Why are nuclear reactors expensive?
Editors of website https://whatisnuclear.com/ do a great job explaining in (rather) simple words the concepts behing nuclear energy. In particular here, the main drivers of nuclear power economics. This sheds a light on why so few plants are being built, despite the desperate need to decarbonize our society.
It explains that to move forward, nuclear industry needs to better compete with other energies (in particular fracked gas in the USA), by focusing:
- either on economies of scale to build new power plants, e.g. with the SMR (Small Modular Reactors),
- either economies of mass production by building massive plants,
- or both with ideas of Ford-esque production of floating massive power plants as envisioned in the 70s.
See also: Why is the Nuclear Power Industry Stagnant? (Austin Vernont)
Nuclear power plants produce around 20% of US electricity and the majority in France. Yet the industry is stagnant. Let's look at why. (…)
Should we have built more nuclear plants in the 60s and 70s when coal was the primary alternative? Almost certainly. It may not makes sense to build new LWRs today, but we can reduce how much existing plants cost to operate and fast-track new technologies to the market through better regulation.
Nuclear power requires considerable effort to catch up and keep pace with competitors. New light water reactors are dead on arrival without governments providing low-interest loans or giving utility companies monopoly powers to charge higher rates. Incremental SMRs that won't be available for another decade risk coming online too late and too expensive as solar, wind, and battery prices continue to fall. Micro reactors with accelerated schedules have a better chance of breaking into the mainstream given their low fixed cost potential and faster iteration, but only if we try to build them.
Nuclear advocates will have to convince consumers and taxpayers to pay significantly more for electricity unless they reduce the cost of the technology. There is a good chance nuclear does not have a true revival until we miniaturize it.
See also: Jimmy energy
French startup that focuses on small-scale heat producing plants for industrial applications. It recently raised some money for this endeavour.