The Cost of Nuclear Power
Nuclear power is being most actively pursued today in China (23) reactors currently under construction), India (4), South Korea (6) and Russia (8), and in terms of forward projections through to 2020, China plans to expand its nuclear generation capacity to 70 GW (up from 8.6 GW in 2010), South Korea to 27.3 GW (up from 17.7 GW), and Russia from 43.3 GW (up from 23.2 GW). Looking further ahead, India’s stated goal is 63 GW by 2032 and 500 GW by 2060, whilst China’s 2030 target is 200 GW, with at least 750 GW by 2050. These nations are heavily focused on rapidly overcoming first-of-a-kind (FOAK) costs and establishing standardized designs based around modular construction and passive safety principles. By contrast, the country with the most installed nuclear power – the United States, with over 100 commercial reactors – has announced loan guarantees to support new plants, but has not yet started construction of any Generation III reactors.
It is therefore in the rapidly developing Asian countries that current real-world costs can be most reliably established. The two leading reactor designs now being built in China are the indigenous CPR-1000 and the Westinghouse AP- 1000. Reported capital costs are in the range of $1,296 to $1,790/kW. Korea has focused attention on its APR-1400 design, with domestic overnight costs of $2,333/kW. A recent contract for $20.4 billion has been signed with Korean consortium KEPCO to build four APR-1400 reactors in the United Arab Emirates, at a turnkey cost of $3,643/kW. This price is notable considering that it is offered under near-FOAK conditions, because these will be the UAE’s first nuclear plants.
I (with Martin Nicholson) also have a paper under review in Energy that looks at nuclear costs estimated from the last 10 years of authoritative global energy reviews. The conclusions are quite clear -- settled-down nuclear is the cheapest low carbon fit-for-service baseload energy technology, and is almost competitive with coal already, provided regulatory turbulence and its associated risk-price inflation is brought under control by sensible government policy. The US is hardly a good example of this, at present.
On fast reactors in China,