Utilities: Convert coal to nuke?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/utilities-want-to-convert-coal-…

**Utilities Want to Convert Coal Plants to Nuclear; Skeptics Abound**
**States and utilities are looking at placing small nuclear reactors at former coal plants, but the technology and economics remain unproven**

**By Jennifer Hiller, The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 18, 2022**

**U.S. utilities and startup firms are trying to convince lawmakers, regulators and customers that they can convert aging coal power plants to house small nuclear reactors, a so-far unproven way to deliver electricity.**

**The burgeoning idea would place fleets of small, modular nuclear reactors at or near former coal-fired power plants and is taking hold across the electricity industry. Utility companies see it as a way to repurpose coal plants they are set to retire and are joining with startups developing the reactors, looking to tap into billions of dollars in federal funding....**

**At the earliest, U.S. reactors could be available later this decade. ...** [end quote]

Lots of players, lots of issues. I think it’s a neat idea, but putting it into reality would be a heavy haul.

Just one large nuclear plant is under construction in the U.S.: Southern Co.’s expansion of its Vogtle facility in Georgia, more than five years delayed and billions of dollars over its initial projected cost.

Dozens of small-modular-reactor developers globally are testing designs, and Russia has two SMRs producing electricity, though they took years longer to deliver than expected. And Russia can arrest dissenters while the U.S. will be up to its earlobes in anti-nuke environmentalists and NIMBYs the minute a location is announced.

I don’t see small modular nuclear reactors as a currently investable idea. I’d put it several rungs below crypto currency as a potential investment for me. But I would like to see it succeed because I think the flexibility to back up other non-carbon-based energy sources would be beneficial.

Wendy

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Bill Gates is funding development of small modular nuclear reactors.

Agreed there is not enough data to invest at this time. But people are working on getting that info and the data for regulatory approval.

I agree we should wish them all success but wait for the numbers before we decide.

Bill Gates is funding development of small modular nuclear reactors.

Not only that, but Gates plans to put his first small modular reactor (SMR) at the location of an existing coal-fired power plant in western Wyoming. The plant is currently operated by Berkshire Hathaway’s Pacificorp. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are long-time friends.

https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-terrapower-wyomin…

I doubt the SMR will be incorporated much into the coal plant itself. They will probably just utilize the existing electrical switchyard to send out the power, and perhaps use some of the existing water supply for cooling.

Because coal-fired power plants generally operate at higher temperatures and pressures, today’s light water reactors would not work to incorporate directly into a coal plant. They would probably need to use high temperature gas-cooled reactors. The good news is those plants can be designed with extreme passive safety, making meltdown very unlikely under any postulated accident scenario. The bad news is the US doesn’t build or operate those kinds of plants. Yet.

China recently started up a new gas-cooled high temperature reactor.
https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Demonstration-HT…

China has built and started many nuclear power plants in the last 15 years, the large majority on-time and on-budget. It can be done, if there is a commitment to building several plants in succession.

  • Pete
14 Likes

China has built and started many nuclear power plants in the last 15 years, the large majority on-time and on-budget. It can be done, if there is a commitment to building several plants in succession.

  • Pete

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I do not believe they are on-schedule (meaning no schedule delays) and on-budget (meaning no revisions to original budget).

Link please from a reputable source.

Jaak

Just one large nuclear plant is under construction in the U.S.: Southern Co.’s expansion of its Vogtle facility in Georgia, more than five years delayed and billions of dollars over its initial projected cost.

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Vogtle 3&4 is over 10 years behind schedule due to numerous delays due to errors, rework, changes in contractors and Covid-19.

Vogtle 3&4 is more than $14 billion over the initial cost estimate of $14 billion due to many errors, change in contractors and schedule delays for current cost of more than $28 billion.

For years, Georgia Power set and stuck with projections that monitors and PSC staff warned were wrong.

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, the only current PSC commissioner who took part in a 2009 vote to approve the Vogtle expansion, said if he had known how much the project would end up costing, he “would have probably had a different perspective.”

https://www.ajc.com/news/business/how-georgia-nuclear-projec…

Jaak

I do not believe they are on-schedule (meaning no schedule delays) and on-budget (meaning no revisions to original budget).
Link please from a reputable source.
Jaak

From World Nuclear Org…
https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-pr…

For the Ningde project…
Construction of the first unit started in February 2008, and it was grid connected in December 2012 after 58 months. It was declared in commercial operation in April 2013. First concrete for the second unit was in November 2008, it was grid connected in January 2014, with commercial operation in May. Construction start for the third was in January 2010 and for the fourth at the end of September 2010. Grid connection for unit 3 was in March 2015, with commercial operation in June. Grid connection for unit 4 was in March 2016 with commercial operation in July. Total cost for four units was put at CNY 52 billion ($7.6 billion).

$7.6 billion / 4 = $1.9 billion per unit. Very reasonable. Ningde-4 took slightly less than 6 years from first nuclear concrete to commercial operation. Again, very reasonable for a 1000 MWe plant.
https://pris.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/ReactorDetails…

Are there small cost overruns here and there? Sure. Are there short time delays here and there? Sure, if you want to nitpick. But most of the indigenously designed and built one GW plants usually come in around 5 to 6 years.

For the Fuqing project (see first link above)…
First concrete for unit 1 was poured in November 2008, for unit 2 in June 2009, for unit 3 in December 2010, and for unit 4 in September or October 2012, almost immediately after NNSA authorization. Total expected cost for all six was CNY 88 billion ($14.3 billion).

$14.3 billion / 6 = $2.4 billion
Construction time for those plants is about the same.

Getting exact construction cost numbers from China is admittedly difficult, but that doesn’t mean their actual costs are wildly high.

From Bloomberg…
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-11-02/china-cli…

China keeps the exact costs a state secret, but analysts including BloombergNEF and the World Nuclear Association estimate China can build plants for about $2,500 to $3,000 per kilowatt, about one-third of the cost of recent projects in the U.S. and France.

The Vogtle project is coming in around $11,000 per kw.

Perhaps the best indication their costs are reasonable is the fact they keep building plants and are planning to build even more. If it wasn’t cost effective, I believe they would go with other types of energy. From the Bloomberg article above, China plans to spend $440 billion for 150 new plants. Does that sound like a failed system?

  • Pete
7 Likes

China keeps the exact costs a state secret, but analysts including BloombergNEF and the World Nuclear Association estimate China can build plants for about $2,500 to $3,000 per kilowatt, about one-third of the cost of recent projects in the U.S. and France.

The Vogtle project is coming in around $11,000 per kw.

If construction/manufacturing costs in China could be applied to the United States, then we could also build iPhones, flat screen TVs, and high speed rail for the Chinese price.

Hard reality: We can’t.

I prefer to live in reality. Which is not always a popular position on this board. However, the grim reality is that most stuff is cheaper to build in China. That grim reality also means that things like iPhones, flat screen TVs, high speed rail, and possibly (but we can’t know because state secrets) nuclear reactors can be built cost effectively in China but can’t be built cost effectively in the United States. Bummer, but that is the real world we all live in.

My humble suggestion is that while in the short term it might be more comforting to live in Fantasy Land, in the long term we are all better off living in Reality Land. Not always a popular proposition, I realize.

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waterfell cherry picks the some reactors that came in around 5 to 6 years each.

Now I am picking the Sanmen 1&2 and Haiyang 1&2 reactors which all took 9 years each.

With regard to cost we know that China does not want the world to know the actual construction costs. And I do not believe the numbers estimate by World Nuclear Association.
And I do not believe the Bloomberg article that China plans to spend $440 billion for 150 new plants in the next 15 years.

China has been building much more solar, wind and hydro than nuclear for the last 10 years. China’s previous goals for building nuclear were not realized and shelved. China is only generating 4.8% of its electricity from nuclear power today.

China’s electrical generation 2021
https://www.statista.com/statistics/1235176/china-distributi….

Nuclear - 4.8%
Wind - 7.3%
Solar - 3.9%
Hydro - 15.3%
Coal - 63.6%

Jaak

I previously wrote:
Are there short time delays here and there? Sure, if you want to nitpick. But most of the indigenously designed and built one GW plants usually come in around 5 to 6 years.

jaagu then argues…
waterfell cherry picks the some reactors that came in around 5 to 6 years each.
Now I am picking the Sanmen 1&2 and Haiyang 1&2 reactors which all took 9 years each.

I didn’t cherry pick anything. Sanmen 1&2 and Haiyang 1&2 are not indigenously designed and built Chinese power plants! Those plants were the first-of-a-kind AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse.

https://pris.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/ReactorDetails…
https://pris.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/ReactorDetails…

Yes, they took longer than most of China’s other plants because they were the first-of-a-kind plants and the designs were supplied by a company outside of China. But, the Chinese wanted to license the AP1000 technology and there were plans to build many more. Now that they have the Hualong One Chinese design, there is some question how far they want to go with the AP1000 class of plants. They are reportedly developing a larger AP1400. We shall see how that design fares.

https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Large-scale-Chinese-…


I also never wrote, nor intended to imply, that US companies can build nuclear plants for $2500 to $3000 per kilowatt like the Chinese. Obviously, they are two different societies with different labor costs, regulatory costs, etc. But I do think the US can do better than the Vogtle experience, if we can start a committed program to build several plants, of whatever design, in succession. That way, experience is gained and lessons are learned on the early plants, and that experience is then applied to subsequent projects. That is the way engineering works.

  • Pete
12 Likes

China keeps the exact costs a state secret, but analysts including BloombergNEF and the World Nuclear Association estimate China can build plants for about $2,500 to $3,000 per kilowatt, about one-third of the cost of recent projects in the U.S. and France.

Sure. If you don’t have to care about what people think you can do things a lot cheaper. I bet it’s cheaper to build highways and dams if you can just tell people “move” and not worry about pesky things like lawsuits and hearings. I bet it’s cheaper to hire workers if you can say “You work 12 hours a day and live in this enclosed compound, and we put nets outside the windows in case you decide to jump, but only because it’s cheaper than cleaning up the bodies on the sidewalk.”

The US did prodigious things during World War II when we became a Command economy for a time. Automakers were told to stop making cars and start making airplanes. People were told “no sugar today” and accepted it. Heck, major parts of China are under lockdown today, and that’s it, you don’t get a choice. Nothing like a messy Democracy or anything.

I suspect a poll between “cheaper electricity” but you have to live in a dictatorship like China, most people are going to go with “more expensive electricity.” But I could be wrong. Maybe we should roll back all those annoying safety regulations and let more coal miners die and have giant pollution clouds around cities, and make it impossible for people to buy ICE cars.

But maybe not.

12 Likes

China keeps the exact costs a state secret, but analysts including BloombergNEF and the World Nuclear Association estimate China can build plants for about $2,500 to $3,000 per kilowatt, about one-third of the cost of recent projects in the U.S. and France.

The Vogtle project is coming in around $11,000 per kw.

This is a no brainer China is stripping the profit motive out of building the plant. It is the government directing the building of the plants.

If we had a dictatorship instead of free enterprise we can do this.

China is also stripping the truth out of doing this. Best keep it a secret, why else?

Meanwhile BloombergNEF does not know but has decided it knows. That is capitalism at work. LOL It will cost you. Instead of discussing a command economy why not use a bit of the information as nuclear power advocacy for the US?

I am for nuclear power in the US. I am realist with just enough information to be a little bit dangerous. Nuclear power in the west is up against an economic factor of a 6 - 7% annual inflation rate. It is only economically viable to build out during the demand side part of the cycle when GDP growth in the country has a higher average. There is a relative cost to building out any of these projects ie installing the first US highways in the 50s to the NASA projects into the early 70s. If we are going to dilly dally with supply side econ we can not as a society afford a single thing.

1 Like

Given the way Russia is weaponizing nuclear plants in Ukraine, why do people still think it is a good idea to build more? Sure, lowering energy dependence is a good thing, but could be an out of the frying pan and into the fire scenario. Beware unintended consequences.

IP

2 Likes

I also never wrote, nor intended to imply, that US companies can build nuclear plants for $2500 to $3000 per kilowatt like the Chinese. Obviously, they are two different societies with different labor costs, regulatory costs, etc. But I do think the US can do better than the Vogtle experience, if we can start a committed program to build several plants, of whatever design, in succession. That way, experience is gained and lessons are learned on the early plants, and that experience is then applied to subsequent projects. That is the way engineering works.

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You are just guessing that the Chinese can build nuclear plants for $2500 to $3000. The rest of the world is having conniptions building new nuclear plants including China. Large nuclear plants of 1000 MW or more are not meeting cost and schedule.

Jaak

I previously wrote:
Are there short time delays here and there? Sure, if you want to nitpick. But most of the I previously wrote:
Are there short time delays here and there? Sure, if you want to nitpick. But most of the indigenously designed and built one GW plants usually come in around 5 to 6 years. one GW plants usually come in around 5 to 6 years.

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How do you know when the Chinese actually start construction on a nuclear plant? They could be mandated by the Chinese government to lie about the start date. It helps to sell reactors if the show 5 to 6 years for their indigenously designed and built one GW plants.

Jaak

You are just guessing that the Chinese can build nuclear plants for $2500 to $3000.

I wasn’t guessing. If you read my previous post, I included a statement from the Bloomberg article, quoting analysts from BloombergNEF and the World Nuclear Association. If you have a problem with their numbers, take it up with them.

Regarding the actual time of construction, I was using the dates provided from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) PRIS database. If you have more accurate information, I’m sure the IAEA would be interested to learn of your insights.

And yes, there is some site preparation at the beginning of construction before the safety related concrete is poured. But the IAEA uses the date of first nuclear concrete pour, so that is their official start.

  • Pete
4 Likes

China keeps the exact costs a state secret, but analysts including BloombergNEF and the World Nuclear Association estimate China can build plants for about $2,500 to $3,000 per kilowatt, about one-third of the cost of recent projects in the U.S. and France.

Pete,

Those numbers were a guestimate based on zero input from the Chinese.

You are more scientific than that. C’mon

Pete,
Those numbers were a guestimate based on zero input from the Chinese.

So if I go to work for BloombergNEF as an international power generation analyst, then I can just make up whatever numbers I want about any subject, and Bloomberg management is fine with that. Is that what you are saying?

https://about.bnef.com/

(The Bloomberg article I posted is not the only source of information I have, BTW.) Is $2500-$3000/kw a rock solid price? Probably not. But since China’s leaders want to build 150 new nuclear power plants in the coming years and decades, the cost per unit of the last few dozen plants brought on-line can’t be too outrageous. Else they would go with some other energy source.

  • Pete
3 Likes

waterfell added to your Favorite Fools list.
Wendy

But since China’s leaders want to build 150 new nuclear power plants in the coming years and decades, the cost per unit of the last few dozen plants brought on-line can’t be too outrageous. Else they would go with some other energy source.

Echoes of 1960s nuclear industry propaganda in the US.

The inflation averages 6 to 7% per year in these one offs.

Besides as China moves slowly towards supply side econ the country wont be able to afford to build out a nuclear program. We saw no build out of during the 1981 to 2020 period. Our GDP was growing to slowly with supply side econ.

So if I go to work for BloombergNEF as an international power generation analyst, then I can just make up whatever numbers I want about any subject, and Bloomberg management is fine with that. Is that what you are saying?

Pete,

ha ha ha how dare you question Wall Street’s veracity.