The costs for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have fallen steadily while construction costs for new nuclear power plants have been rising over the past decade, which now makes electricity generated from new solar installations cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear power plants, according to a new report published by a retired Duke University professor.
Moreover, the report continues, solar costs are projected to continue its decline over the coming decade while nuclear costs are expected to rise further.
The report, “Solar and Nuclear Costs — The Historic Crossover: Solar Energy is Now the Better Buy,” was compiled by John O. Blackburn, Professor Emeritus of Economics and former Chancellor of Duke University, along with a student, Sam Cunningham.
Electricity generated from solar PV is now being sold by commercial developers to the utility companies at 14 cents or less per kilowatt-hour (kWh), while nuclear plants in the planning stages will be incapable of offering electricity cheaper than 14-to-18 cents per kWh, according to the report.
“The delivered price to customers would be somewhat higher for both sources,” the study notes.
Cost estimates for new nuclear plants have risen dramatically since the much-heralded “nuclear renaissance” began during the past decade, says Blackburn. “Projects first announced with costs in the $2 billion range per reactor have seen several revisions as detailed planning proceeds and numerous design and engineering problems have emerged. The latest price estimates are in the $10 billion range per reactor.”
But Rod Adams, author of the Atomic Insights Blog, rejected the report and criticized the basis of the study, saying that the report’s nuclear cost projections rely on a paper written by a lone researcher with unclear qualifications. Mark Cooper’s “brief biography states that he has a ‘PhD from Yale’ but it does not specify his field of study. It indicates he is an ‘acivist/advocate’ with a rather wide range of interest areas including telecommunications regulations and energy consumer issues,” he writes. Adams also listed a number of papers on the subject which he says were ignored by Blackburn’s report.
“For many years the U.S. nuclear power industry has been allowed to argue that ‘there is no alternative’ to building new nuclear plants,” Blackburn’s report concludes. “This is just not true.”