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Two really good reports recently in the news. First the Washington Monthly article on the dodgy economics of new nuclear.

Bad Reactors. Rethinking Your Opposition to Nuclear power? Rethink Again. - Washington Monthly - January/February 2009

"Initially, the industry had hoped to limit the number of reactor models to two or three. Instead, there are eight on offer, half of them certified, the rest awaiting approval (a process that takes years). What’s more, all but one of the seventeen companies that are planning to build new reactors have chosen designs that are either not yet certified or that will need to be recertified because they have been substantially redesigned. Even the one company that has picked a fully certified model, NRG of New Jersey, isn’t sticking to the original blueprints.

Rather than working with ready-made plans and a series of simple, modular components, engineers and designers working on Finland’s new reactor are scrambling to finish plans even as construction is under way. During my visit to Olkiluoto, I met Jouni Silvennoinen, the construction manager on the plant for the Finnish utility TVO. He told me that, in his view, projects as large and complex as reactors simply don’t lend themselves to cookie-cutter solutions. 'The basic design can be planned in advance,' he explained. 'But you still have to do the detailed design. Where exactly is the rebar? How thick are the walls? Where is the pinning for pipes? Those details have to be tailored to the individual project, and it takes a tremendous amount of work.'"

Here's a new report from Mark Cooper Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School. The key findings of the study are noted. None of it is pretty.

The Economics of Nuclear Reactors: Renaissance or Relapse? - June 2009 [PDF]

"1. The initial cost projections put out early in today’s so-called 'nuclear renaissance' were about one-third of what one would have expected, based on the nuclear reactors completed in the 1990s.

2. The most recent cost projections for new nuclear reactors are, on average, over four times as high as the initial 'nuclear renaissance' projections.

3. There are numerous options available to meet the need for electricity in a carbon-constrained environment that are superior to building nuclear reactors. Indeed, nuclear reactors are the worst option from the point of view of the consumer and society.

4. The low carbon sources that are less costly than nuclear include efficiency, cogeneration, biomass, geothermal, wind, solar thermal and natural gas. Solar photovoltaics that are presently more costly than nuclear reactors are projected to decline dramatically in price in the next decade. Fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, which are not presently available, are projected to be somewhat more costly than nuclear reactors.

5. Numerous studies by Wall Street and independent energy analysts estimate efficiency and renewable costs at an average of 6 cents per kilowatt hour, while the cost of electricity from nuclear reactors is estimated in the range of 12 to 20 cents per kWh.

6. The additional cost of building 100 new nuclear reactors, instead of pursuing a least cost efficiency-renewable strategy, would be in the range of $1.9-$4.4 trillion over the life the reactors."
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