Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Nuclear's negative learning curve

Letter to The Daily Telegraph:
Your energy editor Jillian Ambrose writes (“Rolling the dice for a nuclear renaissance,” Daily Telegraph, June 11; that Humphrey Cadoux –Hudson, the UK head of the subsidiary of French  power generation utility, Électricité de France (EDF), believes that “The secret to nuclear is that you need to make a series [of identical reactors)…” to make nuclear cheaper.


This sounds plausible, and is for every industry, except nuclear developed in France, which has a unique ‘negative learning curve.’


This fact was spelled out in a path-breaking article - ‘The costs of the French nuclear scale-up: A case of negative learning by doing’ – published in the international journal, Energy Policy  in September 2010 (pages 5174-5188),


The study by Professor Arnulf Grubler, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, based in Laxenburg, Austria, ( joint editor of Energy Technology Innovation: Learning from Historical Successes and Failures (Cambridge University Press, 2014.), reviews the history and the economics of the French PWR programme, the most extensive nuclear-scale up experience in an industrialized country.


Its most significant finding is that even this most successful nuclear scale-up was characterized by a substantial escalation of real-term construction costs, according to Prof. Grubler, who concludes “The French nuclear case illustrates the perils of the assumption of robust learning effects resulting in lowered costs over time in the scale-up of large-scale, complex new energy supply technologies.”

The two French designed and built reactors, of the same design planned for Hinkley C in Somerset by EDF Energy, one at Olkiluoto in Finland and the second at Flamanville in France, developed since this study are both catastrophically  over cost and very late being completed.


Will EDF never learn that nuclear doesn’t  pay? ( unless the British taxpayer does in substantial multi-billion pound subsidies).

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