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Global nuclear industry quietly fizzling out

September 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear power future might be ended, with Hinkley Point C’s escalating costs

Could rising costs at Hinkley Point C end the UK’s nuclear ambitions?  New Scientist  25 September 2019, By Adam Vaughan   It’s nearly two years since Christmas turkeys were meant to be cooking with electricity from the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Today EDF Energy, the company building the vast 3.2 Gigawatt plant in Somerset in the UK, admits even the latest plan of delivering power by 2025 is at an increased risk of being missed.

EDF Energy says that “challenging ground conditions” mean costs could be £2.9 billion higher, taking the total bill to £22.9 billion. This might seem only of interest to EDF shareholders, given the controversial subsidy deal for the plant means consumers are protected from cost overruns.

But the potential significance of this is much bigger – it could cast a cloud over the UK’s hopes of a new wave of nuclear power plants. Ministers want more nuclear power in the energy mix alongside renewables, to meet carbon targets and provide continuous electricity supply.

Two Japanese companies have already pulled out of plans to build new nuclear plants in the UK, leaving EDF Energy’s designs for a second one at Sizewell in Suffolk as the main option. But the government’s proposed financial model for Sizewell C is very different to the one agreed for Hinkley. Unlike that deal, the “regulated asset base” (RAB) model under consultation for future plants would see consumers paying through energy bills while power stations are still being built.

The main trade-off with the RAB deal was that loading more construction risk onto consumers should make it cheaper to raise funds and therefore cheaper electricity, says Jonathan Marshall at non-profit the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

But the more delays and over-runs there are, it will add to concerns that consumers will be left to pick up an ever-increasing bill, he says. “Consumer groups and others that are against the new framework are going to point to the delays at Hinkley as evidence that billpayers will be liable to pay more than planned to bring new power stations online.”……

What are the alternatives? Some nuclear proponents think small modular reactors could do the job. But the technology for commercial ones is still years off and analysis suggests they could even be more costly than conventional large ones…….

September 28, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Weapons proliferation risk of nuclear power in space

Push for nuclear power in space sets off proliferation debate, Politico, By JACQUELINE FELDSCHER , 09/27/2019    NASA could place human missions to the moon or Mars in political jeopardy if it opts to use highly-enriched uranium as a power source in space, warns a leading specialist on nuclear proliferation.Astronauts living off of Earth for months at a time will need a reliable energy source for life support and to conduct experiments. But nuclear reactors using highly-enriched uranium, which is used in atomic bombs, will present a host of safety risks and diplomatic obstacles, says Alan Kuperman, the founding coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin.Kuperman is convening stakeholders on the issue next month, including Jeffrey Sheehy, the chief engineer in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), who serves on the committee that oversees NASA. The House-passed fiscal 2020 appropriations bill for NASA includes an amendment from Foster that directs NASA to focus its research on low-enriched uranium reactors.

“There’s a lot of opposition in Congress and in nonprofit groups to any further use of highly-enriched uranium,” Kuperman tells us. “So if NASA wants to use highly-enriched uranium for this space reactor, it might provoke opposition to space reactors in general.

“NASA is introducing political risks to its plan by going this highly-enriched uranium route,” he adds.

The Trump administration ordered NASA in August to craft guidelines for safely using nuclear reactors on Mars or the moon. NASA is also moving ahead with its nuclear power ambitions under it’s Kilopower project to build a highly-enriched uranium reactor that could deliver 10 kilowatts of electrical power continuously for at least 10 years. The space agency launched a study in fiscal 2019 with the Department of Energy to determine how both low and highly-enriched uranium could meet different needs. But the agency “has not made a final decision on highly-enriched uranium versus low-enriched uranium for surface power,” according to NASA spokeswoman Clare Skelly………

September 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear energy too slow, too expensive to save climate: report 

Nuclear energy too slow, too expensive to save climate: report, Marton DunaiGeert De Clercq, BUDAPEST/PARIS, 26 Sept 19  (Reuters) – Nuclear power is losing ground to renewables in terms of both cost and capacity as its reactors are increasingly seen as less economical and slower to reverse carbon emissions, an industry report said.

In mid-2019, new wind and solar generators competed efficiently against even existing nuclear power plants in cost terms, and grew generating capacity faster than any other power type, the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) showed.

Stabilizing the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow,” said Mycle Schneider, lead author of the report. “It meets no technical or operational need that low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper and faster.”

The report estimates that since 2009 the average construction time for reactors worldwide was just under 10 years, well above the estimate given by industry body the World Nuclear Association (WNA) of between 5 and 8.5 years.

The extra time that nuclear plants take to build has major implications for climate goals, as existing fossil-fueled plants continue to emit CO2 while awaiting substitution.

To protect the climate, we must abate the most carbon at the least cost and in the least time,” Schneider said.

The WNA said in an emailed statement that studies have shown that nuclear energy has a proven track record in providing new generation faster than other low-carbon options, and added that in many countries nuclear generation provides on average more low-carbon power per year than solar or wind.

It said that reactor construction times can be as short as four years when several reactors are built in sequence.

Nuclear is also much more expensive, the WNISR report said.

The cost of generating solar power ranges from $36 to $44 per megawatt hour (MWh), the WNISR said, while onshore wind power comes in at $29–$56 per MWh. Nuclear energy costs between $112 and $189.

Over the past decade, the WNISR estimates levelized costs – which compare the total lifetime cost of building and running a plant to lifetime output – for utility-scale solar have dropped by 88% and for wind by 69%.

For nuclear, they have increased by 23%, it said.

Capital flows reflect that trend. In 2018, China invested $91 billion in renewables but just $6.5 billion in nuclear.

In the United States, renewable capacity is expected to grow by 45 GW in the next three years, while nuclear and coal are set to retire a net 24 GW.

China, still the world’s most aggressive nuclear builder, has added nearly 40 reactors to its grid over the last decade, but its nuclear output was still a third lower than its wind generation.

Although several new nuclear plants are under construction, no new project has started in China since 2016.

Global nuclear operating capacity has increased 3.4% in the past year to 370 gigawatts, a new historic maximum, but with renewable capacity growing quickly, the share of nuclear in the world’s gross power generation has stayed at just over 10%.

In the decade to 2030, 188 new reactors would have to be connected to the grid to maintain the status quo, which is more than three times the rate achieved over the past decade, the WNISR estimates.

In May, the International Energy Agency warned that a steep decline in nuclear capacity will threaten climate goals, as advanced economies could lose 25% of their nuclear capacity by 2025.

Reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by Jan Harvey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

September 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment