What does it cost to build a nuclear plant? What could it cost?

March 2nd, 2008
submit to reddit Share

The economic arguments for and against nuclear energy are nothing new. Many anti-nukes have claimed that the plants are necessarily extremely expensive to construct. In practice this is generally not the case, because although the capital cost is high it is not much higher than most fossil fuel power plants and substantially lower than wind, solar or other “renewable” methods of generating electricity. The other claim made is that it cannot survive without subsidies, although the subsidies it does receive are quite low for the energy output.

However, when the capital costs of nuclear energy is examined, it becomes apparent that current policies are far from generous to any potential plant constructors. In fact, the way things are currently set up, the costs due to regulatory reasons are enormous.

Note: This post applies to the United States, because obviously the laws and regulations will vary from country to country, and therefore it’s necessary to limit things to one jurisdiction. However, the basic principle that administration cost more than materials and that the actual construction costs are not necessarily very high applies in to almost every nation.

Current Nuclear Plant Construction Cost:

The current theoretical overnight cost of constructing a nuclear power plant is about 2 to 2.5 billion dollars for a plant with two conventional reactors and generating about two gigawatts – a nominally sized plant. This compares favorably with fossil fuel plant. Westinghouse has estimated the cost of four power plants, each containing two AP1000 reactors and generating more than 2 gigawatts each to be about 8 billion US dollars. General Electric has stated that their new ESBWR design could reduce costs to below $1000 per kilowatt of installed capacity.

However, in practice the costs can be substantially more. The notorious construction of Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear station was an on-again-off-again saga of petitions, hearings and other typical government boondoggles which resulted in over a decade from ground breaking to completion of the reactor and cost billions more than was anticipated. This is not as unusual as it might seem. Since the 1970′s numerous nuclear power plants have gone over budget, and plans for plants have been shelved after years and many millions of dollars invested in planning and licensing expenses. The two billion dollar figure for a typical plant is the cost if things go as planned and regulatory expenses are limited to the standard approval costs. This is often not the case.

Over half of the cost of nuclear power plant construction is directly related to the cost of licensing, approval and other bureaucratic expenses. A recent proposal for plant construction by NuStar is expected to cost 520 million dollars for licensing. In other words, if everything goes according to plan, the company will have to spend half a billion dollars before they even break ground on the new plant. Although the license fees for any given power plant are only a few million dollars, the process requires numerous studies, surveys, hearings and can take many years. Each and every plant must be certified and each reactor on the site must go through the process, even if the plan is to build multiple identical reactors. Public hearings are conducted and petitions are accepted against the planned plant. Injunctions, hearings, contesting of studies and other such measures can add months or years.

Each plant is independently designed and each design is studied and approved as if it were the first of its kind, even if it is identical to others. Additionally, the reactor design must be licensed before it can be used in any plant. GE has been working on the certification process for the ESBWR for nearly ten years and is just getting to the final steps of the design certification process. Despite not selling a single reactor, they have already invested $400 million in the licensing process alone. The French firm Areva has stated that it will cost at least a quarter billion dollars for the design work needed to get one of their reactors approved in the United States, despite being approved in the European Union which has equally comprehensive safety standards. They also estimate the cost of designing a nuclear power plant at half a billion dollars. FOR EACH PLANT!

If this same procedure were applied to aircraft, then every Boeing 747 to roll off the assembly would have to go through the extensive flight testing and design certification that the original prototype went through in 1969, even if it was just an updated version of an existing aircraft. The process would also need to be repeated each time an existing aircraft received an engine upgrade or had the seats reupholstered.

By comparison to fossil fuel power plants:

Fossil fuel plants are not that much cheaper than nuclear plants, even despite the massive regulatory expenses in nuclear power plants. In fossil fuel plants, generally less than half the cost of construction is related directly to electricity generation – the turbines, generators and transformers. Most of the cost involves the fuel and combustion aspects of the plant.

The lowest cost of construction are natural gas fired. However, they are considerably more expensive to fuel. The cheapest of these are simple cycle plants. They can cost as little as $400 per kilowatt of capacity. Basically they’re just big jet engines that turn generators, however simple cycle plants are not very fuel effecient and due to the cost of natural gas, they are generally a poor investment. Combined cycle plants get much better effeciency by using the heat from the gas turbines to boil water and create additional usable energy. They can cost over twice as much, however, due to the need for complex systems of water circulating, cooling and regulation. Due to the high cost of natural gas, these plants tend to invest a lot of capital in squeezing out as much effeciency as possible. In both cases, however, a large portion of the expense may also be the need for pipelines, storage tanks and other infrastructure to deliver and store the fuel.

In the case of coal fired plants, the cost has risen substantially in recent years because of the enviornmental standards which require, at minimum, some kind of scrubber for the exhaust. In many circumstances the need for complex flu gas treatment may become a large portion of the cost. Additionally, these plants are required to handle enormous amounts of coal. For inland plants, this means a dedicated railroad yard and handing capacity for up to three or four mile-long coal trains per day. For plants located near navigable water, equally large coal handling for barges is required. In some cases, pipelines pump coal slurry to the plants or conveners carry it from nearby mines. The plants must be able to handle millions of pounds of this coal and feed it to the furnaces while at the same time removing tons and tons of ash as well as contaminated water and fly ash from the flu gas. This is one reason why old coal plants are often kept open long past their prime: They were cheaper to construct and run because they don’t always have to meet newer standards. For this reason, costs of $1300 per kilowatt are not unusual, even for the simpler “non clean coal” plants with minimal flu gas treatment.

The (better) Alternative:

Considering the enormous amount of regulation involved, the capital cost of a power plant is quite high, even if generous subsidies are provided. An alternative means of encouraging power plant construction is to reduce costs associated with regulations and create a more streamlined process. If the goal of a government is clean energy, then it obviously makes sense to reduce the barriers to nuclear energy. The basic concept which has been put forward is to certify the reactor design by a standardized comprehensive but effecient process. Once this is done, then standard designs for reactors can be installed with only basic individual certification.

The mass production and “certify once, build many” process does not mean that there is any reduced safety. Quite the opposite is true because the savings allow for investing more in stronger, more durable reactor systems. It also means that all the resources committed to licensing can be focused where it matters most: on the reactor design, rather than reinventing the wheel each time.

A good example of why this approach works compares naval reactors to civilian reactors. In civilian power plants extensive site surveys for seismic activity are required. All systems are tested to the highest structure for quake readiness and any sign of local seismic activity or active faults could disqualify a nuclear plant site. Yet, in the US Navy, the modular approach to safety, in which the reactor systems are designed for safe encapsulation, the reactor systems are intended to work just fine in choppy seas, rapid changes in angle and even if upside down, should a submarine end up unbalanced or roll over, something which is not out of the question. They are intended to operate with nearly 100% reliable even if they are shook by depth charges or have adjacent compartments become flooded. The safety record speaks for itself.

So what is the actual cost a nuclear power plant can be built for?

In order to determine the minimum cost of a nuclear power plant, it is necessary to separate the regulatory and governmental costs and determine simply what the physical cost is for the materials needed and the labor to construct the plant. This is not as easy as it sounds, since many of the components of the nuclear power plant have built-in regulatory costs. What follows is a general ballpark estimate in US dollars for the cost of a nuclear power plant construction by adding up the estimated cost of the systems needed for a power plant.

The estimates are derived from reported costs of construction of general purpose structures and items and the contracts which have been issued for major components of thermal power plants or related systems to various companies. The estimate are based on real world costs as they are now, although some might argue that these costs could be lower if the mass-production approach were applied to other components of a power plant, as might be the case in a large nuclear energy initiative.

One of the costs which is the most difficult to pin down is the cost of the reactor and reactor systems, since the regulatory costs and other administrative fees are built in. In this case, the cost represents integral boiling water or pressurized water reactors in the Generation III+ family. Newer reactor designs, such as the Pebble Bed or the Molten Salt Reactor could be considerably less costly (or more costly) to construct, but as such reactors have not yet been deployed commercially, this is more difficult to be certain of. The estimates are based primarily on information from Westinghouse relating to the construction and installation costs of reactors as well as some of the cost and feasibility studies done for the IRIS reactor.

Some have suggested that a modular reactor system could be built for under a few million dollars. In theory, this might be possible, and some of the smaller experimental reactors such as the Aircraft Reactor Experiment and Project Pluto were able to construct working reactors for, by modern standards, extremely low costs. A nuclear reactor is not necessarily as complicated a piece of equipment as one might think. Most of the design considerations are related to control systems and other incidental factors. The actual reactor, however, is basically just a big pressure vessel. Depending on the size of the vessel, it may or may not require specialized heavy industrial processes to fabricate. Modern power reactors can take up to two or three years from order to delivery, however mass production and modular fabrication has been demonstrated on comperable industrial equipment. Nuclear energy concepts which rely on multiple reactors of smaller size or do not need a single high pressure vessel, such as the CANDU reactor avoid this limitation.

Physical Cost Breakdown:

 

Non-Power Related:

Land Acquisition and Clearing: 0~5 million USD

Administrative office building: 20 million USD

Fixtures and other incidental: 2 million USD

Roads and parking: 500,000 USD

Other Misc: 500,000 USD

~25 million dollars

Security:

Perimeter security (fence, gate, systems): 2 million USD

Guardhouse, other security: 2 million USD

On-site emergency services: 4 million USD

Four One Megawatt diesel generators: 250,000 USD

Six 125 kilowatt diesel generators: 200,000 USD

Uninterruptible Power systems: 150,000 USD

Control Room Systems and Redundancy: 1 million USD

~10 million dollars

Power Generating:

Steam Turbine Generator Sets: 160 million USD

Piping, cooling, regulation: 30 million USD

Turbine building: 10 million UDS

Misc support and service equipment: 5 million USD

Transformers and switching: 15 million USD

~220 Million dollars

Based on these broad estimates, it appears that the non-nuclear aspects of a thermal power plant as well as the necessary security and administrative infrastructure will be of a cost of approximately a quarter billion US dollars. It may very well be less than this, as the estimates are generous. It may also be somewhat more due to other expenses. This cost does not include the infrastructure – the running of transmission lines to the plant site. Because nuclear power plants do not require constant fueling, pipelines or other fuel delivery systems are not necessary.

These costs, however, could be substantially less if the nuclear power plant is replacing an existing fossil fuel power plant. Electrical switching equipment, transformers and transmission lines can be reused in the new plant. Additionally, generators could be refurbished and reused for some or all of the power generation. Turbine-generator sets can theoretically be reused, however most fossil fuel plants run at a lower pressure than nuclear plants and therefore reusing some or all turbines may or may not be possible, depending on the circumstances.

Nuclear Related:

Containment Structures: 40 million USD
Fueling and Spent Fuel Handling: 20 million USD
Reactor and Reactor subsystems: 150-200 million USD

Therefore, the physical cost of constructing a nuclear power plant, using existing systems and generation III+ reactor technology could be reasonably estimated at as low as half a billion US Dollars for a two gigawatt capacity plant. In reality, however, there will always be some administrative costs. This only represents the “overnight cost†of the construction. In other words, it does not include interest on loans or bonds used to build the plant, which will vary depending on how much of the capital is borrowed. There will also be a need for insurance, taxes on items and some regulatory and licensing fees. It hardly seems unreasonable that the necessary inspections and design considerations could be accomplished for under one hundred million dollars, especially considering that this would be much higher than the approval costs of nearly any non-nuclear installation of equal or greater enviornmental hazard.

Therefore, our theoretical nuclear power plant can clearly be built for well under one billion US Dollars and quite possibly under half a billion US dollars. It may even be as low as a quarter of a billion US dollars, if it were to replace an existing fossil fuel plant. Considering that nuclear power generation has a considerably lower fuel cost than other methods, even with the once through fuel cycle, and a substantially lower cost when advanced fuel cycles are employed, the return on such an investment would be enormous. Some of the advanced fuel cycles that make use of on-site reprocessing or even continuous reprocessing and can make use of alternative fuel cycles like thorium could cut the already low cost of fuel for reactors much further. And maybe, just maybe, could it someday be “too cheap to meter?” Perhaps we’ll find out.

Now, when can we get started on this?

Sources of data for capital estimates:
Toshiba Secures Large Order for Supercritical Steam Turbine Generator
Foster Wheeler Wins $200 Million Contract to Supply 19 Heat-Recovery Steam Generators
Alstom Secures Contract for Steam Turbine Generator Set

Information on Substations, Transmission and Transformers
Electric Energy Online
Outlook on Industrial Structure Construction
Power Plant to Get Cooling Upgrade
Brayton Point Power Plant: Weigh Costs to Benefit On Cooling Systems
Emergency Planning and Response for Nuclear Emergencies
Indian Point Energy Center

Floating Nuclear Plant news

Emergency Service Equipment Costs
Palo Alto hopes to buy $3.5 million generator
Generators Direct
Bodyguard Security Services
Perimeter E-Security Systems
Zareba Systems to Ship Perimeter Security Products
Economics of New Nuclear Power Plants
European Pressurized Reactor
Wikipedia: IRIS Reactor

Iris Reactor Official Site
Iris Project Overview
Advanced Reactor Systems
SSTAR Reactor Theoretical Cost


This entry was posted on Sunday, March 2nd, 2008 at 8:20 pm and is filed under Enviornment, Good Science, Nuclear, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions

83 Responses to “What does it cost to build a nuclear plant? What could it cost?”

Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

  1. 51
    Robert Sneddon Says:

    Re: the Elizabeth Class carriers for the Royal Navy.

    Basically they’re too small to use nuclear propulsion effectively. They’re only a bit over 50,000 tonnes, about half the size of an American CVN. RN subs use Rolls-Royce nuclear powerplants for reasons of stealth, allowing them high speed underwater for extended durations and the ability to complete an entire patrol lasting weeks without surfacing. Carriers are not stealthy, stay on the surface (assuming nothing goes wrong) and non-nuclear air-breathing propulsion systems will work OK. The Elizabeths will use gas turbines feeding generators powering electric drive motors, not conventional direct-drive steam turbines. Most new military ship designs are going this route.

    The US has a lot of experience building large carriers (or as submariners call them, “targets”) and nuclear propulsion is acceptable and desirable for them, although it does not actually extend their unsupported range much as aircraft fuel needs to be RAS-tankered on a regular basis, especially in a case of war op-tempo (lots of flights = lots of avgas burned = lots of RAS operations).


    Quote Comment
  2. 52
    Burya Rubenstein Says:

            Robert Sneddon said:

    Re: the Elizabeth Class carriers for the Royal Navy.

    The US has a lot of experience building large carriers (or as submariners call them, “targets”) and nuclear propulsion is acceptable and desirable for them, although it does not actually extend their unsupported range much as aircraft fuel needs to be RAS-tankered on a regular basis, especially in a case of war op-tempo (lots of flights = lots of avgas burned = lots of RAS operations).

    What about nuclear powered airplanes? Critical mass for U-235 looks small compared to the mass of a fighter craft.


    Quote Comment
  3. 53
    Robert Sneddon Says:

            Burya Rubenstein said:

    What about nuclear powered airplanes? Critical mass for U-235 looks small compared to the mass of a fighter craft.

    The reactor would be too big and heavy, that’s the simple answer. The US designed a heavy bomber in the late 40s, the propellor-driven NB-36 which was meant to stay in the air for months as a permanently positioned attack threat to the Soviets. Never got built and the logistics of operating it were horrific (it couldn’t land anywhere near human habitation, for example). “Steam Bird” by Hilbert Schenck is a fun piece of fiction centred around this plane when it is commandeered by a bunch of steam train enthusiasts…

    There is a way of fuelling aircraft though, which is to generate hydrogen on-board the carrier using water electrolysis powered by the reactors, liquefy it and use that to fuel aircraft. However LH2 fuel for aircraft is not a developed technology and I don’t think anyone is seriously working on it.

    LH2 aircraft have one great advantage though, it makes it possible to stealth the airframe against infra-red detection. The LH2 would be pumped through thin tubes on the aircraft’s underside before being fed to the engines, thus cooling the airframe to something like ambient temperature and making it more difficult to detect.

    In a real war though there’d still be supply problems, of getting enough munitions to the carrier for example. The escort ships in the carrier’s battlegroup also need supplying which tends to negate the “no-fuel” carrier operations concept.


    Quote Comment
  4. 54
    Charles Barton Says:

    Re: the Elizabeth Class carriers for the Royal Navy.

    The real reason the Elizabeth Class carriers do not have nuclear power plants has nothing to do with their size. Far smaller, nuclear powered cruisers have been built by the United States Navy. http://www.radiationworks.com/nuclearships.htm

    The issue has to do with costs. The brits don’t want to spring for the extra cost of the reactors. But as fuel oil costs rise, they will regret the decision.


    Quote Comment
  5. 55
    DV82XL Says:

    For the record, it wasn’t the reactor which was too heavy for the NB-36 nuclear aircraft project, it was the shielding.


    Quote Comment
  6. 56
    Robert Sneddon Says:

            Charles Barton said:

    Re: the Elizabeth Class carriers for the Royal Navy.

    The real reason the Elizabeth Class carriers do not have nuclear power plants has nothing to do with their size. Far smaller, nuclear powered cruisers have been built by the United States Navy. http://www.radiationworks.com/nuclearships.htm

    Yes, but Britain hasn’t built any ship reactors bigger than the ones for the Vengeance-class Trident boomers (which are 10,000 tonnes). It was considered doing the old Enterprise trick of ganging up smaller ship reactors (as I remember the ‘Prise had eight) but that isn’t easy or particularly cost-effective. Unless we shell out a few billion dollars and buy American large-ship reactors for the Elizabeths (assuming the US would sell them to us in the first place) then we’d have to go through a long expensive design process to homebuild just two reactors for these carriers. After the Elizabeths are built there won’t be any more constructed for thirty years or more as we no longer have an worldwide Empire to control and domnate. In the case of the US it has a production line for a constant supply of replacement floating airstrips to rule its colonies and possessions abroad and this justifies using nuclear propulsion for the supercarriers.

    Conventional propulsion will work, we can build and maintain it ourselves and fuel costs are not an important part of the operating budget compared to the other running costs of a carrier, such as avgas and salaries. The British carriers won’t spend as much time at sea as a US carrier task group does, too.

    We’d also have to build new dockyard facities to handle nuke carriers for refueling and power-plant maintenance whereas the Elizabeths can be handled by any large port facility capable of taking VLCCs and ULCCs (or Disney cruiseliners), another reduction in TCO.


    Quote Comment
  7. 57
    Burya Rubenstein Says:

            DV82XL said:

    For the record, it wasn’t the reactor which was too heavy for the NB-36 nuclear aircraft project, it was the shielding.

    Aren’t there relatively lightweight materials capable of blocking neutrons, based on woven quartz fibres? I heard
    rumors of this back in college, from (I think) visitors fron Hughs Aircraft.


    Quote Comment
  8. 58
    Charles Barton Says:

    Aren’t there relatively lightweight materials capable of blocking neutrons, based on woven quartz fibres? I heard rumors of this back in college, from (I think) visitors fron Hughs Aircraft. – Burya Rubenstein

    There is one, its called concrete, Well it is lighter than lead!


    Quote Comment
  9. 59
    RBR78 Says:

    I understand all the things said here but we are already putting a few billion into each of the new carriers to begin with. I am disappointed that we could not go nuclear because it would allow the carriers to be much faster and have unlimited endurance and power to launch aircraft and all. Yes we could team them up or buy one from the states or maybe even France. or maybe we could try to scale up the design we have?

    It may not be the best financially but I’m still disappointed


    Quote Comment
  10. 60
    Soylent Says:

            DV82XL said:

    For the record, it wasn’t the reactor which was too heavy for the NB-36 nuclear aircraft project, it was the shielding.

    The russians managed to actually test a successful prototype. Too bad they had to omit shielding and kill some of the crew.


    Quote Comment
  11. 61
    Dave G Says:

    Is it really the neutrons that are the problem or is it the gamma that is the problem? Nuetrons seem like they would be easier to block because you don’t necessarily need heavy material like lead and such. I was thinking that putting water between the crew and the reactor because you’d need potable water tanks anyway for long duration missions. Then borated polyethylene which is the standard for neutron blocking. Basically Boron is usually what is used for neutron sheilding because it absorbes neutrons well. At least boron-10. which they sometimes enrich for special applications. It would depend on if the neutrons are fast or thermal how much you have to slow them down. Thermal would be easier to shield.

    The ionizing radiation I think you just need something dense (lead, concrete, tungsten) and a lot of it which is more difficult.


    Quote Comment
  12. 62
    Dave G Says:

    It seems to me the best way to sheild the crew would be to put as much of the needed equipment between them and the reactor as you could. Food storage, water, bomb payload, various hydraulic systems compressors, radar sets, radio equipment, generators, auxilar power and whatever else. Make the plane long and thin. Crew at one end and reactor at the other. All the stuff you need to keep the aircraft flying goes between.


    Quote Comment
  13. 63
    KLA Says:

    I still have a tiny toy plastic car from the 1950′s around somwhere. It was a “model” of what a car in the year 2000 will look like. It looks roughly like a pickup truck of today. It has a long covered “truck bed” because in the very back is supposed to be the nuclear reactor that powers it for a 25 year refueling interval. The length of the “bed” was to get the passengers and driver away from the reactor radiation. It came with a little brochure describing it that I unfortunately don’t have anymore.


    Quote Comment
  14. 64
    DV82XL Says:

    The Ford Nucleon was a nuclear-powered concept car developed by Ford Motor Company in 1958. No operational models were built.


    Quote Comment
  15. 65
    Chem Geek Gregor Says:

    Yeah I remember hearing about/seeing that. I don’t see why it’s not doable but not really worth the extreme expense and also not exactly safe. I think we can agree that nuclear reactors are not safe when you give an idiot the complete control of how they operate. If you look at what some people do to their cars I don’t know you want people sooping up the reactor in their garage.


    Quote Comment
  16. 66
    DV82XL Says:

    Guess we will have to wait for Mr. Fusion to power our cars then.


    Quote Comment
  17. 67
    aniMattor Says:

    Dear pro-nuclear educated crowd.

    … Specifically, how much radioactive waste is produced of all grades (per gigawatt say),…

    Sorry to jump back up the topic, but I didn’t see a direct answer to this, and I’ve run across this figure a lot lately:

    Quote from here: http://www.nmcco.com/education/facts/waste/waste_home.htm

    “All of the country’s nuclear power plants together produce about 2,000 metric tons of used fuel annually.”

    It goes on to say that the total volume of nuclear waste produced in the US over 40 years would fill a football field to a depth of fifteen feet.


    Quote Comment
  18. 68
    DV82XL Says:

    “…the total volume of nuclear waste produced in the US over 40 years would fill a football field to a depth of fifteen feet.”

    Or about a golf ball sized chunk for every man, woman and child in the U.S.


    Quote Comment
  19. 69
    Rick Mercer Says:

    According to Argonne National Lab, an airplane crashing into a nuclear power plant could cause a complete meltdown, even if the containment building isn’t breached. Sounds like a tempting terrorist target to me.

    When you say wind is heavily subsidised, you are throwing out disinformation. The subisidies for all of the alternative energies are a small fraciton of the subsidies and tax credits that the oil and gas industries receive. Coal and nuclear are also susidised heavily.


    Quote Comment
  20. 70
    DV82XL Says:

            Rick Mercer said:

    According to Argonne National Lab, an airplane crashing into a nuclear power plant could cause a complete meltdown, even if the containment building isn’t breached. Sounds like a tempting terrorist target to me.

    Actually the report you are talking about says only that such an event could cause a loss of cooling, this may not necessarily lead to a full excursion of the core.

    Without question, sophisticated and well-organized terrorists could do damage to nuclear power plants, and such attempts cannot be ruled out. However, to be appealing to a suicidal terrorist cell, a potential mission must offer the prospect of appreciable havoc with a high probability of success. A terrorist assault on a nuclear power plant would attract a lot of attention, and some types of attack could conceivably prompt a limited evacuation. However, the chance of dangerous release of radioactivity to the atmosphere is remote, and there seems to be no credible way that any members of the public could be seriously irradiated. Many easier and more lucrative targets (where damage could be comparable to the World Trade Center disaster) are available for terrorists to attack.


    Quote Comment
  21. 71
    Ken Macdonald Says:

    My question is: If a US Submarine or CVN Carrier were taken out of service, would it be possible to modify its use as a floating Nuclear Power plant, thus eliminating the need for earthquake protection. Imagine an area that is contained, somewhat like a Resevoir and having a decomissioned and modified floating vessel that has been reconditioned for the sole purpose to produce Electricity. What do you think the cost would be to do this? Depending on the condition of the vessel, it might not be that expensive, compared to building it from ground up on land. It could use the water surrounding it as a shock absorber, as well as a containment area if something were to go wrong. Just an idea to lessen the cost, provide cheap energy, and keep the CO2 levels near nothing.


    Quote Comment
  22. 72
    Anon Says:

            Ken Macdonald said:

    My question is: If a US Submarine or CVN Carrier were taken out of service, would it be possible to modify its use as a floating Nuclear Power plant, thus eliminating the need for earthquake protection.

    You’d need to do some pretty serious modifications since most of the power output of those is mechanical to the propeller shaft, not electricity (unless the limited electricity used for ships systems is enough for you and you’re willing to run it at low power all the time).

    Unless you were doing a very significant drawdown in Naval strength those ships when they do reach the age at which they need to be retired would probably need a lot of work done on their reactors to last another 20 years.

            Ken Macdonald said:

    Imagine an area that is contained, somewhat like a Resevoir and having a decomissioned and modified floating vessel that has been reconditioned for the sole purpose to produce Electricity. What do you think the cost would be to do this? Depending on the condition of the vessel, it might not be that expensive, compared to building it from ground up on land. It could use the water surrounding it as a shock absorber, as well as a containment area if something were to go wrong. Just an idea to lessen the cost, provide cheap energy, and keep the CO2 levels near nothing.

    Floating nuclear power plants would be easy to reposition if demand changes quickly but whilst you wouldn’t have the earthquake issue you would have other issues to deal with (like what happens if the reactor ends up upside down, not something land based power plant designers tend to worry about).

    Earthquake protection wouldn’t add all that much to the cost anyway, at least compared to things like core catchers that can’t improve safety.


    Quote Comment
  23. 73
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Ken Macdonald said:

    My question is: If a US Submarine or CVN Carrier were taken out of service, would it be possible to modify its use as a floating Nuclear Power plant, thus eliminating the need for earthquake protection. Imagine an area that is contained, somewhat like a Resevoir and having a decomissioned and modified floating vessel that has been reconditioned for the sole purpose to produce Electricity. What do you think the cost would be to do this? Depending on the condition of the vessel, it might not be that expensive, compared to building it from ground up on land. It could use the water surrounding it as a shock absorber, as well as a containment area if something were to go wrong. Just an idea to lessen the cost, provide cheap energy, and keep the CO2 levels near nothing.

    Floating nuclear power plants are a great idea. I’d say build them on barges, since they won’t need to navigate around much thus making an efficient hull design for cruising the waves unimportant. This is already something that has been done with gas power plants. In New York City there are several barge-based gas turbine power plants that were brought in. The USS Sturgis was used as a floating nuclear power plant for the panama canal zone for some time. They just used an old Liberty Ship and put a reactor in it. Today the Russians are working on floating power plant designs.

    However, the issue of using naval vessels has some problems:

    First and foremost, the reactors, as mentioned, are coupled to steam turbines that drive propeller shafts. I suppose you could put generators in their place, but that would involve opening the ship and changing a lot of the structure. They have generators that can produce a few megawatts or more of electricity, but hardly enough to make it worthwhile.

    The reactors on naval vessels are not very big. On submarines they are only something like 25 megawatts of shaft horsepower for attack submarines and 45 megawatts for Ohio Class ballistic missile subs. That’s very small by grid standards – hardly worth the effort involved. On Nimitz Class carriers, there are two reactors, each putting out 104 megawatts. That’s a bit better, but still not huge.

    There are other problems. These reactors are designed to run on highly enriched uranium. That gives them extremely long core lives, but it’s very expensive and HEU is hard to get licensed for any civilian use. They might be capable of using lower enrichment fuel with heavy modifications, but this presents other problems. IT would still need to be higher enrichment than standard civil nuclear fuel, and it would reduce the core life by a lot. Naval reactors are not designed to be easy to refuel, because they are not refueled often. They only get refueled during the major overhauls of the ship, which happen once or maybe twice in the ship’s lifetime. There’s no easy access to the reactor cores because of this.

    Also, using something like an aircraft carrier for a power plant is not all that practical. It’s an enormous vessel, most of which would not be necessary for that role. It has a lot of auxiliary systems that would either need maintenance or need to be removed.

    The US Navy is also uncomfortable with turning over recent ships to civilian use because of the potential for compromising their weapons systems. They really don’t want everyone to know where all the water tight bulkheads, fuel tanks, fire suppression systems and so on are on modern vessels.

    The other thing is there are not that many ships to be used in this capacity, even if you wanted to. Submarines are too small to be much use. I’d have to say that only the reactors on a carrier would be even remotely worth connecting to grid plants, because 25 megawatts is just not worth the trouble.

    The USS Enterprise is likely to be retired in a couple of years. It was supposed to be 2013, but it may be 2014 or 2015, depending on when the USS Gerald Ford is ready. The Enterprise is a unique design. She has eight small reactors to provide a total of 210 MW of power. It turns out to be a lot of work and expense to maintain that kind of a power system. The reactors are old and need more care than newer ones and having eight of them increases the expense.

    After that the Nimitz may require some time around 2018.

    So it is not likely to work out


    Quote Comment
  24. 74
    Anon Says:

    French and Chinese submarines do use electric motors and so would be ready from the factory for generating most of their power as electricity so all you’d need to do it with one of those would be to overhaul the reactor and run cables to the submarine.

    Though there aren’t many of either and with China growing it doesn’t look like they’ll be retiring any submarines early (and I doubt France would replace their existing ones if they can avoid it).


    Quote Comment
  25. 75
    Enough Wind to Power Global Energy Demand: New Research Examines Limits, Climate... - Political Wrinkles Says:

    [...] It may not fulfill every energy need, it may be costly initially, but what initial set up isn't ( Depleted Cranium Blog Archive What does it cost to build a nuclear plant? What could it cost?) such as the cost to build nuclear power plants. But we can sit back, whine and complain, or we [...]


    Quote Comment
  26. 76
    Ethan Unit Says:

    Wouldn’t a reactor in space be more simple than a reactor submerged or floating in water? The questions are, would emergency systems be necessary and how would we get the energy back to earth? We could remotely control it with computer systems. Nuclear-engineering trained astronauts could be sent to check any errors sent back from comms. There are plenty of ways to send energy back to Earth if this type could be built. We could use radiation emitters and receivers targeted at certain stations to and from Earth.

    There is a new idea floating around the nerd-bars and high tech professions, Molecular Photons. these molecules (no longer theoretical) could be used as a “energy Bus” for high levels of energy between stations and to Earth.

    Ambient temperature would keep space located systems cool and act as a very large cushion for any hazardous events.

    It would cost more, obviously, but at least we wouldn’t have a bunch of hippies and paperwork involved… just money…. lots of it


    Quote Comment
  27. 77
    Anon Says:

            Ethan Unit said:

    Wouldn’t a reactor in space be more simple than a reactor submerged or floating in water?

    Not necessarily, a space reactor wouldn’t be able to rely on gravity (many of our earth designs wouldn’t function in free fall) and would also require a large radiator.

    Of course a reactor for the moon or mars could be basically the same as an earth reactor if you only intend to start it up once you bury it.

            Ethan Unit said:

    The questions are, would emergency systems be necessary

    Depends on the design, but if it’s a manned mission I doubt you could get away with less than what an earth based reactor would have (though you wouldn’t fully shield the reactor, only the part that faces the crew).

            Ethan Unit said:

    and how would we get the energy back to earth?

    If you want to use nuclear power to make electricity for use of Earth you build your reactor on earth, space nuclear power is for use in space use.

            Ethan Unit said:

    We could remotely control it with computer systems. Nuclear-engineering trained astronauts could be sent to check any errors sent back from comms. There are plenty of ways to send energy back to Earth if this type could be built. We could use radiation emitters and receivers targeted at certain stations to and from Earth.

    But what is the point of launching a reactor into space if all you’re going to do is beam the power it produces back to Earth? You could build a reactor on earth much more cheaply than a space reactor, microwave transmitters and surface rectenna.

    Beaming space collected solar power to earth makes sense since that way you can actually make solar reliable enough to be worth using, but nuclear power on earth doesn’t have the problems solar power does.

            Ethan Unit said:

    There is a new idea floating around the nerd-bars and high tech professions, Molecular Photons. these molecules (no longer theoretical) could be used as a “energy Bus” for high levels of energy between stations and to Earth.

    Highly doubtful, at least in the near turn.

            Ethan Unit said:

    Ambient temperature would keep space located systems cool and act as a very large cushion for any hazardous events.

    You don’t know much about the space environment do you?

    There are three ways to get rid of heat, and the two most effective don’t work in space.

            Ethan Unit said:

    It would cost more, obviously, but at least we wouldn’t have a bunch of hippies and paperwork involved… just money…. lots of it

    Oh yes, like how no one ever protested the launch of a nuclear powered space probe.</sarcasm>


    Quote Comment
  28. 78
    BMS Says:

            Anon said:

    There are three ways to get rid of heat, and the two most effective don’t work in space.

    Heh … no kidding. There’s nothing like taking your reactor, which needs an effective heat sink to convert heat to electricity, and sticking it in a huge insulating environment.

    There’s a reason why a thermos is also called a “vacuum flask.”


    Quote Comment
  29. 79
    DV82XL Says:

            Ethan Unit said:

    Wouldn’t a reactor in space be more simple than a reactor submerged or floating in water?

    As it has been explained above, it is not. More to the point this notion is based on the assumption that nuclear power is inherently dangerous and this is simply not the case. Hydropower has killed many more people than nuclear power. About 1,000 Americans have died in dam collapses in the past 100 years. Dam collapses caused by a typhoon in China in 1975 killed 26,000 people immediately; another 145,000 people later died of disease and famine. The waste from coal-burning plants is much greater in volume and more harmful than from nuclear generators. Coal plants emit far more radioactive materials than nuclear plants do; each year a 1,000-megawatt coal plant disperses about 27 metric tons of uranium, thorium and other radioactive substances. Coals plants also emit mercury and other toxins, in addition of course to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. An estimated 24,000 Americans die prematurely per annum because of pollution from coal plants; in China, the number is 400,000.

    In short there is no good reason why one would go to the expense and bother of basing nuclear powerplants in space.


    Quote Comment
  30. 80
    DV82XL Says:

            Anon said:

    Beaming space collected solar power to earth makes sense since that way you can actually make solar reliable enough to be worth using

    You know there is not much of a difference between a beam transferring energy from orbit to be collected for the generation of electric power and a space-based directed energy weapon at the power density that would make the former practical. In fact the only real difference would be the choice of target being serviced and the end effect. It surprises me that those that wish to see nuclear technologies suppressed due to perceived risks of N-weapon proliferation seem comfortable with the idea of space-based solar.


    Quote Comment
  31. 81
    BMS Says:

            DV82XL said:

    It surprises me that those that wish to see nuclear technologies suppressed due to perceived risks of N-weapon proliferation seem comfortable with the idea of space-based solar.

    It doesn’t surprise me, because both of these desires result from the same root cause: a clear lack of critical thinking skills.


    Quote Comment
  32. 82
    Anon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    You know there is not much of a difference between a beam transferring energy from orbit to be collected for the generation of electric power and a space-based directed energy weapon at the power density that would make the former practical.

    The SPS proposals were for a power density about comparable to sunlight and using active feedback to focus the beam so that moving it away from the rectenna would cause it to defocus (a form of inherent safety based on the laws of physics much like Gen IV reactors).

            DV82XL said:

    In fact the only real difference would be the choice of target being serviced and the end effect. It surprises me that those that wish to see nuclear technologies suppressed due to perceived risks of N-weapon proliferation seem comfortable with the idea of space-based solar.

    I strongly suspect that if space solar looked like it might actually happen soon that much of the anti-nuclear movement would oppose it as their paymasters at the fossil fuel companies would want.


    Quote Comment
  33. 83
    DV82XL Says:

            Anon said:

    The SPS proposals were for a power density about comparable to sunlight and using active feedback to focus the beam so that moving it away from the rectenna would cause it to defocus (a form of inherent safety based on the laws of physics much like Gen IV reactors).

    Yes,yes, but it the potential ‘dual use’ aspect that needs to be considered, don’t you know.

            Anon said:

    I strongly suspect that if space solar looked like it might actually happen soon that much of the anti-nuclear movement would oppose it as their paymasters at the fossil fuel companies would want.

    But of course.


    Quote Comment

Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string 6foRiF to the field below:

*

Protected by WP Anti Spam