Writing in The Toronto Star, Tyler Hamilton reveals that the AECL bid to add two new Advanced CANDU reactors to Ontario’s Darlington nuclear station was approximately $26 billion. That works out to a shocking $10,800 per kilowatt of electricity, compared with the $2,900 per kilowatt reference figure the Ontario Power Authority was using for planning back in 2007. The French firm Areva apparently put in a lower bid – $7,375 per kilowatt – but was unwilling to take on as much risk as AECL. The article also notes the untested nature of the Advanced CANDU design, which is especially worrisome given the failure of AECL to deploy two planned isotope reactors, due to design failures.
If this is the true contemporary cost of nuclear power, it seems plausible that we shouldn’t be bothering with it, given all the other associated risks. For $10,800 per kilowatt, it is quite possible we could get more value by funding energy efficiency, conservation, and renewables. Taking some cost figures from MacKay, we can compare $26 billion for 2,000MW (2GW) of nuclear with other options:
- Onshore wind: $2.8 billion for 2GW
- Offshore wind: $3.0 billion for 2GW
- Concentrating solar in deserts : $31 billion for 2GW
- Solar photovoltaic: $14.5 billion for 2GW
We also wouldn’t be taking on the additional risks associated with proliferation, accidents, wastes, and so forth. Admittedly, MacKay’s figures are approximate and there are other considerations to be made. Even so, the staggering cost of the AECL bid has to give pause to anyone who hopes nuclear could be a cheap and relatively easy solution to climate change. It may be that The Economist will be proved correct in saying: “Since the 1970s, far from being ‘too cheap to meter’—as it proponents once blithely claimed—nuclear power has proved too expensive to matter.”