Update: Interestingly, this article didn’t go big on reddit yet still somehow attracted a huge swarm of nuclear-obsessed commenters. How would that be possible if such people weren’t coordinating in order to swarm any major anti-nuclear posts? The amount of old, repeatedly debunked misinformation posted in the comments of this article swelled tremendously as a result. So, rather than wasting my time dealing with it all yet again, I’m going to recommend a handful of articles not previously included in this piece. If you genuinely want to learn more about the energy sector and how it relates to nuclear, I recommend these pieces:
I’m not a big reddit user, but I like the site and find it quite useful at times. Of course, reddit is humongous and the users span the social spectrum. Furthermore, there are hundreds if not thousands of subreddits, each with their own unique subculture. However, time and time again, I see a highly unrepresentative sample of nuclear enthusiasts over there, or in the comments of our posts when someone submits one of our stories to reddit and it does quite well there.
Nuclear supporters are far outnumbered by solar power supporters amongst the general population. Within the overall energy world, the general consensus is that solar power will grow tremendously around the world; nuclear power… not so much. Yet, on the /Energy subreddit, a popular solar or wind power story is sure to get swarmed by nuclear enthusiasts. Actually, it’s rare to even see a solar or wind story do well there despite the massive growth of these industries around the world. Renewable energy stories submitted there have a history of being immediately downvoted by redditors who simply don’t want to hear any positive news about renewable energy.
Interestingly, in the sidebar of the /Energy subreddit, where it’s routine to post links to related subreddits, there’s a link to /Renewable but not a link to the much, much larger /RenewableEnergy subreddit. And, above that, there are links to two nuclear subreddits + a subreddit that includes nuclear energy: /NuclearPower, /ThoriumReactor, and /HardEnergy. /HardEnergy, which covers fossil fuels and nuclear, is the top subreddit included there, despite having hardly over 1,000 readers (a small number for a subreddit, especially an overarching subreddit).
The /Energy subreddit isn’t the only one where the prejudice seems to be widespread. I’ve noticed it on the /Technology subreddit (to a lesser extent), and elsewhere. Recently, Elon Musk tweeted one of my solar energy stories (yes, bit of a nice surprise for me), and someone subsequently posted it to the /Futurology subreddit, one that I’d never even heard of but has quite a following. Sure enough, the same thing as always happened in the comments of the original post as well as on the /Futurology post to some extent.
This is why I think solar power will be the primary long term solution http://t.co/WNa12OVj5P
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 21, 2013
The comments from the nuclear enthusiasts are almost always the same. They attack irrelevant matters related to solar energy. They make mistakes in their overall conclusions. They don’t seem to understand why solar power is growing so fast and why even Shell thinks there’s a good chance it will dominate the entire energy industry by the end of the century. They don’t seem to get that solar costs have fallen tremendously and are projected to keep falling, while nuclear is going in the other direction. They don’t seem to understand why there are massive campaigns against solar and wind funded by fossil fuel and utility industries. Or maybe the do?…
The cynic would likely conclude that many of these fanatics are indeed paid by the nuclear industry to spread misinformation and attack renewables on major sites like reddit. Such campaigns by various industries have been uncovered in the past. Frankly, I don’t think that’s the case with the majority of the nuclear commenters, and wouldn’t even contend that it’s happening at all. Rather, I think people who have worked in the nuclear industry and people who have been mesmerized by the idea of insane amounts of cheap energy from supernatural nuclear (you know, the “too cheap to meter” stuff) have simply been too enclosed in a nuclear-enthusiast bubble for too long and simply don’t have a good sense for where the energy world is today.
The bottom line for nuclear is that it’s far too expensive, hugely unpopular amongst the masses, and poses large financial and environmental risks. It is only really pushed through by corrupt or very confused governments. The private market won’t touch it and projects have no chance where legislation doesn’t ensure profit and put the financial risk of the projects on taxpayers or ratepayers. The following graph and quote from one of the commenters on my solar story (in reply to some of the nuclear enthusiasts) captures the financial absurdity quite well:
It compares the guaranteed pricing for the planned Hinkley Point C nuke in the UK with the current feed-in tariff for large scale solar in Germany. One gets less than 10 Eurocent/kWh for 20 years without inflation correction, the other gets 10,6 Eurocent/kWh for 35 years with inflation correction (plus free 3rd party liability insurance provided by the British People, plus cover for the long term disposal of the waste). Guess which is which. BTW, wind power is even cheaper than large scale solar. New nuclear is not cheap anymore!
Now you will say “but what about at night or when it rains”. The last thing we need then is a base load power plant that can meet above costs only if it runs 8000+ hours per year, regardless of demand.
The summary of the graph above from the website where it was first posted is also quite good (translated from German):
The details of the proposed UK new nuclear power station Hinkley C were announced in October 2013. The nuclear power plant to power with a fixed payment of 92.5 lbs / MWh (10.9 ct / kWh) are paid in the base year 2012 with full compensation for inflation. Thus, the nuclear power plant would be more than twice as expensive as photovoltaic systems in Germany.
The UK story is a long one, but what it’s showing is that nuclear energy is a complete ripoff in the medium to long term.
But the nuclear enthusiasts don’t seem get this no matter how many ways you explain it to them. I’ve been in numerous comment threads trying to illuminate them, but you can debunk the pro-nuclear/anti-renewable myths repeatedly and they just keep coming back, even by the same commenters.
So, the question remains, why is such a small portion of the population so obsessed with nuclear energy despite the fact that it’s no longer competitive? And why are they so opposed to the rapid growth of solar power? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that it certainly gets old.
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