Far too little attention is being paid to the stunning price tag of Duke Energy's cancelled nuclear plants in Florida and what it means for nuclear power in the USA.
Before Duke Energy pulled the plug, the Florida nuclear units had reached a price tag of $24.7 billion for 2,200 megawatts. That works out to an astonishing $11 per watt or 11 times the construction cost of gas plants and nearly 6 times the construction costs of wind or solar farms.
Today, new wind costs less than $2 per watt and has low production costs once built. Even though wind farms have lower capacity factors than nuclear plants, the levelized cost of energy from a wind farm that will have zero fuel costs will be substantially lower than that of a nuclear plant with a $11 per watt construction cost.
Compared to Levy plants cost of $24.7 billion for 2200 megawatts, wind farms would produce electricity at one-quarter to one-third of the cost. The Levy plants show again that now nuclear is a much more expensive source of zero-carbon electricity than on-shore wind.
How do solar and natural gas construction costs compare to the Florida nukes just cancelled? Large solar projects can be built also for less $2 per watt and have the lowest production costs of any power source.
Natural gas plants can be built for less than $1 per watt but have higher production costs, since the fuel is not free and require a significant work force. Yet, the $24.7 billion cost of the 2,200 megwatts of nuclear plant would have paid for more than 24,700 megawatts of natural gas plants.
The price tag of the cancelled Florida nukes signal powerfully the end of nuclear power in the USA. The nuclear industry is heading toward higher, not lower, capital costs, with the Florida plants reaching astronomical capital costs, at a time when gas, wind, and solar are driving down their construction costs. That is a sure economic recipe for the end of nuclear power in the USA.
Indeed, given the price tag of Duke's Florida nukes, only a large carbon price could make nuclear power remotely economic. And even then nuclear power would still struggle to make economic sense.