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Again quoting the French Senate report, it appears that the  54 € / MWh estimate for nuclear electicity includes the cost (about 5 € / MWh) of heavy-duty revisions to all the existing plant, both to prolong its life another 30 years and to implement post-Fukushima security. Sounds remarkably cheap... but only if they are effectively able, and allowed, to run them for an extra 30 years after the end of their design life :

Électricité : assumer les coûts et préparer la transition énergétique Electricity: acknowledging the costs and preparing for the energy transition

Votre commission s'interroge toutefois sur le pari que semble faire EDF : ces investissements, égaux aux trois quarts du coût de construction historique des centrales (72,9 milliards d'euros selon la Cour des comptes94(*)) se placent, en effet, dans la perspective de la prolongation des centrales nucléaires. M. Proglio a indiqué clairement aux membres de votre commission que « ces investissements comprennent une large rénovation, sorte de « grand carénage », indispensable à l'approche des trente ans de fonctionnement. Une fois cette rénovation réalisée, les centrales pourront fonctionner pendant trente nouvelles années, sans préjuger, bien sûr, des avis qui nous sont délivrés tous les dix ans par l'ASN. »

Your Committee nevertheless is curious about the bet that EDF seems to be making : these investments, equal to three quarters of the historical construction costs of the plants (72.9 billion euros according to the Court of Auditors) are made, indeed, in view of the extension of the life of nuclear power plants. Mr. Proglio has made it clear to your committee members that " these investments include a wide-ranging renovation, sort of" major overhaul "critical to the perspective of thirty years of operation. Once the renovation is completed, the plants will run for thirty more years, without prejudice, of course, to notices issued to us every ten years by the nuclear safety authority . "
Ainsi ces travaux ne produiront-ils véritablement leur effet sur le plan économique qu'à condition que la durée d'exploitation des centrales soit effectivement prolongée au-delà de trente ans : il s'agit d'une forme de pari économique, l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire ou l'autorité politique pouvant en décider autrement. Thus these works really only produce their economic effecst on the condition that the duration of plant operation is effectively extended for at least thirty years: it is a form of economic bet, since the Nuclear Safety Authority or the political authority may decide otherwise.

It comes down to trust, in the end. Every nation's nuclear safety record is excellent, until it isn't.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 06:02:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Design life is not 30 years. It's 40 years. The extensions make the lifetime 60 years.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 08:48:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I would submit that it's far easier to make a wind turbine with a 60 year lifetime than it is a nuclear plant. The turbine just needs to have oversized bearings and gears, but the materials in the reactor are fundamentally damaged by the radiation. Also there is the question of how much of the original plant is still in use at the end of the cycle--compared to how much has been replaced during use.

Also the claim that nuclear plant re-fueling can be timed to coincide with a low period of power demand is questionable, given that the refueling takes months. It takes, what, a day to replace a blade on a turbine?

by asdf on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 09:02:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In France, there are enough reactors so that they can be rotated out of service one by one without making a huge hole in production (and the pauperized maintenance staff tour around France as their jobs move, sleeping in caravans etc.) The homogeneity of the plant makes this fairly easy to plan. Until you get the same systemic problem everywhere at the same time, of course...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 09:17:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even the reactor tanks themselves can be replaced by newer ones when the old ones become brittle. It has been done already in the US, IIRC.

Nuclear plant refuelling is always done during summer, in Sweden at least. At that time, demand is so low anyways that the slack can be picked up by our hydroplants without a hitch. And not all nukes need to be refueled at the same time. A standard refueling operation takes a few weeks.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 11:53:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's an interesting comparison. When hybrid cars came out, one of the techniques used to reduce fuel consumption was "auto stop" of the engine. When you stop the car, the engine stops.

Then when you need to go again, the engine needs to start back up. (Obviously it's more complicated than that!) So the immediate reaction of the hybrid-car-denier community was "that's going to wear out your starter motor really fast!"

But obviously it doesn't wear out your "starter motor" because there is no starter motor. It's some combination of traction motor or motors, depending on the system, but the old-fashioned starter motor with Bendix drive engaging the flywheel is not in the picture at all.

Similarly with wind turbines, what you have today is a pretty complicated system with high-load gearing between the hub and the generator, plus what amounts to a helicoptor rotor blade management system to deal with varying wind strengths. The gearing can be replaced by direct drive connections, and one would think that over time the blade management system could also be simplified. So there's lots of space for technical improvements that go in the direction of simplification of the mechanical system--potentially down to something with very few moving parts.

Meanwhile, despite 60+ years of investment in engineering, nuclear reactors are fundamentally complicated, dangerous, and expensive.

by asdf on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 02:16:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's probably because you don't use much air conditioning in Sweden. In the mediterranean latitudes it would probably be best in winter. After the hydroelectric dams get full if possible.

res humą m'és alič
by Antoni Jaume on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 03:57:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True. So : we get an extra half-life. (boom boom!)

And cheap at the price : one wonders why/whether new build has to be so fiendishly expensive. My guess is that the EPR is just a poor design.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 09:13:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say that a lot of it has to do with lack of n-experienced workers and companies, and a lack manufacturing capacity for heavy forgings and so on.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 11:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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