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Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

Community Veteran
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

I ask this because I was having another look at the UK energy policy where we are to reduce all carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050
I started here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/42562/216-2050-pathways-an...
Note that where all the biogas is supposed to come from I have no idea
This means, in effect, that the plan is to completely "decarbonise" electricity, and then use it to power as much as 60 percent of the private car and light van fleet, and provide most of the space and water heating for which gas is currently used.
To do this the total electrical production will need to double from just under 60GW to 120GW an this will be done by increased reliance on wind and solar power but more significant the building of a load more power stations with carbon capture and storage facility (a totally unproven and dubious technology) and the building of nuclear power plants at a rate of about 1.2GW per year
This last point is why I got interested
We are already aware that the latest Finnish nuclear plant http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/09/01/finland-nuclear-olkiluoto-idUKL5N0R20CV20140901 due to start operation in 2009 but now delayed until 2018 with costs doubling but this one really shook me http://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/jul/20/edf-french-nuclear-reactor-delays which is dated July 2011
Quote
The European pressurised reactor (EPR) at Flamanville, in north-western France, is now expected to open in 2016 and cost €6bn (£5.2bn) instead of the original starting date of 2012 and a cost of €3.3bn.
but only a year later http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Flamanville_costs_up_2_billion_Euros-0412127.html
Quote
The full cost of construction of the EPR is now estimated by EDF to be €2 billion ($2.6 billion) up on the July 2011 estimate of €6 billion, taking the overall estimated cost to €8 billion ($10.5 billion).
Quote
EDF's UK arm, EDF Energy, said in a statement that lessons learned from Flamanville have already been included in the cost estimates submitted to the UK government for the two planned EPRs at Hinkley Point C.
It also looks as though France will also have a possible electricity shortfall http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-10/france-to-face-winter-power-deficit-next-year-on-plant-shut... partly due to the shutting down of some of the earlier nuclear power plants
6 REPLIES
Community Veteran
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Registered: 27-10-2012

Re: Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

I would imagine that during the 10-15 year period it takes to plan, design and build a nuclear power station, there are many changes to safety and technology in that time. Therefore the costs are bound to increase etc, however you wouldn't expect 2x the cost!
nanotm
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Re: Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

strike action wages and benefits packages for workers, legal disputes
mostly the last one as with any large building project there are always pointless legal disputes (pointless because at some point the government overrules everyone and says it will happen regardless....)

look at hinkley point, irrespective of any true real concerns or problems the uk government said it will happen, there now in a legal dispute over waste outflow from the plant (and rightly so) because it will adversely affect the costal waters of another sovereign nation, the cost of that legal dispute is estimated to be around 1.5 billion regardless of outcome by the time all the appeals have been lodged by each side, and that will be used to hyperinfalte the cost of the build project, there will be all sorts of other "extra costs" involved in granting foreign workers permission to reside in the UK whilst the project is undertaken and so on,
the real question though should be why does it take 10+ years to build a nuclear plant when a dedicated workforce can chuck one up in places like japan or china in under 24 months..... of course in china they don't have wage or legal disputes over government projects, once the plans are agreed the thing is built and the public make sure not to protest to voraciously ......
what we should have had here though is adherence to planning regulations where by public consultations were conducted and complaints dealt with prior to any decision being made, not told that were getting a new one from a dodgy onion seller backed by massive investment from china (because they don't have the capital to do the job) before any public consultation started .....
and lets be honest here only about 25% of the local population actually wants the power plant built there the remainder have major objections to it....
just because your paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you
Community Veteran
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Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

The thing I cannot understand is that we were one of the first countries to build a nuclear  power plant paid for by the government who at that time were heavily in debt due to the effects of WW2.
Since that time there must have been considerable advances in building nuclear power plants so how is it all these years later they cost so much more and in addition there appears to be more problems ?
Community Veteran
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Re: Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

Several reasons..
1. France, like the UK and most of the developed western world, has seen most of its expertise retire in the last few years. There is no longer the engineering nous available in house. Hence lots of increased costs and uncertainty associated with having to import designs and knowledge and specialist labour from the "eastern world" which has stolen one hell of a march on the west. Restrictions on foreign worker immigration don't help.
2. The EPR is a new design. This kind of design takes years to develop and is usually out of date by the time construction is half way through. This is made much worse by accidents like Fukushima Daiichi, the upshot of which force many changes to designs like the EPR, again adding to costs and delays, especially if significant changes are needed, which they have been.
3. "First of a kind" designs also suffer from uncertainly because you can't build in any measure of operating experience. It's next to impossible to guesstimate the costs of modifications to the design at the initial decision stage because you don't know what mods may be needed. So you have to have a stab at guessing a contingency - the drawback being that this can't be made too much because the go-ahead for the plant wouldn't get passed. So the result is a gross underestimation of the true costs and timescales.
The more of this kind of plant gets built the cheaper and quicker it gets, until the next round of essential modifications is needed!
The Chinese have built nuclear plants in 36 to 48 months, but all of those built as quickly as that were off-the-shelf designs bought from France, Canada and Russia. All had been previously built and operated and are now out of date. New plant being built is taking much longer because of exactly the same constraints that the west is suffering.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

But if the old, off the shelf design works then why not use it ?
The Chinese are not daft.
Why take a risk on something new only to discover problems later on that  increase the cost and add to delays.
Ones we built all those years ago are coming to the end of their useful life but still work so what 's the advantage of going for the latest thing ?
nanotm
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Re: Why are the new nuclear power stations going over budget and late

3 x the power output for the same amount of fuel for one, meaning reductions in waste that needs storing for the next few million years ........
the only real difference between the west and the far east is the latter one still has state ownership of such facilities and training for the job the former privatised everything to whoever said they could make the most money by screwing the public and the country at the same time !
just because your paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you