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Electricity production costs drop to the lowest point in the industry's history.

You won't hear this on CNN, but the U.S. nuclear power industry set a record last year.  Despite rising costs of fuel and regulation, the average production cost of electricity dropped to an astounding 1.66 cents per kilowatt-hour.  This is a figure well below the cost of coal-generated electricity, and a tiny fraction of the cost of solar or wind power.  Furthermore,  nuclear plants generated 36% more electricty than they did 15 years ago, without a single new plant being built.  The industry just keeps getting better and better.

Nuclear power is a true clean, green energy source, with zero CO2 emissions, and less environmental impact than solar or wind.  Those sources of energy are extremely diffuse--which means they must be collected and concentrated.  A 1,000 MW solar plant requires 2 million tons of concrete, 600,000 tons of steel, 75,000 tons of glass, 35,000 tons of aluminum, and a whole host of rare and exotic elements.   This is several hundred times the materials needed by a nuclear plant the same size.  And the nuclear plant will have much higher availability and require much less maintenance.  Most telling of all is the costs which, for solar power, currently average a painful 28.6 cents per kW-hour.

Other nations are wiser here than the US.  France  generates 76% of its power from nuclear, South Korea has several new plants on order, and Finland is building a new one, specifically to meet its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Expanding the US nuclear power industry would allow the US to dramatically reduce carbon emissions ... and to save money while doing so.  And it's a solution available today, without the need for years of additional research and development.  Its high time we pulled our heads out of the sand, and started using it to its full potential.



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A Note on the cost of the electricity.
By number999 on 2/28/2007 4:52:24 PM , Rating: 5
It should be noted that the cost of the electricity is for baseline electricity. That is the reactors are run at full power and the cost of the plant is amatorized over the production. This allows the billion dollar cost of the plant to paid out over it's lifetime.

In the case of a nuclear plant, the large cost is the cost of the plant and not the fuel. The plant has to be run at near full capacity to amatorize the capital cost of the plant.

This of course limits the usefullness of the plant to those base level outputs. Peak power usage will still need to be provided for by conventional or alternative sources, where the price/KWh will be much higher.

In the case of convention generation, the fuel costs are the main factor in the price of electricity and flexibility is of greater importance. In solar, the main cost would be the cost of the facility but the fuel is basically free and it matches the peak power usage curve but it is variable.

Nuclear may be able to be more flexible, but that would require more use of boiling water types, which can vary their output or the yet to be made modular types like the pebble bed or modification of the present pressurized light water reactors(which would cost a lot of money if possible at all).




By Ringold on 2/28/2007 7:10:12 PM , Rating: 2
That doesn't seem to be a huge drawback, however, considering they note the 7.5c/kwh cost of production alone for natural gas fired plants. They don't say what coal is, but wiki suggests 4.8-5.5c/kwh. I don't put much faith in wiki, but that still places nuclear costs much lower by Masher's links standards.

At 2.5c/kwh, could afford to, with nuclear, have twice as much baseline capacity as needed just for the purpose of scaling and covering most of the peak usage, I would think. A bunch of plants middling with 50% output would presumably then be 5c/kwh, or the same as coal. Just cleaner. I could be wrong, maybe that's not feasible, but the cost difference is pretty interesting none the less.


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