Published on November 17th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan0
Let’s Be Honest — New Nuclear Power Is Not Competitive
November 17th, 2016 by Zachary Shahan
The Before the Flood website recently published a great article about why nuclear power is now a dead end. It was based on solid research and a deep plus broad understanding of the fast-changing energy industry.
As the article noted, nuclear power has been growing only in China. Even in China, though, the growth targets announced a few years ago keep getting undermined by nuclear’s lack of competitiveness, and China is all but certain to dramatically cut its long-term plans.
Nuclear power is nonsensical for new electricity capacity for a handful of reasons. It’s extremely expensive, it’s inflexible, it’s extremely slow to build, and it’s economically and environmentally risky.
Unfortunately, the nuclear lobby is still influential and keeps pushing its agenda despite nuclear power’s lack of competitiveness. I received word that the Before the Flood team got some backlash from nuclear fans after publishing the article, despite the realistic and insightful nature of the summary.
There seem to be remaining science-fiction technology enthusiasts who are simply enamored by the idea of an energy dense, centralized nuclear world, but that idea is disconnected from reality. At least, it is disconnected from any market-competitive reality.
If you look at the facts, new nuclear is about 2–5 times as expensive as solar and wind, is irreparably inflexible (a huge handicap in a 21st century grid), and comes with a financial threat that the private insurance sector won’t touch without massive, massive subsidies and risk protection from the government or ratepayers.
The bottom line: new nuclear makes no sense today.
Frankly, we primarily stopped writing about nuclear since everyone in the industry should know by now it is an industry entering its retirement stage. However, because of the interest (and backlash) the Before the Flood article raised, I decided it was worth communicating this point one more time.
Unless you want to pay 2–5 times as much for electricity, put your country at dramatic economic risk, and increase the number of blackouts in your region, drop the nuclear fantasy and jump into the 21st century.
If you are interested in implementing quick and strong climate solutions, Kelly Rigg’s closing statement in the Before the Flood article is right on point: “in the time it takes to plan and build a single new nuclear plant we could build thousands of new solar and wind plants” … for much cheaper.