Thursday, 13 August 2009

25 GWe by 2050? Show me.

Is it even possible Australia could get itself organised and construct up to 25 nuclear power plants by 2050?

Let's make a liberal assumption and then look at some regional data compiled from the IAEA's PRIS database.

First, the assumption. Even those sceptical of nuclear power's role in Australia claim it will take 15 years to construct even one power plant. Alright then, let's better that and assume it takes us 15 years to even begin construction of the first plant. Therefore, we'll assume the first construction project begins on 01-January 2025. Can we average one plant a year for the remaining 25 years?

Now to the region.

Since 1984 (25 years ago). India has begun and finished 9 nuclear plant projects (over 2,300 MWe of net capacity). Over this time, construction project durations have been cut in half. The three most recent projects (all commencing operation after 2005) were brought in at just over 5 years.

Since 1984, China has begun and finished 11 nuclear plant projects (over 8,400 MWe of net capacity). There is not much difference over these 11 projects. The minimum construction time is 4.5 years, the maximum is 6.7.

Since 1984, Korea has begun and finished 11 nuclear plant projects (over 1o,ooo MWe of net capacity). Korea has had consistently short construction durations, but have still managed to improve over time. Only 2 of their 11 projects exceeded 5 years (5.1 and 5.2). The minimum time is 4.0 years.

Since 1984, Japan has begun and finished 21 nuclear plant projects (over 20,000 MWe of net capacity). The project performance in Japan is impressive. Only 2 of the 21 plants were connected to the grid 5 years or more following the beginning of construction (maximum time is 5.2 years). 14 of the plants were connected in less than 4 years and the minimum construction time was just 3.2 years.

And those were not times of energy / environmental crisis.

25 GWe nuclear capacity in Australia by 2050 is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Japan and Korea: Improving construction project durations
(Source: IAEA PRIS Database)


  1. Forces of resistance to nuclear power will be up against forces of necessity so it's hard to judge the outcome. There is also great cost uncertainty about bringing in extra natural gas lines for new generation though I suspect that will dominate in the next decade. The worst thing would be for the first reactor to repeat the problems of the Areva EPR in Finland.

    The first reactor needs to be built quickly and glitch free. Later installations need to be fourth generation in module form. If I recall Switkowski concluded that 25 Gen III reactors would cut Australia's net uranium exports by half, albeit enriched overseas. The driving force will come from climate change, peak oil and new electrical demands like desal, not the weak CPRS.

  2. Thanks for the comment John.

    Regarding FOAK (first of a kind) construction projects, I am watching the AP-1000 project in China with great interest. Experience shows that after the resolution of some teething issues, project schedules can be dramatically cut. Provided Australia is smart enough to stay clear of FOAK, we should avoid such dramas.

    And I completely agree that the projects here must run as smoothly as possible. No room for innovation at the start, let's get some established designs up and running... some runs on the board.

    If Australia is serious about significant per-capita emission cuts AND a sustainable economy, nuclear will be in the picture.