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Thursday, August 13, 2009


In Scotland we get 42.2 Terawatts of electricity from our nuclear capacity of 1 x 1215 reactor at 70% capacity & 2 at 682 gigawatts totaling 2.2Gw. That is 42 billion kilowatt hours or 19 billion a year for each gigawatt of installed capacity.

A new off the shelf Westinghouse AP 1000 generator would, under mass production conditions, cost $1,200 million. At a 10% return that would be $120 million a year or 0.6 cents (0.4) a unit. Because nuclear uses so little fuel & is very large scale it has always been accepted that the majority of cost is going to be in building it. So even if we assume total costs to be double that, nuclear power need not cost more than 1.2p a unit. This is a reasonable improvement from the previously discussed French cost of 1.7p a unit, both since their reactors are now 30 year old designs & because the Westinghouse price is a future one based on the assumption of mass production.

This would be a quarter of overall current electricity costs & about 8% of what we are expected to pay for windmill power.

Note that I do not dispute current estimates from the British nuclear industry of about 3.5p a unit. These are based on the regulatory system in Britain, which, like many other countries, piles on every extra cost the Luddites can think of. I merely point out that this is both unnecessary & enormously destructive. Another example of such destructiveness is that, in their politically motivated destruction of Britain's nuclear industry they forced the sell off of British owned Westinghouse for a small fraction of its true value which, in a competently run country, could have given Britain world leadership in this industry.

Compare this to evidence to Congress by David Criswell. He is speaking in favour of lunar solar power (LSP) satellites, which in a longer term will certainly work, but the figures for cost & effect apply to any system.
When LSP provides 20 terawatts of electric power to Earth it can sell the electricity at one-fifth of today's cost or ~1 ยข/kWh. At current electric prices LSP would generate ~9 trillion dollars per year of net income.

Like hydroelectric dams, every power receiver on Earth can be an engine of clean economic growth. Gross World Product can increase a factor of 10. The average annual per capita income of Developing Nations can increase from today's $2,500 to ~$20,000. Economically driven emigrations, such as from Mexico and Central America to the United States, will gradually decrease.

Increasingly wealthy Developing Nations will generate new and rapidly growing markets for American goods and services. Lunar power can generate hydrogen to fuel cars at low cost and with no release of greenhouse gases. United States payments to other nations for oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, and commodities such as fertilizer will decrease. LSP industries will establish new, high-value American jobs. LSP will generate major investment opportunities for Americans. The average American income could increase from today's ~$35,000/y-person to more than $150,000/y-person.

A cut to a quarter may not be quite as good as a cut to a fifth but it isn't that far off. Dr Criswell's calculation that a cut by 80% would allow the economy to grow to 428% certainly implies that the British economy could more than triple & the world economy grow even more from this one reform alone.

I'm sure Dr Criswell knows his stuff & that space based power, though I would suspect from satellites in closer Earth orbit, does have potential, in due course, to provide unlimited power. This does not in any way detract from the argument for right now using, to best effect, a technology we know does work today & can provide a not dissimilar benefit.

UPDATE A commenter here has mentioned the Russian VVER generators.
The VVER-1200 is an evolution of the VVER-1000 being offered for domestic and export use. Specifications include a $1,200 per kW electric capital cost, 54 month planned construction time, and expected 50 year lifetime at 90% capacity factor. The VVER 1200 will produce 1,200 MWe of power
That is the same cost per unit as it is said the AP1000 will go down to after long run production has been achieved. That in turn suggests that if long run production of this generator can be achieved so will further cost reductions & we may, in time, see electricity costs dropping to, or even below the 1p per kwh mark.

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I was on Wikipedia a few years ago and there was an article on a Russian light water reactor that the Russkies claimed could meet Western safety standards. Considering your general fondness towards Russia, an independent Scotland could purchase one of their designs. I would double check their work carefully however, since the Russians may try to cut corners. That, and the Russian design hasn't been tested for 30 years.

Europe would be well served to simply license-build 150 French reactors in order to be independent of Russian & Arab gas for winter heating. Europes native gas reserves can actually be converted into diesel fuel, making the continent completely independent. I believe the name of the process is called gas-to-liquids GTL.
Now that I think about the matter, an independent Scotland would need a way to soak up the masses of unemployed people freed up after the loss of revenue transferred from London. Scotland could build a large reactor or twenty based on its own native designs.

Hell, knowledge of nuclear technology is becoming so common that I could probably lead the design team. And if I could lay out the broad outlines then the masses of qualified professors at Scotland's universities could be hired to lead such a project.

The inefficiencies that would result from having to fabricate parts from your own limited national resources should be enough to soak up the excess labor in the Scottish economy after independence.
Thinking about the matter further, if I built a Scotsreactor it would be a graphite moderated, gas cooled design. Instead of having solid control rods it would instead use a liquid moderator the way some GE naval reactor designs use water as a moderator.

Boron is a good moderator, but if it is dissolved in water it would form boric acid, which would eat away at the reactor parts. Borax could be used as a chemical feedstock to make a non-acidic fluid to circulate in the reactor core as a moderator, the way this US navy reactor uses a water moderator.

Here is the Russian reactor I mentioned earlier. The graphite block reactor I mentioned earlier was inspired by the British Magnox and Advanced Graphite Reactors.
If Scotland were to become independent you could buy the current Russian VVER-1000 reactor. I think a better choice would be the British Advanced Gas Reactor, if Britain hasn't completely sold that off in the future.
Thanks - looking that up the Wer1200 is the same cost as the Westinghouse 1000 which means 20% lower per unit. I know nothing about the technical specs but certainly worth looking at.

Our problem is that the SNP government is resolutely opposed to stopping the lights going out. It is possible that if we became independent they wouldn't be elected. I still tend to say that what we need is comptent government & independence or otherwise isn't very important but acknowledge that multiple layers of government (Edinburgh, London, Brussels) tends to create multiple layers of people able to stop things happening.
Don't underestimate the power of leftist stupidity. If Scotland were independent and large numbers of Scots decided to move south in order to look for work, there is a good chance that your politicians would blame a legacy of colonialism.

As for the VVER-1000, the Russians have been using the same basic design since the first generation of Soviet light water reactors back in the 1960's (VVER-440). Right now the Russians are designing the VVER-1500 in order to be competitive with the current crop of Western and Japanese reactors of that size. the VVER-1500 is just an expansion of Russia's existing 1000 design, which was just an expansion of the first 440 design.

Personally, I prefer the British Advanced Gas Reactor, and I prefer the previous British Magnox reactors even more.

I was referring to the still extant Magnox designs when I said a few months ago that some of Britain's obsolete reactors could be used to manufacture fuel. The Magnox was specifically designed to produce plutonium from U-238 and as such its output can be used in either bombs (its intended role) or in a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel cycle (what it does now).

Reading the wiki article on the state-owned British Nuclear Fuels Limited I found out that the current Labor government intends to sell off the best parts of BNFL and basically kill Britain's domestic fuel and reactor industry.

So the takeaway lesson is that Albion does not need Westinghouse since it has its own domestic reactor design, but that the laborites intend to kill that too.
Here is one other generator, this one fielded by Babcock & Wilcox of the United States. B&W is a 140 year old boiler, heat exchanger and power plant manufacturer that also has designed its own line of nukes in the past.

Their current offering has a three year projected construction time and is composed of modular units that can be added as a utility needs more power.

Here is B&W's page on the mPower reactor, and here is the press release.


EFT page

see this too
One more link
Our reactor programme was intended to produce world leading reactors in the same way as Concorde was designed to put us at the cutting edge of air travel.

The problem was the people making the decisions were civil servants using other people's money.

Our programme had a poor record of breakdowns (not the catastrophic stuff just engineering shutdowns). They now work pretty well but this makes me nervous of a new advanced programme when off the shelf stuff with the bugs worked out is available.
Scotland or indeed many developed countries could produce a factory mass producing reactors. That would certainly bring the price way down in the same way Henry ford managed to reduce the price of cars. The probelms are all political in that the size of the world market is restricted by governments which don't want (& which like housing might well mandate small pointless changes to prevent mass production).

However I have blogged elsewhere on how Hyperion want to set up 3 factories for mass producing small reactors in the US, Korea & UK. Mass production my balance the diseconomies of small scale though probably not do better than that, but they may be more likely to slip through the cracks of government vetos.
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