Good news for the atomic industry, says the Association of Corporate Counsel online. For the first time in 30 years, the United States has approved construction of new nuclear power units, actually additions to an existing Georgia facility. When completed–owners expect Unit 3 of the additions to begin operating in 2016 and Unit 4 in 2017–the plant will provide a reliable base load of about 1,100 MW per unit. Georgia’s growing economy will need the power. And what a bargain: Only $14 billion.
To play the devil’s advocate, let’s assume cost overruns are only 30%. That brings the price tag to about $18.2 billion. And there is plenty of optimism in those completion dates, too, so lets push them back at least two years each (Now I’m the optimist.) to 2018 and 2019.
Here’s the math: For kicks, let’s spend the $18.2 billion on an equivalent value of wind turbines at, say, $2 million/MW. How much nameplate wind power, P, could we buy?
P = $18.2 x 109 / ($2 x 106 per MW)
= 9.1 x 103 MW
That is, 9,100 MW of turbines.
Also assume the turbines are on average 2-MW units. That would mean an order of 4,550 turbines.
If all were of the same model, the price ($2 million/MW) could drop considerably. In fact, a 1,000-turbine order to one OEM would make them giddy and likely earn a hefty discount. But let’s be conservative. If the order were split among several OEMs, initial wind-turbine deliveries might start producing power in two years (2014) and finish in three more, about 2017, likely before the first atomic addition, Unit 3, goes online in the quite optimistic 2018.
Although the new atomic plants will deliver reliable power the nation needs, they will do so at considerable cost. One thought from the above scenario would be to build one atomic unit and complement the other half in wind turbines. The two technologies would benefit each other nicely.
Wind power is now less expensive than atomic power and the price differential will only widen as developments in the pipeline are built into new turbines.
Of course, wind power will never replace atomic power. That would be just crazy.
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