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Economics

ThorCon uses the same steam and electrical side as a standard 500 MWe supercritical coal plant. But gone are the massive coal handling systems, the 100 m high boiler, the flue gas treatment system, and the ash handling and storage system. A generous estimate of the overnight cost of the ThorCon steam side, everything but the nuclear island, is $700/kW. This is a well established number.

The total overnight cost of a 500 MWe coal plant is between 2000 and 1400 dollars per kW. Both figures assume no attempt at carbon capture. The latter figure assumes minimal particulate capture, no flue gas desulphurization, and high quality Australian coal.

The ThorCon nuclear island requires one-sixth as much steel and one-fourth as much concrete as the portion of the coal plant upstream from the turbine. A 1 GWe ThorCon nuclear island requires less than 400 tons of superalloys and other exotic materials. ThorCon operating at near ambient pressure has a 2:1 advantage in steel and a 5:1 advantage in concrete over its nuclear competitors on the nuclear side. Much more importantly, very little of ThorCon’s concrete is reinforced. Reinforced concrete is impossible to automate, drives the critical path, is not amenable to block construction, and entombs the critical portion of the plant in a mausoleum making repair and replacement extremely difficult. In contrast, ThorCon can be produced entirely in bargable blocks at shipyard assembly line productivity.

Based on resource and labor requirements and allowing for stringent inspection and testing, the ThorCon nuclear island should cost less than $500 per kW on an overnight basis.

The following pages support this bold claim. They should be read in order.