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Title: Quantifying Capital Cost Reduction Pathways for Advanced Nuclear Reactors

Technical Report ·
DOI:· OSTI ID:2361138

The framework developed in this study is provided both as an excel sheet ( and a Python (Jupyter) Notebook (link: Capital cost considerations are one of the primary inhibitors to the large-scale deployment of nuclear power plants. While it is widely accepted that first units will likely be expensive and relatively uncompetitive, it is reasonable to expect that subsequent units, built in relative quick succession, will be cheaper as they benefit from the so-called “learning effects”. However, the large degree of uncertainty associated with this parameter renders it challenging for first movers to invest in the first few expensive units. To resolve this impasse, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Nuclear Liftoff study advocated for the formation of large, committed order books of plants of the same technology to spread the costs across several units and kickstart the nuclear supply chain. The study also advocated best practices for avoiding overruns and keeping reactors on budget. This report builds on these key recommendations by attempting to quantify specific pathways toward cost reduction for nuclear energy. A capital cost estimation framework was built to untangle the effect of learning into a subset of key cost drivers, referred to as “levers”. Collectively, the choice of these levers is intended to reflect the decision-making of high-level stakeholders like plant owners and the government. In addition to the size of the firm orderbook, these levers included (a) cost drivers that are most often attributed to cost overruns such as architect/engineering (A/E) proficiency, construction proficiency, procurement service proficiency, design completion prior to the start of construction, and design maturity, and (b) cost reduction strategies such as modular construction, cross-site standardization, safety classification of the reactor building, and of the balance of plant. Two advanced reactor designs were leveraged as use cases and bottom-up cost estimates made with assumptions consistent with a well-executed first-of-a-kind project (WE-FOAK, i.e., almost no overruns) were used as baselines for the models. Cost correlations were surveyed from the literature to determine the impact of important variables on projected timelines and costs.

Research Organization:
Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Sponsoring Organization:
DOE Contract Number:
Report Number(s):
Country of Publication:
United States