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Want more nuclear power? Don't read this – you'll just get bummed out.


[i][b]Photo above [/b]- computer rendering of a NuScale modular nuke reactor on it's delivery truck. Is that a 98 wheeler? Do those things even exist? Never mind - that reactor project just got cancelled.[/i]

I have to confess - I DON'T have any hatred of nuclear power plants. There's one about 100 miles from my place in Florida. Not close enough to see every day, but close enough to make the area “Chernobyl like” in a worst-case scenario. But I'm NOT worried. What DOES worry me is that America evidently cannot find a winning formula for building nuclear power plants in the year 2023. See link below.

This article in Bloomberg was an eye opener. Right at the start they drop a bombshell - the average cost overrun to build a nuke plant is 120%. Imagine going to a car dealership and finding out the final sales price of your Toyota Camry is $90,000, not the $40,000 you agreed to. And that there's nothing you can do about it. You HAVE to pay up, per a 1,800-page contract involving state regulators, federal regulators, etc. which allows unlimited last-minute fees and charges.

Here's why that average cost overrun is so astonishing. A typical nuclear power plant isn't at all like a Toyota Camry. It's more like a Rolls Royce – which has to be assembled right in your driveway, over a 24-month period. And most of the workers have at best done this once or twice in their lives. The typical nuclear power plant was a bespoke, hand-built item. That's how America USED to build nuclear power plants. And that's what made people nervous. No two were exactly alike. Every time they built another one, dozens of details would likely change, including the type of control rods, the cooling system, and even the location of the emergency “off” switch.

Enter a company called NuScale. “We got this”, they assured everyone. NuScale came up with the Toyota Camry of nuclear power plants. Smaller in scale. Modular – most portions bolted together on a factory assembly line, then transported to the site. Repeatable processes. The same user's manual, over and over. Spare parts will already be in the warehouse, when you need them. What's not to like?

Evidently, the price. Not the purchase price of the Camry/nuke plant - the cost of the electricity it generates. NuScale just admitted they can't push electrons into wires for the original promised price. They need to nearly double the rate they will charge for electricity. If this sounds to you like the flip side of a record called “[i]120% construction cost overrun[/i]”, congrats for paying attention.

To be fair to NuScale, today's price hike is only 53%. But the plant isn't even built yet. Can more price hikes be ruled out? Probably not. Do users of the plant's proposed electricity want to bail now? Yes they do. NuScale plant be cancelled. Too bad – it would have generated more electricity than a forest of wind turbines, even though it was considered small scale.

The current (increased) price of NuScale electricity – if the plant got built, and there were no more surprises – would be $89 per MWh. I realize you have no idea what YOU actually pay. Let's make this easy: when electricity producers buy and sell wholesale juice on the grid, it typically goes for $22-$50 per MWh. NOW do you see why the NuScale plant fell out of favor?

NuScale electricity prices are not only seriously out of line with the market, but it would also instantly be THE MOST EXPENSIVE (per MWh) source of nuclear electricity on Planet America. Nuclear electricity in general is already at $80 per MWh. Nobody is clamoring for $90, a rate which could likely still go higher. There's a Wikipedia link at the bottom if you want to do a deep dive about how much it costs to generate electricity from all known sources. The short story – natural gas, solar, and wind have some of the lowest costs, depending on the site and operator. And “biomass”, which nobody uses, is the most expensive.

Now here's where I have some fun, as usual. How much did the NuScale power plant cost before they pulled the plug? In 2014, the Obama administration kicked it off with $600 million. In 2020 the Trump administration doubled down, with another $1.4 Billion. So, we're already at $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies, and there will be no reactor, and no electricity. Geez Louise – we coulda' bought a B2 bomber for that, speaking of 100% cost overruns. (Full disclosure – I am not in favor buying any more of the B2 bombers than we already have. Ten seems to be enough, since they never get used).

I've never said Solar and Wind Turbine energy are evil. And I'm not saying that nuclear power is, in today's post. But clearly federal agencies throwing billions and billions of taxpayer money at corporations without even knowing the cost per MWh is ludicrous. Whether it's the Rolls Royce of electric plants, or the Camry.

I'm just sayin' . . .

[b]NuScale Cancels Small Nuclear Reactor Power Plant in Utah as Costs Climb - Bloomberg

Cost of electricity by source - Wikipedia[/b]
LFTR is the nuclear power technology we should be investing research dollars into but it has one major problem.
You can’t use the by product for nuclear weapons production.

Seriously though, that’s the nuclear power of the future and worth throwing a few billion dollars at.

China is currently pursuing the technology.
But what do they know!
liquid fluoride thorium reactor

These reactor types are very efficient with lower operating pressures and recyclable fuel components that can be reused in the reactor thereby limiting waste material and the incumbent problems with storage of the same.
They present technical challenges because the high temperature liquid fluoride is corrosive making it difficult to cycle through the heat exchanger system.
This technology is old but with current materials science and engineering technology it could be a feasible solution to the nuclear power problem.

Advantages are no meltdown because the reaction is self moderating and in the event of a loss of coolant issues
the molten core could simply be drained out of the reactor into a containment chamber where it would cool naturally over a period of time and the material could then be recycled back into the reactor.

The fuel cycle would be nearly 80
Percent efficient whereas the uranium fuel cycle is about five percent efficient.

Also there is a nearly infinite supply of thorium available to produce power.

The biggest drawback seems to be that the waste material can’t be easily used to produce nuclear weapons
SusanInFlorida · 31-35, F
@Onestarlitnight you make some good points. LFTR should be on the table in america. I don't think we're using the local electric plants to supply the ingredients for hydrogen bombs any more, are we?
Nah but waste storage is a serious problem that needs addressing.
But with a radioactive toxicity of thousands of years it is simply impossible to store safely.
Alternative methods should have been developed decades ago.
GerOttman · 61-69, M
I don't read most of your post due to length however truck trailer combos as depicted above do exist for transport of very heavy specialized cargo. They're kind of cool to watch. I'm ok with off planet nukes, kind of skeptical of the ones in my own backyard.
SusanInFlorida · 31-35, F
@GerOttman thanks for tell me one page is too much to read. i will take this into account in future posts.

The biggest tractor trailer I've personally seen is a 26 wheeler. That's an 18 wheeler with 3 axels behind the cab, and 3 at the end of the trailer. I have never seen an articulated trailer like they use in australia - a road train.
GerOttman · 61-69, M
@SusanInFlorida Hey, you do you on the length. entirely your deal. I saw an huge MRI magnet being delivered on a truck-trailer combo that had more wheel than I could count and a driver at the end to steer the ass end around. It was made in Germany, shipped across the atlantic and sent by barge up the river. The last five miles or so to the facility were on the trailer at night. I had a couple pictures somewhere but I'd have to did them up.
pride49 · 26-30, M
Careful not to use lead pistons in the plant. They can make boom booms when they react to stuff like in Chernobyl
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