“Forsmark nuclear power plant in sunset” by Vattenfall is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Nuclear Power in UK is not only not viable, but no longer even possible

Why is Nuclear even still in the frame?

We have an energy crisis in UK, similarly to all of Europe, which is growing daily.

Apparently Boris plans to remove our dependence on other countries for our energy.

Fantastic, I would say, all countries should do the same.

But our plans apparently include several new nuclear power stations for the UK:

Checking the viability of nuclear power to compare with solar is simple enough.

Known nuclear installation costs are detailed in reports such as this one:

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/research-centres-and-groups/icept/Cost-estimates-for-nuclear-power-in-the-UK.pdf

From that report, the cost of two 1600MW EPR reactors in 2012 was reported as £14Bn (Original estimate at start of builds was £9Bn in 2010).

Dividing the total power capability of those two installations, by the total cost of both, gives us an installation cost of around £4.375 per Watt installed.

Known solar installation costs are here:

U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System and Energy Storage Cost Benchmark: Q1 2020 (nrel.gov)

In those, we see typical utility scale (100MW+) installation costs of $1 per Watt installed.

In other words, £1Bn per GW.

So we see, even before converting the dollar rate to GBP, the cost of solar installation is about one fifth of the installation cost of nuclear.

That is not just a slight difference, it is massively different.

Almost five times as much money is required to meet our power requirements using nuclear, than with solar.

At the time we last installed nuclear, those prices were actually something close. But, further to the information in the solar report, solar installation costs dropped by the factor of five, over the period from around 2010, to 2020.

Why Nuclear Energy in UK is no longer even an option

Another fact; we are in for an extended bout of inflation:

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/knowledgebank/will-inflation-in-the-uk-keep-rising

So, the money we budget for any long term project right now, is likely to be nothing like the money required to finish the project, especially projects requiring 7.5 years to completion, as we see from the report is typical for a nuclear power station.

Add to that we don’t need the power in 7.5 years, we need it right now, before next winter.

In reality, we don’t have 7.5 years, and even if we did, we will not have the money to complete the project, because the money created right now will have nothing like the value of the money created later in the project, due to inflation.

Ironically, if we already had the required solar infrastructure, money would not be a problem, as I’ve explained in my stories around Kardashev Money, we would have unlimited money to spend.

Is it crazy to think that we could replace the entire power infrastructure of UK with solar power in six months flat?

It might seem so.

But a principal difference between solar and nuclear power installation is that useful power can be generated from solar infrastructure far earlier in the installation process.

The average peak UK grid power requirement is around 40GW:

http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

So an initial estimate of the worst case cost of transitioning to solar is around £40Bn, at the installation cost per Watt established earlier.

(Compare that with around £200Bn, if we were really looking to nuclear as the preferred power type)

If somehow we underestimated the amount of solar installation needed, we could double or even triple our initial estimates whilst still saving a large cost margin over nuclear, and having the power actually online in a much shorter timescale.

According to the Solar Energies Industry Association, average solar installation rate for a large scale solar installation is around 3 months per 2 MW.

In UK, around 5 Acres is required per 1MW of solar power installation

So in an extreme project, 40GW could be installed in 3 months across 20,000 10-Acre sites of installation.

Of course we would not get close to that ideal in practicality; there would be many complications such as logistics, planning permissions, and manpower.

But again; doubling, or tripling original estimates still gives us a solid solution, since installations could be prioritised according to local needs, security of power supply for most high priority requirements could easily be put in place by next winter, and 100% of all requirements by the winter following.

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Note: I have deliberately avoided talking about Wind power, since that adds no Kardashev value (It cannot contribute to Kardashev money). But if included in the analysis it does serve a short term purpose which actually assists the above analysis by comprising around 10GW of the current total grid required power which must be replaced by solar in the shorter term, so 30GW requiring to be replaced by solar instead of 40GW. It could be gradually replaced by solar as currently installed windpower comes to end of life.

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