Standardization of multi-unit sites

This article deals with a new MIT study trying to answer why nuclear power stations are more expenses in the West, than in Asian countries.  An Idaho National Laboratory Fellow, David Petti, indicated that he was surprised to discover that the high cost of nuclear plants in the U.S. and Europe was not a result of rector itself or from the usual cost drivers, such as labors costs and regulations.  Instead, the major reason why the rectors were so expensive was because of poor management practices.

The first recommendation that Petti put forth was the standardization of multi-unit sites.  He stated that serial construction of standardized plants.  Plants are cheaper to construct when there is more than one unit on a single site.  Most Asian countries use this method to reduce costs.  A second cost reduction that Petti advocates deals with seismic isolation, which is used to protect structures from earthquakes.  Currently, seismic isolation is done every late in the design process, which makes it a cumbersome and expensive to incorporate into a plant in construction.  Petti states that it should become part of the process from the very beginning and designers should include it in the standardized plants.

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Using advanced concrete is another cost saving measure that Petti states should reduce the overall expenditure on a plant.  Nuclear plants could benefit from innovations such as self-consolidating concrete, which eliminates the need to consolidate concrete mechanically.  In addition, there are new forms of concrete that are framed using steel plates and reinforced without using rebar.  The last cost measure that Petti called for was the use of modular construction and factory fabrication.  He stated that in a country, such as the U.S., which has high labor costs, it would make sense to employ modular construction in a factory before shipping the parts to the plant site.

  1. Currently, it costs a lot of money to build a nuclear plant in the U.S.  Would the costs reduction that Petti recommends make nuclear power an inexpensive option to coal or oil plants?
  2. Do you think that the pursuit of lowers costs in modular nuclear plants construction make the plants less safe, versus a custom-made plant?
  3. Are there any other new construction techniques that would be used to lower the costs of building new nuclear plants?


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