Nuclear Power: Dangerous Hope to Soften CO2 Pricing

Reposted from MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. — September 16, 2021

“Making nuclear safe is also why it is uneconomic. The US would not have had a nuclear industry if not for Price-Anderson and the rest of it from the federal government.” (Bradley, below)

“10 million deaths/year from the fossil fuel way of boiling water is criminally dangerous in the final degree.” (Canon Bryan, below)

Canon Bryan is CFO and a founding shareholder of Terrestrial Energy, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Mr. Bryan and Terrestrial develop advanced commercial power plants. [1]

This exchange with a sophisticated nuclear proponent is illustrative of the current debate regarding the future of nuclear power (my thoughts here). I would note the following having engaged Mr. Bryan:

  1. We talk past each other at times because I am focused on the U.S. and he internationally where most new-design nuclear plants are being built. Bryan does not address the massive problems at the Summer and Vogtle nuclear busts–his argument appears to be all about new technology.
  2. On subsidies, Bryan relies on international statistics where fossil-fuel subsidies pertain mainly to the transportation (oil) side and not electricity generation.
  3. Bryan’s holy grail is experimental first-of-a-kind technology: “Generation IV advanced nuclear power plants that use its proprietary Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) technology.” The company adds: “Terrestrial Energy is engaged with regulators and industrial partners to complete IMSR® engineering and to commission first IMSR® power plants in the late 2020s.”

Our exchange from several months ago follows:

Bradley: Nuclear is the most complicated, perilous way to boil water. Too many parts, too many residual issues. Gas-fired combined cycle: sooner, cheaper, flexible….

Canon Bryan: If you define “perilous” by the observable deaths per unit of energy throughout history, you are patently wrong. Natural gas = 4,000 deaths/TWh Nuclear = 90 deaths/TWh

Also, the goal of the energy system now is not simply to deliver energy, but to deliver energy without GHG emissions. NG is tremendously inferior to nuclear on its climate credentials, according to the IPCC. This too represents a form of peril. NG emissions = 480 grams CO2/kWh Nuclear emission = 12 grams CO2/kWh

Your argument about subsidies is truly laughable. According to IRENA, they conservatively (compared to other sources) estimate that fossil subsidies exceeded nuclear subsidies by a factor of 147 times in a given year, including externalities.

Here’s another source listing IMF estimates of fossil subsidies at far higher levels than even IRENA.

Bradley: “Perilous” means that it is so dangerous that a whole lot of safeguards and redundancy must be built-in for it to become safe. Making it safe, in other words, ruins the economics. And no private insurer would or will touch it as far as I know ….

Bryan: The article is about using existing capacity — so-called LTO (long-term operation) nuclear power plants — to make hydrogen. There are over 400 operating nuclear power plants in the world. They are all insured. Your point is irrelevant.

And no, perilous does not mean that. Perilous in the context of technology or infrastructure means how many deaths have been caused. Actuaries, who calculate risks for insurers, operate based on deterministic experience. The deterministic experience of NPPs shows one thing with zero ambiguity: NPPs have operated for 64 out of 65 years without causing harm to a single person or ecosystem. The exact opposite of perilous.

Bradley: That’s the Price Anderson Act in the U.S., and probably government this-or-that in other countries.

A new nuclear plant would not be able to get its own insurance, outside of special government favor. Will you admit that making nuclear safe significantly increases unit cost? That’s what I am getting at. The problem with nuclear is the next plant. Too expensive.

Bryan: A deceptively complex question.

1) New NPPs in the West are proving to be too CAPEX-intensive because they are First-Of-A-Kind or First-In-A-Generation. That is true of any new industrial development – not just nuclear. Making these the proxy for the entire industry amounts to fallacy of incomplete evidence. 49 of the 71 new plants commissioned since 2000 have been in China and Russia with an average CAPEX of sub-$3/Watt. That is competitive.

2) I do admit that making any industrial facility safe increases CAPEX. Unsafe facilities are cheap to build. To attempt to penalize nuclear safety rather than envy it is, frankly, perverse.

3) In my opinion, the safety regulations for civilian nuclear are far too strict. They could be rolled back by a factor of 1,000 and still be as safe as they are today, which is, namely, 1 incident in 65 years causing 32 deaths + up to 16,000 possible deaths, while avoiding 2.3 million deaths.

4) Advanced nuclear technologies are specifically designed to make use of passive safety, which dramatically reduces CAPEX. They are being developed today for 2020s deployment.

Bradley: Here are my answers in response to yours (thank you):

1) Nuclear is an old technology now. New experimental designs to try to achieve competitiveness after a half century of failure is risky and raises fundamental questions. And sub-$3/watt (a guess, a hope) is still not competitive. Natural gas CC is far less risky, proven, cheaper, and quicker to build.

2) I was just explaining nuclear’s inherently high costs. I am not saying build anything ‘unsafe’.

3 and 4) Related to #2: who knows? Only private insurance in a free market sans government can tell the world if such plants are safe.

And at the same time, how about getting guaranteed performance contracts as to cost and in-service and the rest of it from a deep-pocket third party? Not just the builder that can go bankrupt. Maybe Bill Gates can do something with his project–but taxpayers are already $80 million in the hole with him.

Bradley: We simply need a market test rather than external opinions and data about costs and benefits. A nuclear facility must gets its own insurance, not receive government subsidies, and be undergirded by long-term contracts and not utility ratebase. Natural gas/LNG is substantially cheaper where available, right?

Bryan: “half century of failure” If 2.3 million deaths avoided and over 75 Gigatonnes CO2 avoided since 1971 is considered a failure, I am proud to be a failure.

“Sub-$3/Watt” CAPEX is data-based, unlike any claim you have made in this discussion. And it is competitive on a life-cycle basis. NG CAPEX may be lower, but ~80% of life cycle cost for NG is OPEX. For nuclear it’s the reverse.

“Natural Gas CC is far less risky” WrongAccording to OSTI, from 1969 to 2000, NG plants have had 125 fatal accidents. Nuclear had 1. That’s not “far less risky”.

“Natural gas CC is…proven” [Wrong] The first civilian nuclear plant was commissioned in 1956. The first NG CC was commissioned in 1961. Being a younger technology does not somehow make it more proven.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s this thing out there called climate change. It happens when NG CC plants spew out 480 grams/CO2/kWh – as compared to 12g for nuclear – heating up the environment too quickly and causing massive global risks. If they can build an emission-free NG plant for the same cost as a nuclear plant, then we can talk about NG.

Bradley: I would also compute the extra, unnecessary cost with the most expensive technology to generate electricity and ask: what would have been done with the hundreds of billions of dollars to make individuals and the world better.

Do you have an aggregate statistic of cost overruns for US nuclear alone, starting with Sumner and Vogtle working backwards? Economics matters, and wealth is health.

Bryan: Fallacy of Incomplete Evidence. Again.

Bradley: Real world costs are the best evidence. Not ‘might’ or ‘could’

Nuclear is radically noncompetitive, always needing government subsidies and awaiting a new, breakthrough technology. The most complicated, dangerous way of boiling water, after all.

Bryan: Why are you so addicted to proving publicly how ignorant you are? 32 deaths from one incident in 65 years is the opposite of dangerous. 10 million deaths/year from the fossil fuel way of boiling water is criminally dangerous in the final degree.

LCOE costs are competitive with NG in China and Russia. Not might or could. But actual LCOE. I have compiled the data myself. Fossil receives several orders of magnitude more subsidies than nuclear ever did.

As usual, you provide zero evidence for your completely false claims. And I have repeated myself over and over. I’m done here.

Bradley: Control your emotions, please.

Making nuclear safe is also why it is uneconomic. The US would not have had a nuclear industry if not for Price-Anderson and the rest of it from the federal government.

Government subsidies are required to even keep existing nuclear plants online. And tell us about Sumner and Vogtle–big hopes of the latest, greatest designs that went bust.

Your company claims to have the best Generation IV nuclear technology. So where have we heard this before? Why are you sure you have it this time?

Can you compete against gas-fired combined cycle? Can you compete without the US Department of Energy as funder? Without Price-Anderson insurance?

Do you have electricity buyers who want to commit up-front to your price (what) and your term (how many years)? And if your contractor goes bankrupt (like Westinghouse)?

Final Note

The latest news is a bailout for Exelon’s 2,500 MW Byron Nuclear Plant in Illinois to the tune of $600 mm, five-years in the name of “a 100 percent clean energy future.” Nuclear, itself wounded by wind and solar, is a pawn in the ‘clean energy’ game that leaves the market less free and more expensive for consumers and/or taxpayers.


[1] Terrestrial Energy is a developer of Generation IV advanced nuclear power plants that use its proprietary Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) technology. IMSR® technology represents true innovation in cost reduction, versatility and functionality of nuclear power plants.

IMSR® power plants will provide zero-carbon, reliable, dispatchable, cost-competitive electric power and high grade industrial heat for use in many industrial applications, such as chemical synthesis and desalination, and in so doing extend the application of nuclear energy far beyond electric power markets.

They have the potential to make important contributions to industrial competitiveness, energy security, and economic growth. Their deployment will support rapid global decarbonization of the primary energy system by displacing fossil fuel combustion across a broad spectrum.

Using an innovative design, and proven and demonstrated molten salt reactor technology, Terrestrial Energy is engaged with regulators and industrial partners to complete IMSR® engineering and to commission first IMSR® power plants in the late 2020s.

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Steve Case
September 18, 2021 6:18 am

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s this thing out there called climate change. It happens when NG CC plants spew out 480 grams/CO2/kWh – as compared to 12g for nuclear – heating up the environment too quickly and causing massive global risks. If they can build an emission-free NG plant for the same cost as a nuclear plant, then we can talk about NG.

Right there is the problem, Note the word “spew” CO2 is not a problem.

Reply to  Steve Case
September 18, 2021 7:25 am

Not to worry, the left will get around to outlawing the word, “spew.”

Reply to  Scissor
September 18, 2021 8:45 am

haha spew. trigger event!

Glen Livingston
Reply to  Scissor
September 18, 2021 7:29 pm

Most likely they will just transition to “projectile vomit”

oeman 50
Reply to  Steve Case
September 18, 2021 8:03 am

“Spew” is the current word du jour of those that wish to denigrate emissions from any kind of plant. The word used to be “belch.”

Michael Nagy
Reply to  Steve Case
September 18, 2021 9:05 am

I was going to say the same thing Steve. Canada is a leader in building nuclear power plants, unfortunately they haven’t built one in their own country since 1977. They instead go round the world where there are less restrictions and build them there. His whole argument, and he made some good points, went into the trash when he started that CO2 is a pollutant crap.

Reply to  Steve Case
September 18, 2021 11:34 am

Spew or not spew, it’s still carbon being moved around. Mined, transported, etc. Carbon is being removed from the ground.

Reply to  niceguy
September 18, 2021 3:30 pm

Uh, if you keep it in the ground then you can’t USE the carbon, eh?

Reply to  yirgach
September 18, 2021 6:07 pm

Or the uranium, for that matter.

Reply to  yirgach
September 18, 2021 7:25 pm

You can use carbon without spewing it. You know, like not burning everything you have.

Reply to  Steve Case
September 19, 2021 5:05 am

At least it is no more a problem than all the CO2 being spewed by all living animals … and that is sucked up by all living plants as food.

If ya wanna rid the earth of CO2 (btw, you can’t) then you have to murder every animal on the planet … and in the process starve every plant of food, making the earth a lifeless rock.

Reply to  Duane
September 20, 2021 11:57 am

Stop the oceans from warming,
Volcanoes from erupting,
Carbonates from getting cooked along rifts and subduction zones,
Prevent CO₂ released from deeply subducted carbonates and plant material,
Acidic rain (it’s natural) from falling and eroding carbonate rocks,
Cooking carbonates into lime for cement and cinder blocks,
Prevent all plants from respiring,
Bacterial consumption of vegetative and animal matter…

By the way, perhaps someone should mention to niceguy that human’s aggregated contribution towards atmospheric CO₂ is 4% and likely less.

And that CO₂’s percentage of atmospheric gases is 0.04%.

Reply to  Steve Case
September 20, 2021 11:39 am

Both Bradley and Bryan come across as paid propagandists.

Bradley is impervious to facts, while relying on emotion based anti-nuclear fears.

Bryan is making skilled use of anti-“carbon dioxide” fears.

September 18, 2021 6:25 am

Nuclear, itself wounded by wind and solar, …

That set off my bs meter. Nuclear is wounded by wind and solar only in the same way we are all wounded by wind and solar.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  commieBob
September 18, 2021 6:55 am

Worse than that. Nuclear plant operators have only been too eager to play the CO2=Pollution card. They initially used climate alarmism to demonize coal, their primary competitor for base load power, before expanding their campaign to disparage natural gas. Now the crocodile wants to eat them. Good. There’s a special place for them in hell.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
September 18, 2021 8:44 am

I was in senior management at the time that Utilities were pushing the reduce CO2 mantra. many discussions as how they were convinced that that was their salvation! Coal plants would be shut down and Nuclear Plants would replace them.

Reply to  Frank from NoVA
September 19, 2021 5:07 am

Nuclear is a far better base load source of power than coal plants because their on line full power performance is much higher than coal.

James Beaver
Reply to  Duane
September 20, 2021 7:34 pm

The power density of nuclear power is higher than all other sources, which makes it especially valuable for urban base load applications.

michael hart
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
September 19, 2021 7:25 am

Yup. I’m a strong supporter of nuclear power, but I wince every time another supporter uses the CO2 thing as an argument in favor.

It is often recounted that Margaret Thatcher went along with the green CO2 dogma because she needed to defeat the communist trade unions, lead by the coal miners. She was right in terms of what needed to be done politically, but it could be argued that she helped contribute to an even bigger evolving political and economic crisis.

Your enemy’s enemy is often NOT your friend.

Reply to  commieBob
September 18, 2021 7:04 am

Redistributive change, lowered expectations, and a fraction of a fraction “hot” CO2 clouds, coupled with a superior marketing message and em-pathetic appeal for the abortive stroke. ExxonMobil was collateral damage from this anthropogenic conflict when they thought they could abort the baby, cannibalize her profitable parts, sequester her carbon pollutants, and have her, too. A secular indulgence that has, unexpectedly, progressed beyond their [wildest] imagination..

Reply to  n.n
September 18, 2021 7:31 am

Ironically, the Rockefellers financially supported Margaret Sanger and still support her legacy.

Reply to  Scissor
September 18, 2021 8:53 am

The Roguefellas also sponsored Hitler and delivered the necessary fuel additives for the nazi warplanes (Imagine how much smaller and shorter ww2 would have been if the nazis had no planes).
+ the Rockefeller foundation worked closely with Hitlers chief eugenist Rubin.
After the war ended General Patton realised that “We’ve been fighting the wrong enemy.”
And as Ron Paul said “It’s no coincidence that the century of global war coincided with the century of central banking”
WW1 started 1 year after the private banking cartel FED highjacked the world reserve currency
(it is also no coincidence that ALL countries that have been attacked by the USA during this century were those of the very few left that are not members of the bis= central bank of central banks and created by Hitler and Norman Montague ).

Everything global is an artificial business of very few very rich people for the sake of centralized power.
WW1 ended in more centralisation = League of Nations
WW2 the same = UN
AGW = global tax and economy controle
Plandemic = undermining and subverting democracy by pretending to help

Mike McMillan
Reply to  SxyxS
September 18, 2021 1:59 pm

I don’t think Adolf had a Jewish chief eugenicist Rubin. He did have one named Ernst Rüdin.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
September 18, 2021 4:15 pm

Ernst Rudin:

Similarly his own large study on Mood disorders correctly disproved his own theory of simple Mendelian inheritance and also showed environmental causes, but Rüdin simply neglected to publish and continued to advance his eugenic theories.

When you’ve got a big career, you find ways to ignore inconvenient facts. Ancel Keys and, of course, our own dearly beloved Michael Mann come to mind.

Scientists will commit fraud to further their careers. The consequences for society can be disastrous.

Reply to  commieBob
September 18, 2021 7:24 pm

It was wounded several decades ago due to the failures of several Nuclear Plants with little damage to people and the environment, but it was exploited by the ecoloonies for deliberate PR damage making Nuclear look scary and expensive.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Sunsettommy
September 18, 2021 9:25 pm

I hope Jane Fonda lives long enough to grasp how many billions of tons of extra CO2 emissions she bears at least some responsibility for, for her part in demonizing nuclear

Reply to  Sunsettommy
September 19, 2021 7:44 am

General scaremongering is an effective technique to further the nanny state/marxism.

Tom Halla
September 18, 2021 6:31 am

A major issue is an inability to actually decide on a design for a nuclear plant, without the anti-nuke lobby demanding yet another change. The vastly extended build times account for much of the cost.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Tom Halla
September 18, 2021 6:42 am

Hence the move to small modular reactors. Get them type approved and most of the site specific approval goes away.

Once you bin fossil and realise that renewables simply dont work, you have to accept nuclear.

Or 3rd world status.

Reply to  Leo Smith
September 18, 2021 10:37 am

“Type-approved.” Exactly.

I remember when Calvert Cliffs went in, a significant part of the excessive costs were architectural and nuclear design modifications that each had to be approved at length and great expense.

But I doubt if many MSR’s will ever be built. Better things are coming.

Reply to  Enginer01
September 18, 2021 11:58 am

Right. AFAIK, every nuclear generating plant in the U.S. has been treated as a brand new design and must start the approval process from scratch, as if the Authority Having Jurisdiction has never seen one before. This is what creates nuclear so expensive to even contemplate, and leads to inevitable cost overruns even after they receive approval to begin construction (though Gang Green probably considers this a feature, not a bug). I am looking forward to modular nukes, I have been hearing about them for 10 years now, is one ready for approval and installation yet?

Reply to  Leo Smith
September 18, 2021 11:51 am

My engineering spider sense tells me the most reliable electric system will have a mixture of nuclear and fossil fuel fired generating plants. Nuclear is highly reliable with a utilization rate something like 97+%, but they start up slowly and shut down slowly. Same thing with coal, and if we can get the regulators out of the way (of both coal and nuclear) either is competitive, depending on location and etc, so let the market decide. Either can be your base load power. Then for peakers, use natural gas fired combined cycle generators. Hydro fits well into this mix when and where available. Any non-dispatchable sources should be isolatable by the system operator, for the stability of the grid. That’s where California has made its biggest mistake, all the rooftop solar connected directly to the grid and the grid MUST accept the power. How can a system operator operate a system if they can’t control it?

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 19, 2021 5:12 am

Actually the up time for coal plants is much lower than for nuke plants, less than half, due to the heavy maintenance requirements for coal, as well as the much lower quality assurance management processes. Nuke plants are by far the world’s best source of base power.

September 18, 2021 6:47 am

MN in the USA has 2 nuclear power plants built in the 70s. Clean and reliable energy. MN won’t build another one instead they put up stupid windmills and even solar panels…dear G0d they cleared 40 acres of trees to put a solar “subsidy” farm in MN 😔

Reply to  Derg
September 18, 2021 7:33 am

Does it even matter if they clear the snow off the solar panels in winter?

Reply to  Scissor
September 18, 2021 8:40 am

They have an ice scraping/snow removal system that runs off the solar power 😉

Reply to  Derg
September 18, 2021 10:39 am
September 18, 2021 6:50 am

Hydrocarbon vs nuclear, a C02 crutch, and [catastrophic] [anthropogenic] climate change prophecy. Anything about ozone, acid rain, perhaps? Wind turbines and photovoltaic panels spread the Green blight and collect the greenbacks. Fight!

Oh, well. All’s fair in lust and abortion.

Jon R
Reply to  n.n
September 18, 2021 8:00 am

+1 for zesty conjecture.

Reply to  n.n
September 18, 2021 8:58 am

The ozone hole and acid rain were resolved by concerted international action. See also: climate change.

R Terrell
Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 10:17 am

Except the climate isn’t changing, Griff. Also, the ozone hole was nothing to worry about. The ozone ‘holes’ come and go quite naturally.

Reply to  R Terrell
September 18, 2021 1:03 pm

Well not really so.

The climate(s) – all 30+ of them around this planet – are continuously changing.

They each have their own influences and cycles, constantly interacting with and affecting each other.

Something “climate scientists” should be trying to get a handle on, instead of playing with spreadsheets to “average” millions of possible permutations of inconsistent measurements of different things.

It’s why even the IPCC says “THE climate” (they don’t even get the basics right) is a “coupled, non-linear chaotic system”.

Yes ‘it’ is, because there are some 30+ climates all doing their own changing all the time, as they have since the dawn of time.

And will keep on doing so until that big yellow orb in the sky that life here relies upon for light and warmth runs out of oompfh.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Mr.
September 18, 2021 9:29 pm

How many Bazamozos in an oomph?

Reply to  R Terrell
September 19, 2021 9:10 am

Oh? I thought ‘the climate is always changing’. skeptics assure me of that!

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 12:00 pm

Neither the ozone hole nor acid rain were ever an actual problem, that’s why apologists such as you can now claim “victory”!

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 2:25 pm

The ozone hole is back so much for the source being CFC’s

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 7:26 pm

Ozone “hole” and Acid Rain was never a problem on a wide scale. There were Ozone “holes” in the 1950’s too…..

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 9:20 pm

The ozone hole and acid rain are still with us, the international action appears to perform about the way it always does. Lots of talk and no action and the problems solve themselves. Climate changes quite naturally, which a quick perusal of the Greenland Ice Cores will show and also that the climate changes no matter the CO2 content of the atmosphere. During the Ordovician Period the CO2 content of the atmosphere was 15 times what it is now, and we experienced a 7000 year Ice Age. No global warming, sorry Charlie.

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 10:07 pm

It was just reported that the ozone “hoke” over Antarctica is now larger than the continent. So much for going away.

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
September 18, 2021 10:08 pm

“hole”. Gotta learn to type, and proofread.

Reply to  griff
September 19, 2021 12:27 am

Griff the nutter starts up again.

Funny, the acid rain & tree death thing only happened in Germany…
I wonder why?

Reply to  pigs_in_space
September 19, 2021 9:11 am

A moment online would give you details of acid rain in Poland, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, etc etc etc

Reply to  griff
September 19, 2021 2:16 pm

Oh, have you ever been to Poland Mr Nutter??

I drive thru it regularly, you know that huge national park up north of Augustow, Suwalki etc??

Reply to  griff
September 19, 2021 9:59 am

The ozone “hole” is as big as it’s ever been. Fortunately, nothing is actually bothered or hurt by it.

September 18, 2021 7:58 am

Before the NRC, nuclear plants in the US were cheaper to build than coal plants. And wildly cheaper to run.

In a coal plant, something is always broken. Nuclear plants are so simple you can put them underwater and let the military run them. There’s nothing to do.

After proving to be the safest, cleanest, and cheapest energy source, the NRC was created to fix the problem.

Now it takes 2000 people to fill out the paperwork to run each plant plus insane fees and fines for events that have no impact on safety in real life. No technology except nuclear has the ability to continue to succeed for decades under this much federal regulatory burden.

Coal plants burn dirt, nuclear plants run on regulations.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  vboring
September 18, 2021 8:49 am

A common suggestion I heard 40 years ago operating NPPs was that utilities should build a “Trash-to-Energy” plant next on each plant site to get extra energy from burning the paperwork.

Reply to  vboring
September 18, 2021 8:58 am

There is really no comparison between a submarine nuclear plant and a commercial power station, is there?

R Terrell
Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 10:21 am

They are basically the same as the small local reactors we’ve been hearing about, They are also a lot simpler and MUCH more reliable, too. So, what’s not to like about them?

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 12:45 pm

Oh really? How about the plant on the USS Gerald Ford,

Reply to  Yooper
September 18, 2021 12:57 pm

griff, spend some quality time on Wikipedia:

The new reactor was named A1B, following the Navy’s reactor-designation scheme of type, generation, and manufacturer: A for aircraft carrier, 1 for the maker’s first reactor plant design, and B for Bechtel.[3] Two A1B reactor plants will power each Gerald R. Ford class ship.
It is estimated that the total thermal power output of the A1B will be around 700 MWth, some 25% more than provided by the A4W.[4] Improved efficiency in the total plant is expected to provide improved output to both propulsion and electrical systems. Using A4W data[5] with a 25% increase in thermal power, the A1B reactors likely produce enough steam to generate 125 megawatts (168,000 hp) of electricity, plus 350,000 shaft horsepower (260 MW) to power the four propeller shafts.[6]
The increased electrical generation capacity will allow for elimination of service steam on the ship, reducing staffing requirements for maintenance.[7] Also, the use of electrical aircraft catapults (EMALS) will free the ship’s air wing from reactor plant steam constraints, in comparison to the steam catapults used for launching aircraft on Nimitz class carriers, which relied on steam supplied by the nuclear reactor.
The A1B reactor uses modernized technology that is both more advanced and adaptable than previous reactor technology, is smaller and weighs less than the A4W, and has operator interfaces that are expected to be improved as well.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Yooper
September 18, 2021 2:08 pm

There is no such thing as quality time on Wikipedia, says me, a veteran editor over there.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
September 18, 2021 2:39 pm

There is for griff….it’s better than where he gets his information…..

Reply to  Yooper
September 18, 2021 9:24 pm

Griff can’t read, and expecting it to utilize common knowledge is useless. It can only pretend to think, can’t analyze data, and would be hopeless in a real argument, since all it can do is lie.

Reply to  Karl Baumgarten
September 19, 2021 9:08 am

Really Karl? That’s all you got?

Reply to  Yooper
September 19, 2021 9:08 am

The sub reactors are much, much simpler than a commercial nuke -and even any of these proposed (supposed?) SMRs

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 1:09 pm

There is really no comparison between a submarine nuclear plant and a commercial power station

Other than the main common characteristic that they both work reliably 24x7x52 in all weather conditions, and for decades without re-fueling?

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 9:22 pm

They are easy to compare, what have you been eating? It has really messed up your mind.

Reply to  griff
September 19, 2021 1:13 am

Griff is totally f..cked in the head this time!
WTF is doing commenting while clueless

A submarine nuclear plant by defintion has to be MUCH safer because the crew and everyone else is living smack next to the reactor. (apart from the Soviets who have had the same scant respect for human life in the sea and in the air… ).

frequent, catastrophic disasters onboard the Project 627 boats seem almost like gruesome public service announcements for everything that could conceivably go wrong with nuclear submarines.

Many of the accidents reflected not only technological flaws, but the weak safety culture of the Soviet Navy.K-8 started the trend in October 13, 1960, when a ruptured steam turbine nearly led to a reactor meltdown due to loss of coolant.

The crew was able to jury-rig an emergency water-cooling system, but not before radioactive gas contaminated the entire vessel, seriously irradiating several of the crew. K-14, which would distinguish itself in the medical evacuation of an Arctic expedition in 1963, also experienced a reactor breakdown in 1961, necessitating its replacement the following years.

Ten Soviet submarines experiences nuclear accidents**, and one other, K-11, also suffered a refueling criticality. The U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet, by contrast, suffered zero nuclear accidents—not only during the Cold War but all the way up to the present day.

November class’s reactors was bought at the price of safety and reliability. A lack of radiation shielding resulted in frequent crew illness, and many of the boat suffered multiple reactor malfunctions over their lifetimes.

“October 3, 1986, the Soviet Yankee-class ballistic missile submarine K-219, equipped with 16 R-27 nuclear missiles was on patrol, about 700 miles off the coast of Bermuda.
A seal in the hatch cover of Number 6 missile tube failed, which allowed seawater to leak into the tube and mix with missile fuel…Seawater combined with missile fuel to produce heat and toxic gases. Despite a crewman venting the tube, an explosion erupted in the silo, ejecting the missile and its warheads into the sea. Five crewmen eventually died, and the boat began to sink.”

1985 august 10
**K-431 was powered by two pressurized water reactors that drove steam turbines to a total of sixty thousand shipboard horsepower. As old as it was, K-431’s nuclear fuel supply needed replenishing,

The submarine was in the process of being refueled. Reportedly, the reactor lid—complete with new nuclear fuel rods—was lifted as part of the process.
A beam was placed over the lid to prevent it from being lifted any higher, but incompetent handling apparently resulted in the rods being lifted too high into the air. (One account has a wave generated by a passing motor torpedo boat rocking the submarine in its berth, also raising the rods too high.) This resulted in the starboard reactor achieving critical mass, followed by a chain reaction and explosion.
The explosion blew out the reactor’s twelve-ton lid—and fuel rods—and ruptured the pressure hull.

The reactor core was destroyed, and eight officers and two enlisted men standing nearby were killed instantly. A the blast threw debris was thrown into the air, and a plume of fallout 650 meters wide by 3.5 kilometers long traveled downwind on the Dunay Peninsula.

In the Kursk disaster quote “The nuclear reactors shut down safely.” while the crew were killed by muliple torpedo explosions…

Kursk had a mythical standing. It was reputedly unsinkable and there were claims it would withstand a direct hit from a torpedo”

The only advantage of a sub reactor is it shields anyone else out there from radiation if it were ever to go wrong, because all that ultra high density stuff called water scatters radiation….

July 3 2019…The incident aboard the submarine is the worst Russian submarine accident since the 2008 death of 20 Russian sailors aboard the nuclear powered Nerpa.
Russian officials have said the crew contained the fire and isolated the submarine’s nuclear reaction.

The incident aboard the submarine is the worst Russian submarine accident since the 2008 death of 20 Russian sailors aboard the nuclear powered Nerpa.

By contrast:-
Civilian nuclear reactors are larger and safety culture is high.

The new small modular designs about to be released on the market are similar in size to submarine units but with the added advantage of being easily maintained on land rather than all the difficulties inherent in undersea service units.

Pressurised water reactors as used in subs are quite similar but smaller than those proposed on land.
(one of them is proposed to be sited literally 2kms from here in the local port).

Any more crap from Griff??

Reply to  pigs_in_space
September 19, 2021 9:09 am

‘Civilian nuclear reactors are larger’

Much larger.

Reply to  vboring
September 19, 2021 10:11 am

Utility I worked for had 25-some coal plants (no gas plants at the time), 4 or 5 hydro plants, and ONE nuke (2 units). The home office had like 1000 people, and something like 80% dealt w/the regulations on the nuke, and 20% for all the coal/hydro plants. And these people worked at the home office — that didn’t include all the people at the plant itself working on just regulations, which were considerable.

Ron Long
September 18, 2021 8:01 am

I wish to comment on the statement, by Bradley “…1 incident in 65 years causing 32 deaths + up to 16,000 additional deaths…”, is a reference to the Chernobyl disaster in Russia. There have been around 30 to 40 actual deaths reasonably attributable to the partial melt-down of the core, which occurred during a stupid test of: what happens if you reduce coolant, can you power the reactor with less fuel? The comment about possible 16,000 additional deaths is based on the linear-no threshold projection of small amounts of radiation passing over large population groups. However, radiation effects in living organisms have a threshold, below which they don’t do anything. Hundreds of cosmic rays are passing through your body every second. I note that now one (1) death is attributed to the Fukashima disaster, but that it is debatable. The Nuclear Energy industry has a safety track record better than any other energy generating scheme.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  Ron Long
September 18, 2021 8:54 am

NRC regulations and the ratcheting caused by the classification of plants into Safety Quartiles, (which causes management to lose their jobs if in the lowest Quartile) has made working at a NPP safer than working for a big ten accounting firm in NYC, OSHA data confirms this statement.

Reply to  Ron Long
September 18, 2021 7:29 pm

That is a little misleading because the Reactor DESIGN was poor and lacked safety controls in it which is why they lost control of it so quickly.

September 18, 2021 8:20 am

OT – Marijn Poels documentary about Windfarms coming Sept 23:

HEADWIND | Marijn Poels

An alternative and reasonable voice coming out of Europe

Rich Lentz
September 18, 2021 8:39 am

 Here is the real problem.

The probability of being killed by a stroke of lightning is 1 x 10 E -8. and ~30 people (average) per year (last ten years) died from a lightning strike.

From the time of the first utility owned NPP, ten years before the TMI-II incident, to the incident there were ten Operating nuclear reactors. From 5 years before TMI-II there were over twenty Operating reactors. Yet over that 10-year period no one, other than those that died from heart attacks/Strokes from the stress created by the media hype, died as a result of the incident.
Do the Math. Over the time of the first NPP to the TMI incident is 150 operating years with no deaths or serious illnesses – just an occasional over excessive “regulatory” overexposure. PERIOD.  Proving that US NPPs were far safer, at least an order of magnitude safer and IMHO 10 times safer, than the existing and today’s NRC Design Basis Accident requirements. [ How many people died from a simple ride on an airplane going for a vacation during that same time period? And what is the death rate for air travel today?] Yet the NRC has continued to ratchet the plants into even stricter safety requirements on more system Increasing construction Costs and time. Decreasing the probability to the point of absurdity at costs that basically cause bankruptcy, and does not save any more lives. Ten time the regulations means ten to 100 times the expense and still only decreases lives saved from ZERO to ZERO Squared. 

If Aircraft had “Safety Regulations” as strict as NPPs they could not fly!

Reply to  Rich Lentz
September 18, 2021 8:57 am

Well, outside the USA they are still building reactors (including in the UK, with in theory at least another 4 planned).

so is US nuclear regulation much steeper than the UK/EU?

(In China they just ignore safety, so let’s just count UK, France and Finland in this comparison)

Reply to  griff
September 18, 2021 12:13 pm

Yes, griff actually asked an intelligent question! My knee jerk response would be, YES! But I don’t work in the nuclear industry in any country, so someone else will have to provide data.

Reply to  griff
September 19, 2021 1:20 am

“In China they just ignore safety?”
Griff spouts crap again.

Have you ever been to China??
Do you know the population and traffic density of such a country?

I have been to every major city in China, including on their high speed trains, as well as their Shanghai airport levitating units.

Can you tell me the accident rate on their trains, NPPs, and planes??
I thought not.

Reply to  pigs_in_space
September 19, 2021 9:07 am

pigs I have read an account from a Chinese nuclear expert about the dire state of safety considerations in Chinese nuclear construction.

I can’t at present find it, but there is serious concern out there about short cuts in their construction.

Reply to  griff
September 19, 2021 2:27 pm

Griff the nutter, relying on hearsay as usual….”there is” means you read some more crap off the internet.

Btw for a little Nugget, my father worked in nuclear and his best friend at work was a Welshman called Idris, who was the absolute boss of nuclear safety in the whole of the UK.
If there was any form of “incident” he was the first to know.

He used to tell us funny stories of what happened when a few mistakes were made here and there…

Put it this way,- I had to have a film badge for a couple of summers.

do you know what a film badge is Griff??
Ever seen one?
Ever had to round up nuclear shielding bricks?
(it was actually DU…)

Reply to  Rich Lentz
September 18, 2021 12:19 pm

Seems to me I remember encountering the thought: reducing fatalities (for example) by 50% will double your costs. Reducing fatalities another 50% will double your costs again. To make anything 100% safe would then take infinite money.

Now, what if all the hazards the regulators require the developers/designers to address, with the consequent exponential cost increases, are all mythical?

September 18, 2021 8:56 am

Bradley should should try thinking outside of a very small box. And have an open mind to nuclear technologies – to solutions other than the ones he’s peddling.

September 18, 2021 8:57 am

Terrestrial Energy is a developer of Generation IV advanced nuclear power plants that use its proprietary Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) technology

[the use of random email addresses gets you flagged as spam. stop it if you want your comments to go through-mod]

September 18, 2021 9:14 am

Bradley – your anti-nuclear fanaticism is of a flat-earth character.

Please explain how France, having 75% nuclear generation, did not bankrupt themselves building this. Curious how only in countries with fanatically antinuclear establishments that nuclear ☢️ is prohibitively expensive. Doesn’t that seem an odd coincidence?

Meanwhile France has the cheapest electricity in Europe and is making billions selling power to all their neighbours – especially Bradley-disciple U.K. How did that happen?

Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
September 18, 2021 9:25 am

The costs and regulatory requirements of nuclear are 90% artificial, based on mythology of the false linear no threshold hypothesis of radiation harm.

Hint – there is a threshold. Realising this will reduce nuclear’s costs 10 times.

Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
September 18, 2021 11:31 am

The problem from a regulatory, one-size-fits-all standpoint is that the threshold value for each individual is different. Some people’s immune systems correct the damage much faster than others and prevent systemic issues. Others are slower to respond and a much lower threshold results.

Reply to  OweninGA
September 18, 2021 2:23 pm

Natural selection would take care of this within one generation, unless (as I expect) the effect you describe is really small and swamped by othe influences on the body. In the end, the post-Biblical death rate of all life on Earth is 1, and this is not going to change anytime soon. Even protected against all so-called “causes of death” nobody would just go on living endlessly. The only actual cause of death is being alive. If that applies to you, you are going to die. Simple as that. Everything else is idle number-crunching – by definition, something like “excess deaths from X” cannot make sense, because anyone dying by X will not die again by Y. In every living thing there is one weakest part of the system that will eventually fail first. Protect it from doing so, and the only thing that will change is that now ANOTHER part is relatively weakest and will fail at some point. But fail it will. Everyone who was born will also die. 1:1. No “excess” nor escape possible.

Reply to  OweninGA
September 18, 2021 3:00 pm

A significant difficulty with that hypothesis is that background radiation levels vary considerably from place to place over the surface of the earth where people live but, according to my reading, disease and death rates from anything that might be attributable to radiation do not correlate to those background radiation levels.

Reply to  AndyHce
September 19, 2021 1:28 am

actually they do…
We live in one of the most radioactive regions of Europe.
If you add in smoking and alcohol also as contributary causes and mix them all together, you get our region as having some of the highest rates of lung and stomach cancer.
The water in a nearby town has some of the highest radium & daughter precipitation levels in Europe in the town water, to the extent they don’t really know what to do about it.
It’s a known issue with living there.

Bill T
Reply to  OweninGA
September 19, 2021 3:29 am

Back in the 1970s at the USN nuclear research site, a friend of mine triggered the radiation alarm. He was wearing a watch that used radium to make the numbers glow in the dark. The threshold limits are exceedingly low.

September 18, 2021 9:22 am

Nuclear power is certainly expensive, at least the way we have gone about it. However, it does have the redeeming quality of being very reliable. France has relied heavily on nuclear power for a long time, so it can be done.

Peter W
Reply to  Tom
September 18, 2021 9:38 am

Interesting to see how the anti-nuclear contingent always avoids discussing the reality of the French success with nuclear power!

Climate believer
Reply to  Peter W
September 19, 2021 1:55 am

What did Einstein say about it being easier to split an atom than change peoples prejudices.

Evaluations of risk are largely the result of emotions, rather than logic or facts, the eco-watermelons of today still cling to their old CND anti-nuclear comrades ideas of the eighties.

They just can’t bring themselves to admit they’ve been wrong about nuclear energy.

September 18, 2021 9:27 am

“A 97% consensus confirms that wind turbine blades are a Satanic symbol whose rotation summons up dangerous evil spirits from deep in the earth.

It is thus a regulatory requirement that beside every wind turbine tower, a monastery is constructed to accommodate 12 full time monks and/or nuns. These spiritual practitioners will pray, chant and intercede 24/7 to prevent the ascent from the earth of evil spirits in response to the rotating turbine blade that represent an effective occultic symbol. The operation of this monastery must be continuous for as long as the wind turbine blade-runes rotate.”

The above would be a regulatory requirement for the wind industry that would put it on an even par with the nature and severity of the regulatory regime under which nuclear electricity generation has to operate. It would be a direct analog in every sense.

The LNT – the linear no threshold “theory” of ionizing radiation carcinogenesis is a religious dogma in direct contradiction of a vast body of scientific data, and is the narrative that underlies the punitively restrictive and expensive regulatory and waste disposal regime that nuclear is forced to operate under. LNT is false and nonsensical.

Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
September 18, 2021 11:35 am

While you are partially correct about LNT, the problem is the T is very dependent on individual physiology. Regulators would have to find a lowest common denominator threshold to assign. Since that value is so wildly variant within the human genome, the regulatory risk (remember bureaucrats are very risk adverse) would be immense. Thus the LNT is a result of bureaucratic cowardice more than anything else.

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  OweninGA
September 18, 2021 1:17 pm

The regulators have already found the LCD and have expressed it in ‘Dose limits’ for radiation workers.
What I find interesting is that as a Radiation Worker, I was constrained by such dose limits at work, but that I could go into hospital and receive a hundred or a thousand times that same limit in say cancer treatment in a matter of hours or spread over several weeks, without a single eyebrow being raised, and no limit being placed on my subsequent radiation work.
The best epidemiology to determine radiation risk, is in the millions of such medical exposures every year, and yet we ignore those data. Some smart, eh?
If it was as dangerous as the ‘wackos’ would have us believe, please explain why these patients are not dropping like flies, but continue to mostly live, usually long lives.

Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
September 18, 2021 3:13 pm

Except that 50 years of research finds that infrasound, which is produced in great quantities by wind turbines, cause abnormal, deferential growth in two types of connective tissue, probably leading to something worse than asbestosis and mesothelioma as a wide spread cause of disease and death.

September 18, 2021 11:25 am

How many deaths from natural gas? OMG turn off the gas before you clean the oven!

Reply to  lmo
September 18, 2021 12:25 pm

Well, the way OSHA keeps score, any death that occurs on said plant is attributed to the generation method, even if the death occurred when a trespasser fell off the top of the perimeter fence trying to sneak in! So yes, that poor environmental engineer that had to climb to the top of the stack to take a sample of the emissions (to prove to regulators that all visible emissions are simply condensation) who slipped and fell to his death, yeah that’s counted as a death due to coal-fired power plants. Not due to regulators of course!

September 18, 2021 1:01 pm

While I haven’t read all of the posts on this thread, it seems like the people are not aware that Nuscales SMR reactor design is now fully licensed by the NRC. The new-generation nuclear plants are here! Here is the website

Carbon Free Power Project | NuScale Power

I get sick of all the carbon-free crap. In my book, you have to be pretty ignorant not to understand that CO2 concentration has no impact on the earth’s surface temperature.

I almost forgot to mention that griff is dumber than a fence post.

Reply to  Nelson
September 19, 2021 10:55 am

Thanks, very interesting. No power needed to force-cool — cooled by natural water-circulation.

Beta Blocker
September 18, 2021 1:08 pm

A History of Nuclear Construction’s Cost & Schedule Overruns in the 1970’s and 80’s

The long-term future of nuclear power in the United States depends upon successfully fielding the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Here in the US, the SMRs now represent the only hope we have for getting the end-to-end process of designing, constructing, and commissioning a nuclear power plant under complete and effective management control.

Thirty-five years ago, a raft of studies and reports were published which analyzed the cost growth problems and the severe quality assurance issues the nuclear construction industry was then experiencing. Those studies from the 1980’s had a number of common threads: 

— Lack of Nuclear Project Management Skills: In the 1970’s, the NRC had assumed that one power utility was much like another in its ability to manage a large nuclear construction project. In the mid 1970’s, the NRC ran its regulatory oversight activities assuming this was so. However, actual experience proved this assumption to be wrong. Some utilities were much better than others at managing their nuclear projects.

— Mismatch of Written Plans versus Field Implementation: As the 1970’s went forward, it became apparent the NRC had given construction licenses to power utilities which were not capable of doing an effective job of managing their nuclear projects. The written plans, the basis for granting an NRC construction license, were OK. The NRC would not have approved those plans had they not been OK. The problem was that many of the power utilities didn’t follow their written plans. They did a poor job of implementing their plans, they didn’t keep their in-field procedures and work practices up to date under a changing regulatory environment, and in some cases, they just ignored key parts of their written plans altogether.

— Complex, First of a Kind Projects: Any large project that is complicated, involves new and/or high technology, has several phases, involves a diversity of technical specialties, involves a number of organizational interfaces, and has significant cost and schedule pressures — any project which has these characteristics is a prime candidate for experiencing significant quality assurance issues, cost control issues, and schedule growth problems.

— Strength of the Industrial Base: Nuclear power requires competent expertise in every facet of design, construction, testing, and operations. This kind of competent expertise existed in the 1970’s and early 1980’s but was not being effectively utilized in many of the power reactor construction projects, the ones that experienced the most serious cost and schedule growth issues.

— A Changing Technical Environment: In the mid 1970’s and early 1980’s, the large reactor projects, the 1100 megawatt plants, were being built for the first time. They were being built without a prototype, and they were substantially different from previous designs. Those big plants had many new and significantly revised systems inside them, systems which had to be designed, constructed, tested, and subsequently operated.

— Lack of Design Maturity at the Start of Construction: Systems and components with safety implications often lacked sufficient design maturity at the start of construction. Changes in system and component designs often had cascading consequences for related systems. Project schedules did not carry sufficient time and cost to cover the work needed to address each and every system affected by a change in a performance requirement or in a component design.

— A Changing Regulatory Environment: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was a continual increase in the regulatory requirements being placed on power reactors. The Three Mile Island accident, the Brown’s Ferry fire, the Calvert Cliffs environmental decision, all of those events required the power utilities to change the way they were dealing with their projects in the middle of the game. Some power utilities were successful in making the necessary changes, others were not. Those projects with strong management teams were generally successful in the face of a changing regulatory environment, those with weak management teams generally failed.  

— Project Management Effectiveness: Those nuclear projects which had a strong management team and strong management control systems at all levels of the project organization generally succeeded in delivering their projects on cost and on schedule. Those that didn’t were generally incapable of dealing with the changing technical and regulatory environment and became paralyzed in the face of the many QA issues, work productivity issues, and cost control issues they were experiencing.  

— Issues with Matrix Management Systems: Every nuclear project which experienced significant cost and schedule growth problems in the 1970’s and early 1980’s was using a matrix management system at the start of construction. Every nuclear project which the NRC had to shut down because of quality assurance issues was using a matrix management system. Every nuclear construction project in the 1970’s and early 1980’s which started out with a matrix management system eventually dropped that system for a different form of project management.

— Overconfidence Based on Past Project Success: Many of the power utilities which had a record of past success in building non-nuclear projects, and which were constructing nuclear plants for the first time, did not recognize that nuclear is different. These included utilities which did not take their regulatory commitments seriously and which did not do an adequate job of assessing whether or not the management systems and the project methods they had been using successfully in past years were up to the task of managing a nuclear project.      

— Reliance on Contractor Expertise: The projects which succeeded had substantial nuclear expertise inside the power utility’s own shop. Those utilities which were successful in building nuclear plants were knowledgeable customers for the nuclear construction services they were buying. They paid close and constant attention to the work that was being done on the construction site, in the subcontractor fabrication shops, and in the contractor’s technical support organization. Emerging issues and problems were quickly and proactively identified, and quick action was taken to resolve those problems.  

— Management Control Systems: The nuclear projects which failed did not have effective management control systems for contractor and subcontractor design interface control; for configuration control and management of design documentation and associated systems and components; and for proper and up-to-date maintenance of contractor and inter-contractor cost and schedule progress information. Inadequate management control systems prevented an accurate assessment of where the projects actually stood, and in many cases were themselves an important factor in producing substandard technical work.   

— Cost & Schedule Control Systems: For those projects which lacked a properly robust cost & schedule control system, many activities listed on their project schedules were seriously mis-estimated for time, cost, scope, and complexity. Other project activities covering significant portions of the total work scope were missing altogether, making it impossible to accurately assess where the project’s cost and schedule performance currently stood, and where it was headed in the future.

— Issues with Quality Assurance: For those nuclear projects which lacked the necessary management commitment to meeting the NRC’s quality assurance expectations, the added cost of meeting new and existing regulatory requirements was multiplied several times over as QA deficiencies were discovered and as significant rework of safety-critical systems and components became necessary. Unnecessary rework caused by not doing the job right the first time around resulted in the same component or system being bought twice, sometimes even three times, before it was QA acceptable.

— Construction Productivity & Progress: For those nuclear projects which lacked a strong management team; and which lacked effective project control systems and a strong management commitment to a ‘do-it-right the first time’ QA philosophy, the combined impacts of these deficiencies had severe impacts on worker productivity at the plant site, on supplier quality and productivity at offsite vendor facilities, and on the overall forward progress of the entire project taken as a whole.

— Project Financing and Completion Schedule: As a result of these emerging QA and site productivity problems, many of the power utilities were forced to extend their construction schedules and to revise their cost estimates upward. Finding the additional money and the necessary project resources to complete these projects proved extremely difficult in the face of competition from other corporate spending priorities and from other revenue consuming activities.

— A Change in Strategy by the Anti-nuclear Activists: In the mid 1970’s, the anti-nuclear activists were focusing their arguments on basic issues of nuclear safety. They got nowhere with those arguments. Then in the late 1970’s, they changed their strategic focus and began challenging the nuclear projects on the basis of quality assurance issues, i.e., that many nuclear construction projects were not living up to the quality assurance commitments they had made to the public in their NRC license applications.

— Job Site Whistleblowers: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, whistleblowers on the job whose valid concerns were not being addressed by the project’s managers would go outside the projects to the anti-nuclear activists. Those activists included knowlegeable technical people who could evaluate the validity of the whistleblower’s concerns. Then, in the last phases of construction, when the power utilities were going for an NRC operating license, the activists would challenge the quality of the plant’s construction in the NRC’s license hearings.

— Lack of Regulatory Oversight Effectiveness: In the 1970’S and early 1980’s, the NRC was slow to react to emerging problems in the nuclear construction industry. In that period, the NRC was focusing its oversight efforts on the very last phases of the construction process when the plants were going for their operating licenses. Relatively little time and effort was being devoted to the earlier phases of these projects, when emerging QA problems and deficiencies were most easily identified and fixed. Quality assurance deficiencies which had been present for years were left unaddressed until the very last phases of the project, and so were much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to resolve.

— Lack of Early NRC Presence at Construction Sites: Because relatively little onsite time and effort was being devoted by the NRC to the earlier phases of these nuclear construction projects, the project managers became complacent through lack of hearing from the NRC. No news from the NRC was thought to be good news. Then, in the last stages of construction when the plants were going for their operating licenses, and when the anti-nuclear activists were contesting the quality of the plant’s construction in the NRC’s license hearings, the plant’s oweners were left to ask the question, why didn’t the NRC raise the issue of substandard QA practices earlier in the project, when these issues were most easily addressed?

— Lack of NRC Boldness & Risk Taking: Proactive NRC intervention in an ongoing nuclear construction project often requires that the NRC staff question the capability of the project’s managers. This is not easily done. If the staff is wrong in their evaluation, their reputations are severely damaged. On the other hand, if the NRC staff is right, then problems and issues which might have occurred don’t occur. 

— Working Relationships with Regulators: The successful nuclear projects from the 1970’s and 1980’s, the ones that stayed on cost and on schedule, did not view the NRC as an adversary. The successful projects viewed the NRC as a partner and a technical resource in determining how best to keep their project on track in the face of an increasingly more complex and demanding project environment. On the other hand, for those projects which had significant deficiencies in their QA programs, for those that did not take their QA commitments seriously, the anti-nuclear activists introduced those deficiencies into the NRC licensing process and were often successful in delaying and sometimes killing a poorly managed project.


The changing regulatory and technical environment of the 1970’s and early 1980’s did in fact increase nuclear power’s costs over and above what was expected to be the norm in the early 1970’s cost estimates. Nuclear construction projects with strong management teams and effective project management systems paid for those changes only once. Projects which were poorly managed paid for those changes multiple times over.

If mandated changes to work practices and to nuclear technology are included as necessary activities in the baseline cost estimates, those nuclear projects which had a strong management team and strong management control systems at all levels of the project organization generally succeeded in delivering their projects on cost and on schedule. Those projects that didn’t have strong management teams were generally incapable of dealing with the changing technical and regulatory environment and became paralyzed in the face of the many QA issues, work productivity issues, and cost control issues they were experiencing.  

By the end of the 1980’s, most of nuclear’s project management issues had been resolved and the nuclear construction industry was well-positioned to move forward, if new orders had been forthcoming. But it was not to be. Stiff competition from natural gas beginning in the early 1990’s put an end to any prospects for new nuclear construction for another twenty years. 

In any case, the burdens of maintaining strong regulatory oversight over the nuclear power industry are not going away. Not now, not ever. But what is just as true today as it was in the 1970’s and 1980’s is this: the project management discipline needed to deliver nuclear-grade quality assurance is the same project management discipline needed to deliver all of the other key parts of any large-scale high technology construction project.  

Moreover, in comparison with the 1970’s, the regulatory environment for nuclear power in the United States has stabilized. Here in the 2020’s, the burden of complying with the NRC’s regulations is a known commodity. And so the managers of any new-build nuclear power plant know from the very beginning what is expected of them in the area of nuclear regulatory compliance. They have no excuses for not taking the full cost of these burdens into account when developing their project’s cost and schedule estimates.


Disclosure: I’ve spent thirty-five years in nuclear construction and operations. The bulk of my occupational radiation exposure has come from beta-gamma sources. Hence my internet handle is Beta Blocker.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
September 18, 2021 1:42 pm

Way too long of post! Also, you are discussing yesterday’s issues.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Nelson
September 18, 2021 2:03 pm

These are not yesterday’s issues. Most of the issues discussed here are the same ones that caused the VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 projects to blow their original cost and schedule estimates so badly — with the result that VC Summer was cancelled outright and that Vogtle 3 & 4 went from 2012’s estimate of $12 billion dollars to its current estimate of $28 billion dollars.

I’ll have another comment concerning cost and schedule control issues at VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 later in the day.

That comment will draw upon the history of nuclear’s problems in the 1970’s and 1980’s, as are discussed above. For those of us who were living in the belly of the beast of one of these nuclear projects in the 1980’s, what happened at VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 between 2012 and 2017 is Deja Vu all over again.

Curious George
Reply to  Beta Blocker
September 18, 2021 3:42 pm

“By the end of the 1980’s, most of nuclear’s project management issues had been resolved and the nuclear construction industry was well-positioned to move forward, if new orders had been forthcoming.”
Then, why the cost overrun at Vogtle? Did most experienced construction managers retire since 1980?

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Curious George
September 18, 2021 4:09 pm

It’s because the project managers at VC Summer and at Vogtle 3 & 4 ignored all the hard lessons learned in the 1970’s and 1980’s about how to build a nuclear power plant on cost and on schedule. I’ll go into greater detail in a later comment.

Reply to  Curious George
September 18, 2021 4:45 pm

In part yes. The other problem is the skilled tradesmen that were employed kept failing random drug screens. They had to halt construction for hiring stand-downs 8 or 10 times that I know of. They also had to import much of the nuclear quality welders from Canada as there were not enough available in the US.Then there was the security dude that planted a weed plot on the edge of the restricted area. Every time one of those reliability points failed, the schedule bumped another 6 months with all the cost effects that went along with it.

Then there were the environmental nuisance lawsuits that kept popping up. They were all swatted aside, but things got halted while they fought them off. (I am fairly certain that those lawfare-caused slowdowns were in the original plan – if not, they shouldn’t be in the nuclear reactor building business.)

Reply to  Beta Blocker
September 18, 2021 4:19 pm

Informative post.
Antinuclear strategy seems to be
“let’s starve this guy to death then blame his failure to survive on poor dietary choices”.

robert of Texas
September 18, 2021 1:21 pm

If given a choice of Wind Power, Solar Power, or Nuclear Power I am steady in the nuclear power camp. Unless coal makes a comeback, there simply will not be enough gas being produced to supply all the growing economies over the next 30 years.

Wind is expensive and dangerous – it is intermittent and will require huge battery farms to even out the power production, and both of those are dangerous attributes.

Solar is even worse. Except where cities have sprung up in empty deserts near the equator where there is seldom any clouds, it doesn’t even make sense. If you have enough barren desert around you can build terribly expensive battery farms with some degree of safety.

Nuclear needs investment to test new designs out. It might take 20 years to achieve a really safe standard design but once you have one that burns just about any radioactive material, you have a design for all the power you will need for the next 500 to 1000 years. (This is assuming thorium becomes a fuel component). The lack of investment by the U.S. is going to hurt us in the long run, we will end up buying the designs of China or India (in 20 to 30 years). Canada is unlikely to be competitive due to the lack of scale and investment as well.

Think I am wrong? Try remembering China from 20 to 30 years ago – look at the progress in technology they have made. With a communist government they can make commitments no free country could live with…build at any cost and let some fail so that lessons can be learned from them. Of course, they can also just continue to burn their own vast supplies of really dirty coal (lignite). After all, it just kills people.

Reply to  robert of Texas
September 18, 2021 1:44 pm

Look at the link in my post above. We already have licensed technology.

Kit P
September 18, 2021 4:37 pm

Producing electricity electricity with coal, natural gas, or nuclear is cheap, safe, and without significant environmental impact.

Those are the facts based on my observations working in the power industry.

In other words, there is not a problem. This makes for a rather boring argument.

What you pay for electricity is a different matter. If you live some place like California there is a lot of income redistribution going on.

The mix of power depends on how much coal and natural gas you where you need it. If you have no coal or gas, nuclear is cheaper.

Laws of Nature
September 18, 2021 7:19 pm

“Nuclear is the most complicated, perilous way to boil water”
Seems wrong! You got it running it boils by itself, no moving parts, beside a regulator, moving a few mm per day.
It gets complicated if you built a high efficient GW facility using 500-°C steam, but that is true for any other tehcnoligy

Breck Henderson
September 18, 2021 8:06 pm

I’m a retired Public Affairs Officer and reactor inspector with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, so I know nuclear power very well. Mr. Bradley: Sorry but you’re mostly wrong. Nuclear power is completely safe, from the point of view of hazard to the general public. But building them involves extraordinary fiscal hazard. You never know when a Federal Judge will step in and rule that it doesn’t meet environmental regulations and put a halt to your project, with millions lost in interest and defaults. That’s the risk that prevents utility executives from building them, and a big part of what makes them so expensive. The designs already in use are extremely safe — the supposed hazards have been grossly exaggerated by anti-nuclear crazies and their media enablers. The new designs are even safer and ought to be pursued aggressively. They probably won’t be built in the U.S. first because the NRC isn’t capable of evaluating them. By the time NRC engineers learn enough to make a judgement they can already be generating power in other countries and have real experience to draw on. The whole nuclear power issue has been polluted by anti-nuclear fear mongering, to the point that no one seems to be able to make rational judgements.

Reply to  Breck Henderson
September 19, 2021 4:39 am

I posted this link over on another thread here on WUWT:

So, how would the nuclear regulatory environment effect someone trying to build a fusion plant? There’s no fissionable material so all the regs for that shouldn’t apply.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Breck Henderson
September 19, 2021 10:57 am

Having been in the belly of the beast of a nuclear project myself supporting the Internal Audit function, and having seen first hand the issues which were being experienced internally from a bird’s eye view perspective, I beg to differ. I’ll write a more detailed response later today or this evening. It may be Monday before it is up.

Reply to  Breck Henderson
September 19, 2021 3:42 pm

Thanks for that insight
So nuclear has been killed by activist judges destroying the investment environment for nuclear build.

That’s not what working democracy looks like. That’s an activist oligarchy, and definitely not the recipe for a successful and relevant country.

September 19, 2021 3:42 am

This,”according to the IPCC” pretty much ended it for me. Any legitimate business basing itself on IPCC spew is inherently flawed, then calling CO2 pollution closed it out.

Robert W Turner
September 19, 2021 6:13 am

I can’t believe someone so ignorant and gullible is running a public company. JK! Totally believable.

September 19, 2021 6:27 am

This Bradley guy makes Michael Mann look like a gentleman. My only question (aside from why WUWT publishes this stuff) is why isn’t he working for the Sierra Club or Greenpeace. He parrots all of their talking points.

Reply to  Brian
September 21, 2021 1:59 am

Karen is anti-nuclear, anti-GM, anti-science, and a climate alarmist activist of course.
Bradley is Karen’s husband.

September 19, 2021 8:21 am

I reside about 30 miles East of the noted Byron Nuclear Plant.

Both 1,150MW units were shut down on September 1 to await the passage and signing of the subsidy IL legislation. ‘Hostage-taking’? I note that off-peak real-time electricity prices have increased during this warm September.

As of this Sunday 9/19/2021 morning, the moisture plumes are still not visible from the plant’s hyperbolic towers. Perhaps Exelon is using this shut down to refuel and/or do other maintenance which would have been done in October anyway.

September 19, 2021 3:36 pm

Meanwhile China, ignoring the nuclear-phobic Neanderthals, this week starts the world’s first working thorium salt nuclear reactor:

Beta Blocker
September 19, 2021 5:08 pm

Root Causes of the Massive Cost Overruns at VC Summer and at Vogtle 3 & 4

It is not possible to fully understand the causes of the serious cost control issues the US nuclear construction industry is facing today without examining the history of similar issues from four decades ago.

In an earlier comment concerning this WUWT article — Nuclear Power: Dangerous Hope to Soften CO2 Pricing (By Robert Bradley Jr. — September 16, 2021) — I described the history of the nuclear cost overruns of the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and the hard lessons that were learned about how to build a nuclear power plant on cost and on schedule:

A History of Nuclear Construction’s Cost & Schedule Overruns in the 1970’s and 80’s

Fifteen years ago, in the mid 2000’s when the initial cost estimates for pursuing a 21st century nuclear renaissance were being done, the cost estimate for two advanced technology 1100 Megawatt AP1000’s to be sited at an existing nuclear plant site was roughly 6 billion dollars for the pair. 

However, this estimate was thought by many to be too low.

With twenty-five years having passed without construction of a clean-sheet reactor design having been initiated in this country, the US nuclear industrial base was in a deeply withered state. It was recognized that the cost estimates for initiating new projects had to include the added costs of rebuilding the nuclear industrial base and of passing through the nuclear construction learning curve for a second time.

More realistic estimates for two AP1000’s were developed in 2009 and later in 2012 — 9 billion dollars and 12 billion dollars respectively.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the estimate of 12 billion dollars when onsite construction began at VC Summer and at Vogtle 3 & 4 in 2012 included the expected costs of full compliance with NRC regulations and of passing through the nuclear learning curve for a second time.

Those estimates also assumed that all the difficult lessons learned from the nuclear projects of the 1970’s and 1980’s would be diligently applied to the latest projects as they were being initiated and while they were in progress.  

Why did these two recent projects fail so miserably to stay on cost and schedule, going from the 2012 estimate of 12 billion dollars to a 2017 estimate of 25 billion, with the consequence that VC Summer was cancelled and the original contractor team at Vogtle 3 & 4 was replaced? (In the year 2021, total cost at completion for Vogtle 3 & 4 is now estimated at 28 billion dollars.)

Here is a list problems experienced at VC Summer and at Vogtle 3 & 4 which were completely avoidable if sound management practices had been followed.

(1) The original prime contractors chosen by the power utilities in 2011 to manage their construction projects did not have substantial previous experience in other kinds of large nuclear projects of the same or similar magnitude and complexity as VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4.

(2) The power utilities who were funding these projects did not have nearly enough of their own in-house technical and project management expertise, the kind of expertise needed to make themselves knowledgeable customers for the nuclear construction services they were buying.

(3) The feasibility cost and schedule estimates done prior to the initiation of construction ignored the lack of a strong American nuclear industrial base. The follow on hard-target baseline cost and schedule estimates were overly optimistic and did not include large portions of the project’s true scope of work.

(4) The prime contractors did not maintain a proper cost & schedule control system for the overall project as a whole. Many activities listed on their project schedules were mis-estimated for time, cost, scope, and complexity. Other project activities covering significant portions of the total work scope were missing altogether, making it impossible to accurately assess where the project’s cost and schedule performance currently stood, and where it was headed in the future.

(5) Systems and components with safety implications lacked sufficient design maturity at the start of on-site construction activities. Insufficient time and cost was allocated for NRC review and approval of component design changes which had nuclear safety implications.

(6) The power utilities did not do an effective job of overseeing the work of the original prime and original sub-contractors; and they did not act quickly to deal with emerging issues and problems while there was still time to deal cost effectively with those problems.

(7) The prime contractors who were originally managing the construction effort did not do an effective job of overseeing the work of the sub-contractors. They did not act quickly to deal with emerging issues and problems while there was still time to deal with those issues and problems. Smaller problems were allowed to fester until they grew into larger, much more costly and difficult to solve problems. 

(8) For the overall project as a whole, the original prime contractors did not impose effective systems for contractor and sub-contractor design interface control; for configuration management of design documentation and associated systems and components; and for proper and up-to-date maintenance of inter-contractor cost and schedule information.  

(8) The sub-contractors who performed the detailed construction and fabrication work did not do an effective job of in-house quality assurance, in-house quality control, and in-house configuration management & design control. They did not act quickly to deal with emerging issues and problems inside their own shops while there was still time to deal with those issues and problems in a cost effective way. Smaller problems inside the sub-contractors operations were allowed to fester until they grew into larger, much more difficult to solve problems.      

(9) The sub-contractors were not giving honest and accurate information to the prime contractors concerning the true status of their activities. The prime contractors were not giving honest and accurate information to the customer utilities concerning the true status of their projects as a whole.

(10) The prime contractors ignored early and obvious signs that the sub-contractors were not performing to expectations. The primes did not move swiftly — or even move at all in some cases — to deal with sub-contractor quality control issues and with sub-contractor cost & schedule performance problems.

(11) The customer utilities who were funding these nuclear projects also ignored early and obvious signs that serious problems were emerging, and did not hold their prime contractors to account for their poor performance.

(12) Although federal and state oversight agencies were aware of these issues at both VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4, those agencies were ineffective in pressing the power utilities and the prime contractors to deal with these emerging issues and problems in a timely, proactive, and decisive way.

For those of us who have been in nuclear construction and operations since the mid-1970’s, the period of 2012-2017 was a near exact repetition of what we saw in the period of 1975-1983.

The power utilities who were buying these nuclear plants had the responsibility and the public trust obligation to manage their nuclear projects using a highly disciplined, well-coordinated approach. They failed to deliver on that responsibility.  

The fact of the matter is that going with new-build nuclear power is strictly a public policy decision. We would not be considering new-build nuclear in the US were it not for the presence of a government-mandated low carbon energy policy.

The nuclear construction industry in the United States is now hampered by three important issues:

— A power marketplace warped by wind and solar: Our legacy nuclear plants are designed and operated for continuous baseload operation 24/7/365. Giving subsidized wind and solar preferred access to the power grid eliminates the economic benefits of baseload generation resources with the effect that these resources appear to have higher operating costs in comparison with wind and solar. 

— Stiff competition from natural gas: In the absence of government intervention, the power marketplace would shift decisively towards gas-fired generation. It offers the best combination of load following capability as backup for wind and solar, the lowest capital cost, the least overall cost to the energy consumer, and the greatest profit potential for investors.

— Keeping nuclear’s capital construction costs under control: This issue applies just as much to the oncoming small modular reactors (SMRs) as it does to the large 1100 Megawatt reactors. From a cost control perspective, the oncoming SMR technology and the processes used to manufacture and site that SMR technology must be managed together as One Thing.   

Many nuclear advocates take the easy way out and blame nuclear’s cost issues on excessive government regulation and on the anti-nuclear activists. But the fact of the matter is that the American public demands strong regulatory oversight over the nuclear industry. The NRC and its regulatory oversight functions are not going away. Not now, not ever.

And with good reason. Doing things nuclear demands a highly professional approach in every facet of design, manufacture, installation, and operation. Corporate managers have demonstrated time and time again that without the presence of a strong regulatory body to look over their shoulders, they will not fulfill their obligation to the public to do a professional job in managing their nuclear projects.    

The cancellation of the VC Summer AP1000 nuclear project, and the delayed completion of the Vogtle 3 & 4 AP1000 project demonstrate that getting nuclear power’s capital costs under control is the paramount task facing the nuclear construction industry in the United States.

Servicing the plant’s capital cost recovery is a large fraction of a nuclear power plant’s total lifetime cost. In making public policy decisions concerning which energy technologies should be adopted for a low carbon energy future, nuclear power cannot be sold as a credible alternative to wind and solar unless its costs can be accurately and reliably predicted and unless nuclear construction projects can be delivered on cost and on schedule. 

September 20, 2021 2:12 pm

If you think nuclear power plants are too expensive – then buy them from Russia and China. Unless you’re a racist.

Talk of them being unsafe is 99% racism, 1% technical reality. Some of them have very good track records and the Russians are the only ones whose metallurgy skills allowed them to succeed with sodium cooled fast breeder reactors e.g. Beloyarsk uneventfully supplying the grid, all western fast breeders closed down due to coolant containment failures.

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