Nuclear cost competitive with coal in China and the US Southeast

Harry is my goto source on electrical generation industry perspective. E.g., coal prices vary widely around the world depending especially on transportation costs (and grade obviously). Harry’s comment on BNC caught my attention. Our quest for new-build zero carbon electricity that is “cheaper than coal” is already happening in certain markets:

As a rule of thumb Nuclear is ‘cost competitive’(not considering externalized costs) in a ‘new build environment’ with coal at $4/MMbtu and Natural Gas at $6/MMBtu.

Those conditions exist in China and the US Southeast. That is where AP1000′s are being built. Those conditions also exist in the UK where the government position is ‘nuclear without subsidy’. They also exist in a good many other places in the world.

Australia and the US West have considerable quantities of coal that can be extracted and delivered a reasonable distance to market for well under $4/MMBtu. The discussion as to how to make cleaner technologies financially competitive with coal is therefore a much more difficult discussion.

Imagine how much lower the US cost will be once the “lawyer-protester” risk falls away, and the plants are mass-manufactured.

2 thoughts on “Nuclear cost competitive with coal in China and the US Southeast

  1. Mass manufacturing is important to get the cost down.

    One of the several advantages of the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is that it would be easier to manufacture that type of reactor in a factory. The fact that it does not require a pressure vessel and can be considerably smaller would make factory production more practical. Perhaps the containment vessel could not be factory manufactured, but because the containment vessel could be considerably smaller and of lighter construction, it would cost far less.

    I still believe that we should be putting considerable effort into developing LFTR technology but considering the time required to do so and the fact that we cannot be TOTALLY certain that the LFTR is the best way to go, it seems that we should continue uranium technology for the present. And, China is believed to be working on LFTR technology. Surely it would be best not to risk being left behind.

  2. I agree that it looks like LFTR will be cheaper/simpler to manufacture. But we won’t know until we’ve done the piloting. Personally I think the USA should lead a global cooperation to rapidly build pilots then commercial scale of LFTR and IFR. Per Peterson can probably make a strong case to add the AHTR to make 3 parallel programs. The required funding is round-off-error level (as Bill Gates keeps emphasizing) even for little Australia.

    There are obvious deals to be negotiated on the IP sharing – e.g., China, India, GE Hitachi, Toshiba, etc.

    A useful up-to-date discussion was just released by Brookings.

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