Monday, July 21, 2008

Nuclear Power

More articles on the pros and cons of nuclear power plants for the U.S.

This one from the Wall Street Journal; for comments posted to that article see:

I found two arguments compelling. First, Hails states that there are no longer sufficient engineers to design and build the plants. Second, another writer states we have lost all capability in the U.S. to build the steel containment shell, made of 12-inch thick steel. He says Japan can do it, but can only produce one per year for us.

Third, another writer states we do not have the skilled workforce to build the plants. Fourth, another writer states we have runaway construction costs (as we certainly do in expanding our refineries -- energyguy). The runaway construction costs will make the nuclear plants non-viable.

Hmmm...Hail's argument also states that 69 engineering schools dropped the courses required to train students in designing nuclear power plants. So, even if the students have the interest, there are few places left to teach them.

I wonder about the steel shell fabrication capability. We build nuclear subs, and aircraft carriers. I suspect they bend steel. And if not the 12 inch thick size, then we can build the plants to bend it. Whatever happened to the American Can-Do attitude? I know, who will build a plant to bend the steel, if the nuclear plants are never ordered or built? Chicken and the egg problem.

When we embarked on the Apollo space program, we needed a bunch of people to do the science and engineering on that one. The call went out, and qualified people showed up. Professors began teaching the courses to a new generation.

As to the skilled laborers to build the plants, we can train people as we go.

As to construction costs, there is virtually nothing to be done about that.

But none of this matters, ultimately. I predict (as I have many times in the past) that nuclear power plants will not be built in the U.S. because their power will be far too expensive when they finally start up.

The fuel cost is fairly low, that is certain, but the capital charge rolled into the rates will doom these projects. Reactor designers at GE and Westinghouse currently state that they can build a 1000 MW reactor for $1 billion and construct it in 3 years or so. We have heard this song before, same verse. It will likely cost $5 to $10 billion per plant, after the environmental lawyers have their turn in the courts.

Another poster stated that the U.S. Congress could make the nuclear power plants immune from lawsuits, as they did the Alaska Pipeline.

No comments: