Influential ‘new nuclear’ cost report published in full for the first time

Energy Systems Catapult has today released the full technical report from Nuclear Cost Drivers (NCD) project for Energy Technologies Institute. This report demonstrates a credible path for nuclear energy to become a competitive Net Zero solution alongside renewables.

The NCD summary report, published in April 2018, was cited as the basis for achievable cost reduction in the UK Nuclear Sector Deal.

The findings also informed the MIT Future of Nuclear Study (2018); the OECD-NEA’s Unlocking Reductions in the Construction Costs of Nuclear: A Practical Guide for Stakeholders (2020), and Energy System Catapult’s Nuclear for Net Zero (2020).

Read the Report

The ETI Nuclear Cost Drivers Project

The full technical report provides more detail on the case studies than the 2018 summary report, and much more detail on the range of opportunities with potential to reduce nuclear costs.

The study provides evidence that an intentional and determined commitment to proven best practices around design standardisation combined with timely and effective programmatic sequencing – including building multiple units on a single site – can deliver highly cost-competitive nuclear new build.

Global experience shows how commitment to a standardised nuclear program can sustain the learning curve and trigger a virtuous circle of economic performance as supply chain capabilities are developed, and perceived technological, project delivery, and financial risks fall.

In addition, these technical and organisational improvements could accelerate the cost-effective deployment of more advanced nuclear technologies, such as small modular reactors.

Mike Middleton, Practice Manager Nuclear, UK Energy Systems Catapult, said: “The evidence-based study of historic, contemporary, and future nuclear power projects, shows that there are a small number of understandable factors that drive the cost of nuclear plants.

“The analysis also highlights that there are several consistent characteristics shared amongst low cost plants and different common characteristics shared across high cost power plants. If understood and addressed, they can reduce the cost of new nuclear projects.”

“Low- carbon, low- cost new nuclear energy is achievable in the UK, through a sector-wide, integrated cost reduction programme that builds on global best practices. An effective cost reduction programme could also reduce the duration and risk of nuclear projects, changing the perception of nuclear construction risk and reducing financial costs.”

Eric Ingersoll, Managing Partner, Lucid Catalyst, said: “Achieving net zero across the whole economy by 2050 will be a Herculean effort. So, we therefore need to consider the effort required for an intentional cost reduction programme for nuclear energy in the context of the profound risk of failing to decarbonise in time, and the real challenges we face in achieving net zero.”

“This is why we need to apply the same determination and commitment to cost reduction for nuclear energy as we have demonstrated successfully for other technologies like offshore wind. The offshore wind industry programme has demonstrated how a determined commitment to cost reduction in exchange for continuous build and sustained access to finance is a successful formula that enables increased deployment, improved performance, and competitiveness.

“Our study shows that there is a credible path available to realise competitiveness and increased rates of deployment for nuclear energy also. In other words: nuclear doesn’t need to be expensive if we take the right approach.”

Tim Stone, Chairman, Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The UK can, once again, take a leading global position in the construction and operation of large amounts of economic low carbon, reliable power.

“76% of the UK’s energy in 2019 came from fossil sources and all that has to be replaced to deliver Net Zero. The powerful work set out in this report shows that the UK absolutely can deliver a major contribution to that goal through nuclear power built to time and cost and what has to happen to make that a reality – all of which is entirely within our reach. There is no excuse now for policy makers and investors to doubt this can be achieved.”

The Nuclear Cost Drivers project

The summary report to the Energy Technologies Institutes (ETI’s) Nuclear Cost Drivers (NCD) project was  released in April 2018. This was accompanied by a statement on the project outputs including the costs database, cost model, and project reports. The full technical report provides more detail on the case studies than the summary report, and much more detail on the range of opportunities with potential to reduce nuclear costs.

About the Energy Technologies Institute

The ETI operated from 2007 to 2019 as a public-private partnership between global energy and engineering companies and the UK Government which worked as a conduit between academia, industry and the UK government to accelerate the development of low carbon technologies.

As part of its nuclear programme between 2013 and 2019, the ETI delivered of a knowledge gathering project led by LucidCatalyst, to provide an evidence-based understanding of the range of factors influencing the cost of energy from new nuclear plants.

One of the ETI’s guiding principles was to allow private sector ETI members to extract value from their investment in ETI whilst publishing the learning from the projects consistent with matched funding investment from the taxpayer through UK Government. Two years on, the time is right to publish the full technical report.

About LucidCatalyst

LucidCatalyst is a highly specialized international consultancy offering thought leadership, strategy development, and technoeconomic expertise.

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