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Odds and Ends
11 6, 8:39pm
Part of why nuclear power plants are so expensive these days is that because of the kafka-esque level of bureaucracy needed to build one, one needs an army of lawyers to even get preliminary plans looked at by the governmental agencies. A second is that, at least here in the US, because we largely abandoned new nuclear plants after the Three Mile Island Accident in 1979, many of the businesses that existed in the 1970s to make nuclear-grade components (think welders, concrete manufacturers, pressure vessel makers) no longer exist. A third is that nuclear plants work best when economies of scale are achieved. China is doing this with the Hualong 1, itself a modified version of the Westinghouse AP1000 design. South Korea is as well. To a lesser degree, this is why the RBMK was chosen in the Soviet Union, catastrophic faults notwithstanding -- it is cheaper to build and refine one design over and over again. Here in the west, we have tried to embrace competition, which due to the relatively small number of plants one would need to build, turns out to be less economically efficient than picking one design and sticking to it.
In Germany the main issue as far as I can see is that left-wing politicians in your country shut down fully functional nuclear plants prematurely, instead of letting them continue to produce power for their designed operating life for a more gradual phase-out. Germany did not at the time and still does not have the renewable infrastructure needed to replace those plants with something low-carbon -- so they didn't. Just like California when San Onofre closed, y'all chose coal (and extremely dirty lignite coal at that) and gas, the latter of which y'all imported from Russia at increasingly heavy economic cost. Your politics shot yourselves in the foot. It is why German electricity is very expensive, even relative to the rest of Europe.
As for waste disposal, it remains shocking to me that more nations have not explored nuclear recycling projects. Conventional uranium fuel rods that undergo fission in a Gen I or II nuclear plant retain about 95% of their internal energy when they are removed. There are several types of newer reactor ideas (MOX, IFRs, Breeders, etc) that would, in effect, be able to "eat" nuclear waste and produce power.