Tuesday, June 2, 2009

STNP New Nuclear Plant Cost

Another cost estimate for a new nuclear power plant in the U.S. is shown below, with the article here. This cost is an "all in" cost, as opposed to the usual numerical trickery that the nuclear power industry uses, that of "overnight cost." The overnight cost does not include interest during construction, nor does it include escalation for inflation during construction.

This cost estimate is for $10 billion, and is to construct two reactors at 1,350 MW each on the site of the South Texas Nuclear Project, near Victoria, Texas. STNP is the plant that cost five times its original estimate, and resulted in the contractor being dismissed (Brown and Root), and several lawsuits amongst the owners and contractors. One of the owners, the City of Austin, had to scramble to find power for its customers when STNP was delayed year after year after year. Note that City of Austin is NOT a participant in this STNP expansion. They learned their lesson with nuclear.

The article goes on to state that NRG Energy has a partnership with the reactor designer, Toshiba of Japan. Is Toshiba planning to absorb some losses to make this plant expansion come in on budget?

"The cost to build a new nuclear power plant in Texas has risen to $10 billion, up from early estimates, but much below price tags of other proposed U.S. nuclear projects, an executive with NRG Energy Inc's nuclear development arm said on Tuesday [June 2, 2009].

The "all in" cost to build two 1,350-megawatt nuclear reactors in South Texas has risen 40 percent from 2006 estimates which did not include financing costs, Steve Winn, chief executive of Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA), [said]."

It will be quite interesting to follow the progress of this project. Their press quote includes a startup date of 2016 for the first new reactor, following completion of the federal licensing process in late 2011 or early 2012. This will be interesting, too, since that leaves barely 4 years to actually build the plant.

Stay tuned, sports fans. Texans usually ride the bull in the rodeo, and they are about to get taken for another ride. This will provide a fine opportunity for Texans, a smart group, to say "No, Thanks" to the outrageous power prices that result from this nuclear power plant, and switch to self-generation, distributed generation, or cogeneration as they choose. This is worth an entire post in itself, based on the nuclear death spiral. Nuclear is now competing with distributed generation via solar PV, solar thermal, small wind, large wind, bio-gas, landfill gas, power obtained from municipal solid waste, small or micro-turbines based on natural gas, and a few more that my clients and I are developing but cannot yet disclose for various reasons.

My prediction, if the STNP expansion does receive approval for its Construction and Operating License, COL, for the all-in cost for two reactors is $30 billion in 2009 dollars. First reactor startup will be no earlier than 2020, with the second reactor no earlier than 2024.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.


Anonymous said...

Gentlemen seem to neglect PBMRs fueled with thorium based fuel. With this approach we can apply mass production to the plants (adding modules as needed) and much reduced plant costs since the containment requirements are much reduced by using helium as the coolant (no hydrogen embrittlement) with proprietory design resulting in fail-safe operation.

The thorium based "pebbles" need seeding which can be weapons grade uranium or plutonium which takes care of part of the bad stuff floating around. Thorium is cheap. So is the stock THPW.

By the way, what is the cost benefit of a 1/2 inch containment vessel vs 5/4 inch presently used?

Anonymous said...

Well now. Lets consider Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMRs). They are inherently safe as a complete stoppage of the coolant results in not more than 300 deg C rise in reactor temperature. Use of Helium as coolant obviates hydrogen embrittlement and also eliminates the intermediate heat exchanger in current reactors. Construction can use 1/2 inch containment shells as compared to 5/4 inch steel now used.

I believe China is currently contracting with Westinghouse for a few dozen of the modules. Zero carbon footprint. And the Thorium needs a seed which can be weapons grade Uranium or Plutonium which is slowly used up in the process. Senator Reid should like that.