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Nuclear reactors' construction costs: The role of lead-time, standardization and technological progress

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  • Berthélemy, Michel
  • Escobar Rangel, Lina

Abstract

This paper provides an econometric analysis of nuclear reactor construction costs in France and the United States based on overnight costs data. We build a simultaneous system of equations for overnight costs and construction time (lead-time) to control for endogeneity, using change in expected electricity demand as instrument. We argue that the construction of nuclear reactors can benefit from standardization gains through two channels. First, short term coordination benefits can arise when the diversity of nuclear reactors' designs under construction is low. Second, long term benefits can occur due to learning spillovers from past constructions of similar reactors. We find that construction costs benefit directly from learning spillovers but that these spillovers are only significant for nuclear models built by the same Architect–Engineer. In addition, we show that the standardization of nuclear reactors under construction has an indirect and positive effect on construction costs through a reduction in lead-time, the latter being one of the main drivers of construction costs. Conversely, we also explore the possibility of learning by searching and find that, contrary to other energy technologies, innovation leads to construction costs increases.

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  • Berthélemy, Michel & Escobar Rangel, Lina, 2015. "Nuclear reactors' construction costs: The role of lead-time, standardization and technological progress," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 118-130.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:82:y:2015:i:c:p:118-130
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2015.03.015
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    7. Sascha Samadi, 2016. "A Review of Factors Influencing the Cost Development of Electricity Generation Technologies," Energies, MDPI, vol. 9(11), pages 1-25, November.
    8. Samadi, Sascha, 2018. "The experience curve theory and its application in the field of electricity generation technologies – A literature review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 82(P3), pages 2346-2364.
    9. Lovering, Jessica R. & Yip, Arthur & Nordhaus, Ted, 2016. "Historical construction costs of global nuclear power reactors," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 371-382.
    10. Elia, A. & Kamidelivand, M. & Rogan, F. & Ó Gallachóir, B., 2021. "Impacts of innovation on renewable energy technology cost reductions," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 138(C).
    11. Perrier, Quentin, 2018. "The second French nuclear bet," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 858-877.
    12. Gangyang, Zheng & Xianke, Peng & Xiaozhen, Li & Yexi, Kang & Xiangeng, Zhao, 2021. "Research on the standardization strategy of China's nuclear industry," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 155(C).
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