The Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct; Cost estimates. Will it pay for itself?

To begin cost estimates, the model used is the cost for the Arizona central project. The waterway was constructed 1974 to 1993 at a cost of 4.7 billion dollars. In 2022 dollars that would be about 13.5 billion. The cost for the canal would be about 12.6 billion and 900 million for the pumping stations. The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 80 feet across the top and 24 feet across the bottom and the water is 16.5 feet deep. The concrete is 3.5 inches thick and, in some areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. It is 336 miles long from Lake Havasu City to Tucson with a total lift of over 2,900 feet. The capacity starts out at over 2.2 million acre-ft per year, diminishing as the drop-off point occurs, and the total pumping of 1.4 million acre feet of water is lifted by up to 2,900 feet by 14 pumping stations using 2,500 GWh of electricity each year. The pumping stations have a total pumping capacity of 240 MW. It has a 7 mile long, 22 feet diameter tunnel from Lake Havasu to the beginning of the waterway.

The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct is much bigger: The The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 160 feet across the top and 80 feet across the bottom and the water is 35 feet deep. The concrete is 4 inches thick and, in most areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. The concrete used is 4,500 cu yd per mile. It will cost about 2.5 times as much per mile as the ACP, so the total cost for the Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct will be ((12.6x 2.5 : 336) x 480) = 45 billion dollars. Like the CAP, it will have an 8 mile tunnel, and its diameter will be 48 feet. This cost estimate is probably high, since eminent domain costs will be minimal; all the dams already exist and are paid for, the Arkansas river is there, complete with dams; and land for all the reservoirs are already litigated and settled. The canal will go through sparsely inhabited land.

The cost of building 17 additional small dams in the Arkansas River will be on the order of $120 million per dam, for a total of $2 Billion.

There will be a total of 7.4 GW of pumped energy needed and 200 MW of base power generated. To get the aqueduct operational at 6 MAF/year it requires 7.4 GW of energy. Pumping cost capital is about $ 1.30 per watt, so the minimum pumping capital cost is 9.6 Billion dollars.

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors proposed is 100 MW units. so called Small Modular Reactors (SMR) The reactor core assemblies are small enough so they can be produced on an assembly line and delivered via truck. There are 3 assemblies needed, the reactor, the safe shutdown unit and the reprocessing and separation unit. The whole building can be built for $ 230 million. To complete the installation costs, add another # 30 million per unit. The aqueduct needs 74 units. The initial capital cost for grid access and minimum flow is $19 billion.

To sum it up,the capital cost for a flow of 6 MAF is (45 +2 + 9.6 + 19) = 75.6 billion dollars. The amount of water in the aqueduct when filled is 230,000 acre-feet and will take 1.1 TWh of electricity to fill, or about $35,000dollars at 3 c/kWh base rate.

When the electricity demand requires peak power, the pumps are turned off, and electricity will be sold back to the grid, at peak rate.

Solar power and wind power will also power the pumps, and they will lessen the demand for nuclear reactors. But the remaining reactors will still be needed, or peak power will still have to be supplied by natural gas, or coal when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

In short: assuming a 50 year amortization plan for the aqueduct, and money available at 2%, , it will cost 3 billion a year in capital cost to deliver 6 MAF water from the Mississippi River to Lake Powell or any point in between, or $2,000 per acre-ft. Add to that $240 for electricity and another $50 per acre-ft in overhead and maintenance, the cost will be $2,290 per acre-ft.

The Rocky Mountains places are ideal for wind and solar power, but they need to store the energy when the sun is not up or doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow. Right now that is provided by coal and natural gas. Conventional nuclear power is best for use as base power only, so this Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct will provide up to 7.4 GW of pure virtual pumped power storage, the LFTR nuclear power plants will provide the energy by shutting off the pumping of water in the aqueduct when the need arises, and instead provide another up to 7.4 GW of virtual pumped storage power. The beauty of this is that the pump response is instantaneous, so the grid can be really finetuned to meet the exact power needs.

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Retired engineer, graduated from Chalmers Technical University a long time ago with a degree in Technical Physics. Career in Aerospace, Analytical Chemistry, computer chip manufacturing and finally adjunct faculty at Pennsylvania State University, taught just one course in Computer Engineering, the Capstone Course.

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