Friday, 23 February 2018

Nuclear's negative learning curve: still ignored by EDF

Unpublished letter sent to The [London] Times on 17 February 2018
French State power generator, Électricité de France (EDF)’s claim (“EDF’s cheap new reactors ‘cast doubt over Hinkley Point costs,’”17 February 2018; that a new nuclear reactor it is developing will be a “better and cheaper version of the two it is building in Britain,”  is literally incredible.

Dr Paul Dorfman's suggestion that EDF’s claim that costs could come down “goes against all technological logic.” is correct, but does not go far enough.It also runs against experience.

The very nuclear-experienced EDF has, counter-intuitively, demonstrated almost uniquely in  large-scale industrial construction and operation,  a ‘negative learning curve” ie matters get worse, not better, with experience, in its nuclear fleet.

Professor Arnulf Grubler, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, (where he is currently Programme Director of  Transitions To New Technologies), has exposed this disastrous situation in his detailed assessment ‘The costs of the French nuclear scale-up: A case of negative learning by doing’, published in the internationally respected journal Energy Policy, in September 2010 (Volume 38, Issue 9, Pages 5174-5188)

The paper reviews the history and the economics of the French PWR programme. Drawing on largely unknown public records, the paper reveals that even this most extensive nuclear scale-up by a most experienced owner/operator, was characterized by a substantial “escalation of real-term construction costs.”

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