French utility EDF said this week it started building the nuclear block of its first 1,650-megawatt new generation reactor in Flamanville. Work at Flamanville in northwest France is expected to last for another four and a half years with the E$3.6 billion plant scheduled to start production in 2012, EDF said.
EDFs costs for Flamanville are significantly higher than the cost per kilowatt announced by NRG in September for its two new reactors in Texas.
- Coming in at 1,650 MWe, Areva's EPR will cost E$3.6 billion which equals E$2,182 per Kw. At current conversion rates (WSJ 12/04/07; E$1=US$1.473) it comes out to US$3,215 per kW.
- That's US$1,200/Kw higher than NRG's estimate in their COL filing to the NRC last September.
- The total capacity of the two new NRG units is expected to be 2,700 MWe. NRG said the plants will cost $5.5 billion which brings them in at $2,000 per kW. The NRG plants will be GE-Hitachi ABWRs.
So what we have here is a considerable competitive gap. Toshiba has four reactors under its belt and Areva is struggling with a 'first-of-a-kind' effort. NRG's reactors are estimated to come in at $2,000/kW and Flamanville's are reported to be $1,200/kW more. Now, here comes a kicker. Areva is contracted with Constellation Energy to build a standardized EPR in the U.S. once the reactor design is ok'd by the NRC. Wait for it . . . what's an Areva EPR going to cost in the U.S.?
As it turns out the price per Kw cited by NRG in September 2007 has gone up as have costs for all new reactors. Still a price of $3,200/Kw is high and Areva has its work cut out for it to prevent the costs from escalating. That said more recent costs cited by Progress Energy for two new Westinghouse AP1000s in Florida make the Areva plants look like a bargain. Nuclear reactors aren't supermarket commodities and price comparisons alone do not complete differentiate them. Areva has great global ambitions to sell the EPR reactor. It must prove the cost competitiveness of the product to achieve its goals.
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France is Europe's top producer of nuclear power with 80 percent of its electricity nuclear-generated. The Flamanville nuclear reactor will be EDF's 59th, but only the 2nd EPR.
Under the terms of a deal inked last week with EDF, Italy's Enel will take a 12.5 percent stake (E$450 million) in the new-generation reactor and will also have an option to take part in the next five new generation reactors, that are not yet planned.
EDF plans to add 6,000 MWe of power capacity in France by 2012, split between 1,650 MWe of nuclear power and 4,000 MWe in thermal power. The Flamanville site already hosts two 1330 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWRs), which began operating in 1986 and 1987, respectively.
The New York Times has published a profile of the Famanville reactor project and the French government's strong commitment to nuclear energy. The newspaper reported,
"Flamanville is a vivid example of the French choice for nuclear power, made in the late 1950s by Charles de Gaulle, intensified during the oil shocks of the 1970s and maintained despite the nightmarish nuclear accidents of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas. "
The article also goes into some detail about recent leaks of radioactive materials at french nuclear sites, but points out that the incidents were relatively minor on a scale that measures them.
Areva TV Commercial Video
Getting the nuclear industry to tell its story is sometimes a perplexing quest. Video is becoming more common as a primary means of getting a message across. This video from Areva has achieved something of a folk following because of its effective use of animation to tell the complicated story of the nuclear fuel cycle.