Economics of Nuclear

Generation IV / Economic Modelling Compares Costs Of SMR To Conventional PWR

By David Dalton
15 October 2020

US Energy Impact Centre is developing ‘open source’ blueprint for 114-MW plant
Economic Modelling Compares Costs Of SMR To Conventional PWR
A computer-generated image of the ‘open source’ 114-MW nuclear plant. Photo courtesy EIC.
The total cost per kW of electricity generated by a 114-MW small modular reactor unit is $2,653 compared to $4,764 per kW for a conventional pressurised water reactor unit of 1,144 MW, economic modelling data indicates.

The data has been published by the Energy Impact Centre (EIC), founded in 2017 by robotics expert Bret Kugelmass. EIC is developing what it calls Open100, the world’s first open-source blueprint for the design, construction and financing of a 114-MW SMR.

It shows that the total cost of the SMR would be slightly over $303m. This compares to $5.5bn for the 1,144-MW reference plant.

The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from the SMR would be $36/MWh compared to $92/MWh for the reference plant.

LCOE captures both capital and operating costs that need to be covered. It is essentially the long-term price at which the electricity produced by a power plant will have to be sold at for the investor to cover all their costs.

The total capital cost of the SMR would be $2,901/kW compared to $6,936/kW for the reference plant. It would take 1.5 years to build an SMR plant, while the 1,144-MW reference plant would take five years.

Mr Kugelmass said the Open100 plan is about showing that nuclear can provide both clean, and cost-effective, energy, with more streamlined construction. He said the global trend of building larger and more complex reactors has contributed to the “uncompetitive” nature of nuclear power.

“When we first got started we were under the assumption public perception might be an issue but as we continued to interview experts around the world we realised there were dozens of countries desperate for nuclear and the only thing holding them back was cost – cost driven by unnecessary complexity, borrowing risk of high capital outlay, and lengthy construction periods,” Mr Kugelmass said.

He said that for the past 50 years, rising costs and delays associated with overly complicated and proprietary designs have severely limited the deployment of nuclear power around the world.

EIC conducted more than 1,500 interviews at more than 100 nuclear sites in 15 countries, talking to experts in industry, technology, economics, and policy.

The Open100 online platform serves as a repository for engineering schematics, construction schedules and financial models for the SMR. The project takes the engineering behind the most successful nuclear energy deployments to create the foundation for a new generation of power plants that are “easier and more cost-effective to build”.

Open100 is intended to serve as a foundation for new power plant construction, offering developers a web interface to visualise plant and component design, costs studies, and construction plans.

The open source format will allow startups, engineering firms, global utilities, and capital markets to align around a common framework.

EIC recently announced the first major update to Open100. The website now highlights contributing organisations and experts, detailed engineering schematics, construction schedules, and an interactive economics dashboard.

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