Liftoff or crash-land for nuclear?

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In a shocking and revelatory article in Energy Intelligence, Stephanie Cooke adds up the costs of the US Department of Energy’s “untethered” plan to encourage the construction of as many as 300 new full size reactors.

Untethered, and, as Cooke describes it, “irresponsible” and “absurd” because, “the US no longer has the supply chain needed for large-scale nuclear projects — it can’t even forge a pressure vessel; it’s irresponsible because the cost of building 200-300 new reactors would be more than $3 trillion.”

That number, writes Cooke, if you factor in the reality of the current price tags of new build — as exemplified by the soaring costs of the Vogtle project in Georgia — could actually soar past $5 trillion. “That’s more than double the $1.5 trillion the US plans to spend over 30 years overhauling its nuclear arsenal, and in the neighborhood of the government’s $6.9 trillion budget proposal for the entire nation in 2024,” she points out.

Cooke also notes that the DOE plan will serve to starve renewables, an observation made in a number of peer-reviewed studies that show this already to be the case in countries that have preferred a nuclear power option.

“Resources devoted to rescuing a dying industry are resources that wouldn’t be available for viable, less-costly strategies to achieve net-zero emissions in the power sector,” Cooke wrote.

This madcap DOE plan is part of an initiative called “liftoff” designed to “establish a common fact base with the private sector around the path to commercial liftoff for critical clean energy technologies”.

Given the obscene costs and immense timelines, maybe it should renamed “project crash-land.”

Read the Cooke article

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