Quick napkin math regarding the new Tennessee Nuclear Power plant that just went online.

First 2 critical facts that I need to refer to later on so I’m including them here:

  1. The plant is supposed to provide power for 650,000 homes.
  2. Cost to ‘Install’ the plant e.g build it, design it, get approvals, testing, etc is $4.7 billion.
  3. Also based on what they said about Watts Bar Unit 1 and 2, we can round up (giving them some benefit) that each unit puts out 600MWs

via Inhabitat and Forbes was their source.

Now let’s do the napkin math regarding Nuclear installations.

  1. The installation cost of this nuclear plan per house is $4.7 billion / 650,000 homes, which equals $7,230.00 per home or 923 Watts per home if you like.
  2. We don’t know how many billions of gallons of water will get used each month, but it’ll be huge; even if the plant is efficient, because I’ve heard of proposals (new ones made in the last couple years) that are upwards of 1–2 billion gallons of water per month.
  3. Now we don’t account for the cost per kilowatt which is the generation cost associated with the operational component. Claimed costs are usually between 5¢-7¢/kwh.

Now the reason I wanted to point to all this is that the current cost range of a solar panel installation is about $12,500 (more or less) for a 5kw (5,000 Watts) per average home. This uses the national PV installation size as a baseline btw.

What does this mean?

Well it means that for $12,500 you’ll have more power generated that Watts Bar has set aside for you at the power plant. It means that after you’ve spent the $12,500 you’ll get basically free power until the panels breakdown, which can be upwards of 25 years depending on weather, care and attention, etc.

It further means that you, your government and your local Utility (that’s probably buying that power) are saving 2–4x on your combined bills.

The thing is Nuclear is needed, it provides what’s called ‘base-load’ power, which is the power needed to keep the grid at a certain level e.g. humming along as they’d say while solar fluctuates here and there. HOWEVER the question is do we need to build NEW Nuclear that is in ADDITION to older facilities or would the money have been better spent having Tennesseeans (is that a word?) put solar panels on their roofs for fractions of the cost when you include other indirect costs such as water usage, land usage, noise, risk management, and lower infrastructure investment in major powerlines. When you build a power plant, you always need to build big powerlines to connect it to the grid, so there is a huge investment needed in addition to the plant itself. People don’t talk about that as much for a variety of reasons that are historically practical and yet are not that practical today and should be included as per the discussion to add solar or not.

PS. I’m not a booster or detractor of the Nuclear Industry, just publishing numbers that others can consume. If you have an angle I should consider, be articulate, include a relevant link and I’ll include the information within my post with your name.

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