Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reply To People Who've Put Up Solar Panels

So you've put up a bunch of solar panels for 20,000 USD out of pocket, and another 20,000 in government subsidies, and you'll get free electricity for 20 years? Think you got a good deal? Think again. Wouldn't you prefer something reliable that met ALL of your electric needs? Something that worked everywhere on Earth? Something that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg?

You could start a nuclear-consumers' coop. Get together with a million people in your area and build your own nuclear power plant. It would only cost you about 5,000 per person for 2 kilowatts each. This is much, MUCH cheaper than solar panels for equivalent capacity. And it would last a solid 60 years, not 20-30 years.

Because if you live in the USA then you can actually do that. The NRC has several nuclear power plant designs with blanket approval. You need a site license but once you have that, you just build the power plant as designed and run. There's a rogue power company that's willing to build and operate a power plant wherever in the country you want one. They've already considered a nuclear power plant in Idaho so they'd be willing to do it. So you'd just partner with them though you might have to partner with your local utility too. But if your State allows you to specify where your power comes from ....

One problem would be getting the heavy forgings. There's only 8 forges in the world that can cast ingots in the 40 tonne category. You'd need to order (dozens) from one of them. They require a deposit so pretty much as soon as you order your nuclear power plant, long before the parts arrive, 80% of its cost is locked in. You'd also have to manage the permit approval process since it takes a 30-50 million or so just to apply.

The big advantage you have is that if a million people are willing to put up 5,000 each then your cost of money is rock bottom. Even if you give them 5% on their money, that's still rock bottom. Your disadvantage is that you'd need to organize all of this. Your really big advantage is that once it was organized, it would be impossible to kill. Power generation projects by private generators meet a LOT of resistance. With publically-owned utilities, a lot less. With a community owned utility? It'd be a dream come true.

Now let's talk about money. The AP1000, that's one of the designs approved by the NRC, would cost 1000-1400 USD per MW. For 1 million people each with 2 kW that's 2 GW so we're talking two plants for 2000-2800. Construction and financing are 58% of the costs of an AP1000 so at 5000 per person you've covered construction, financing, fuel, maintenance, operation for 60 years and decommissioning at the end of it all.

It's possible, not likely but possible, that you run into political resistance. If you do then you'll want to take advantage of the deal in the Nuclear Programme 2010 which covers part of construction cost overruns. Which would be minimal since those are generally due to delays and the increased cost of financing, which you don't worry about because you've got cheap money. It's also likely you'd get a discount on the 2000-2800 since hey cheap money again. And if you take advantage the the NP2010 then you get some spare change from Congress for your trouble during the first 8 years of operation. A few tens of million each year for 8 years, not a lot of money. If the NP2010 is used up before you get your chance though that's actually even better since other generators will have taken the early risks before you.

And of course, there's always a bailout option. The AREVA consortium ordered their heavy forgings before they had approval even for their nuclear reactor design. Because they knew that if worse came to worse, they could always reuse those forgings in Flammanville, France where another nuclear power plant is going up. They got to cut time at no risk. With a standard design, it's entirely possible you could buy yourself an insurance (a guarantee of a buyer) in case things don't work out.

Doable? Definitely. You just need to get up the gumption to actually do it. Free electric generation for 60 years. Think about it.


Richard Kulisz said...

Ah, unfortunately the rogue power company in Idaho turned out to be a scam.

Anonymous said...

That slaps me on the knee! :D