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For each RAI types, estimates that review RAIs yield the following statistical breakdowns:
- No action taken: ~60 percent
- Action taken but clarification only: ~25 percent
- Action taken that requires change in the substantial content text: 10 percent
- Action taken changes the substantial content numerical calculation basis: <5 percent
Rounding these numbers downward - which is simple but not conservative - we potentially have to update references based upon 5,000 numbers of RAIs:
- 60 percent (3,000 no action)
- 25 percent (1,250 updates to documents)
- 10 percent Substantial text changes: probably changes many references
- 5 percent Substantial numerical calculation basis changes: probably changes most references
Summarized, in all probability we have around 15 percent changes that apply to the documents that govern the design, procurement, fabrication inspection and testing of around 10,000 discrete
These numbers must stagger even the most generous banker’s imaginations. That’s why the financial community balks on financing nuclear plants and they are the reason the nuclear community sought Congressional Loan guarantees. The amount they received is not enough, however. Congress hoped that with enough guarantees it could fund two to 2½ nuclear units. Then they could demonstrate success of the new licensing framework, but lenders haven’t bought it. To challenge the existing nuclear cost infrastructure today would be to challenge it to streamline its processes and reduce costs. Realizing that the typical nuclear project allocates around 80 percent of costs to labor, the lack of nuclear licensing, design or construction, modernization starts to sink in.
You begin to realize why lenders should be scared. Without fundamentally changing how we do nuclear plant design, we will end up like the Finns - and we, ourselves 30 years ago. Then we wondered what caused the TMI accident, why plants overran their budgeted costs 4-10x, and why units that were projected to be built in 4 years took 25. A large part was paper.
DOE and lenders project a new nuclear plant to cost around $10 billion per unit, at the most optimistic current projected cost. Unless we can streamline the process that supports the design, development, construction, startup test and operation of nuclear plants, this will be a low estimate.
The solution to our energy problems must include nuclear power. The public at large, industry not even the financial community, however, can afford to bankroll an ill-planned, profligate spender whose limits have no upper bounds. To that end, Congress and the industry should ask for better oversight. They should demand that the industry set goals to increase its low productivity to get it more toward the level for coal - about 4x as high. Then, instead of $10 billion cost per unit, it will be $5 billion. Instead of 1,000 people per unit to operate, it will be 300. Instead of 15 years to construct, it will be 5 - just like it is today in Korea, Taiwan or Japan. Then Congress can forget about nuclear loan guarantees, because they won’t need any. Nuclear energy will be able to stand on its own two feet. To that end, our national nuclear regulator - the U.S. NRC, must be the central player.
August is a 35 year power division veteran who develops design analyses, reliability methods and associated software to streamline plant reliability as a principal of CORE Inc. In addition to his power background, he has been member of the American Nuclear Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers for more than 20 years.
In addition to consensus standards development for reliability processes, August is a member and past chair of the Reliability Availability and Maintainability subcommittee in the ASME Power Division. He chairs ANS-28, Safety Standards for Modular Helium-cooled Reactors (within the American Nuclear Society), and is a member of the ASME Performance Test Code (PTC) Performance Monitoring (PM) Committee. His experience includes fossil generation reliability work. He holds degrees from the University of Colorado Boulder and Cornell University.
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