more expensive than their marketing claimed, while alternatives—primarily natural gas—plummeted in price. We tend to point to impediments to nuclear technology, such as overly restrictive licensing requirements and adverse public opinion, but these matter only to the extent of their impact on the bottom line. Again, it comes down to the money.

Cameco to restart production at McArthur River uranium mine

February 14, 2022, 9:00AMNuclear News
Mining at McArthur River takes place between 530 and 640 meters belowground. (Photo: Cameco)

Citing “improving market sentiment,” Tim Gitzel, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian uranium mining company Cameco, announced on February 9 the planned restart of operations at the McArthur River mine in Saskatchewan.

Diablo Canyon report takeaways: California has options, and it’s time for debate

November 10, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News

A new study by researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—An Assessment of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant for Zero-Carbon Electricity, Desalination, and Hydrogen Production—makes a compelling case that the 2018 decision to shut down California’s only operating nuclear power plants needs another look—and that revenue options could make reversing the decision not just feasible but economically attractive.

“Fast-forward three years and things have changed,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the report, during a November 8 webinar. Since the decision was made to shut down Diablo Canyon’s twin pressurized water reactors in 2024 and 2025 when their current licenses expire, the state has passed bills calling for net zero carbon emissions by 2045 and for restrictions on land use that could effectively limit solar installation sprawl. Californian’s have also experienced repeated grid reliability issues and prolonged drought conditions.

Germany: Coal tops wind energy in 2021, but there’s more to the story

September 23, 2021, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Coal-fired plants fed the most power to Germany's electricity grid in the first half of 2021, while wind power dropped to its lowest level since 2018. As a September 13 article published on the German news site DW.com explained, the situation was blamed in part on a wind energy shortfall that is causing power price spikes across Europe.

Energy markets strained by price spikes make the case for nuclear

September 16, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Energy prices surged across Europe recently as markets were stricken by reduced output from wind turbines. Low supplies of natural gas had already boosted the cost of the gas–powered generation required to make up for dips in renewable energy sources. The result: a series of dire headlines, soaring prices for natural gas, and the startup of idled coal power plants.

An open letter to Secretary Granholm

April 6, 2021, 9:09AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

Madam Secretary:

Congratulations on becoming America’s 16th secretary of energy! Welcome to one of the most misunderstood, confounding, yet important and underappreciated agencies in the federal government.

Even the name—the U.S. Department of Energy—is misleading. Given that the majority of its funding and operational focus is dedicated in some form or another to the splitting and fusing of atoms, the DOE should probably be called the Department of Nuclear Technology and Other Energy and Science Stuff.

Leaked report says EU can tag nuclear investments as sustainable

March 30, 2021, 6:57AMNuclear News

Within the European Union, recognizing nuclear energy as green, sustainable, and worthy of investment depends on nuclear being added to the EU taxonomy of “sustainable investments that have been found to ‘do no significant harm’ to human health and to the environment.” The EU will issue a final taxonomy this year, and a decision to include nuclear power—which was excluded from a draft released in late 2020—could raise prospects for public and private nuclear investments both inside and outside the EU.

The decision rests with the European Commission (EC), which will take into consideration expert opinions, including those in a scientific report of the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) that was requested last summer. The JRC's 387-page report, Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‘do no significant harm’ criteria of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (‘Taxonomy Regulation’), was leaked to the media and made available online on March 26. The report supports adding nuclear to the taxonomy.

NRC's RIC: A clear line of sight for accident tolerant fuel deployment

March 12, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

To nuclear fuel suppliers, today’s operating reactors represent a defined customer base with predictable demands. Utilities must order their next fuel reload far in advance of an outage; enrichers and fabricators work to fill those orders. Adapting such a highly optimized supply chain to accommodate new products—fuels with new materials, claddings, and higher enrichments and burnups—will require alignment between all parties involved to meet the associated research, enrichment, manufacturing, regulatory, transportation, and operating experience needs.

That was the consensus during “Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment,” a technical session held on March 9 during the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's four-day Regulatory Information Conference (RIC, March 8-11). The session was chaired by NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, who was taking part in his first RIC as a member of the commission.

The economics of wind power

January 27, 2011, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeUlrich Decher, Ph.D.

It is often stated that since no one can charge money for the wind, wind-generated electricity is free. This is not true. A modern wind turbine, which can generate 2 megawatts of electricity (MWe) when the wind is blowing, costs about $3.5 million installed. Five hundred of these turbines installed at a wind farm, to be able to generate 1000 MWe, would cost $1.75 billion. Add in other costs, such as for operation and maintenance (O&M) and transmission lines, and the total sum could match the approximate $4 billion required to build a nuclear plant.