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Nuclear war between super funds

By Jim Green - posted Thursday, 11 July 2019

Indeed, the EIRP just uses guestimates provided by companies involved in Generation IV nuclear R&D, despite their obvious interest in guestimating low.

The EIRP researchers did at least have the decency to qualify their findings: 'There is inherent and significant uncertainty in projecting NOAK [nth-of-a-kind] costs from a group of companies that have not yet built a single commercial-scale demonstration reactor, let alone a first commercial plant.'

There is no such qualification in the ISA report, which is diminished by its use of the self-interested wishful thinking of the nuclear industry.


To give some sense as to how wishful that thinking can be, Westinghouse said in 2006 that it could build an AP1000 reactor for as little as US$1.4 billion - which is 10 times lower than the current estimate for the two AP1000 reactors currently under construction in the US. And the current estimate of the cost of building EPR reactors in the UK is seven times higher than the £2.0 billion estimate offered a decade ago.

The ISA report states that its 'high cost case' is based on the EPR reactor under construction in Finland, which it costs at US$6-7 billion per gigawatt (GW). (That's at the lower end of Lazard's range of US$6.5-12.5 billion per GWf or new nuclear plants.) And the ISA report states that 'the overnight capital cost of nuclear using the most expensive case is about twice the cost of on-shore wind and up to twice solar photovoltaic' … which hardly seems to be an advertisement for nuclear.

The report ignores the Hinkley Point construction project in the UK (two EPR reactors) as it 'seems to be an outlier in terms of technology and financial arrangements'. So the authors use the ridiculous EIRP cost estimates for non-existent Generation IV reactors but ignore cost estimates for reactors that are actually under construction … go figure. Hinkley weighs in at a hefty US$10.5 billion per GW. And the ISA report ignores the Vogtle twin-AP1000 project in the US state of Georgia, which is even worse at US$12.3+ billion per GW.

There's no mention of the V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (two AP1000 reactors), abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$12.9 billion, There's no mention of the bankruptcy of industry giants Westinghouse and Areva.

The nuclear industry is in crisis – but you wouldn't know it reading the ISA report. Nuclear lobbyists have themselves repeatedly acknowledged nuclear power's 'rapidly accelerating crisis', a 'crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West', 'the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries', while noting that 'the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies' and engaging each other in heated argumentsabout what if anything can be salvaged from the 'ashes of today's dying industry'.

Generation IV concepts


If the ISA report authors are entranced by Generation IV nuclear concepts, as their uncritical use of the EIRP report suggests, why not consider the estimated cost of prototypes under construction rather than ridiculous guestimates offered by nuclear companies? Argentina claims to be a world leader in the development of small modular reactors, but the estimated cost of the one SMR under construction in Argentina has ballooned to an absurd US$21.9 billion / GW. Likewise, estimated construction costs for Russia's floating nuclear power plant increased more than four-fold and now amount to over US$10 billion / GW.

ISA's chief economist and report co-author Stephen Anthony told the ABC that nuclear power 'looks awfully good'. But the only figures in the ISA report that make nuclear look good are the ridiculous guestimates provided by companies involved in Generation IV R&D. Nuclear doesn't look awfully good to the growing number of countries phasing out nuclear power ‒ a list that now includes Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Taiwan and South Korea. And it doesn't look awfully good to the nuclear lobbyists pondering what if anything can be salvaged from the 'ashes of today's dying industry' … it looks awful, not awfully good.

A 2015 report by the International Energy Agency and the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency said that 'generation IV technologies aim to be at least as competitive as generation III technologies … though the additional complexity of these designs, the need to develop a specific supply chain for these reactors and the development of the associated fuel cycles will make this a challenging task.'

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About the Author

Dr Jim Green is the editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter and the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

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