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Micro-Nuclear: No Panacea

By Robert Peltier -- July 16, 2009

As I posted last week, conventionally sized nuclear power (?750–1,250 MW) is dramatically uncompetitive with coal- and gas-fired electricity generation in light of the huge increase in construction costs recently estimated by various utilities. A typical new coal-fired plant may cost on the order of $2,000/MW compared to new nuclear estimated to cost as much as four or five times more. The lower operating costs of nuclear compared to fossil-fired plants cannot erase this capital-cost premium.

Micro-nuclear, with capacity in the 5–100 MW range, while exciting as a new technology, is no panacea. Actual installed costs are yet to be published. But operating cost estimates of less than ten cents a kilowatt-hour have drawn attention to the designs. But are the scale economies in construction, operations, maintenance, and the fuel cycle considered in these preliminary estimates?…