Expensive Nuclear Power
Is Nuclear Power An Economic Failure?
This weekend marked one year on from the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ensuing nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. At Fukushima, a series of nuclear meltdowns, equipment failures and releases of radioactive materials made the disaster the largest since the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
The media has been awash with stories on nuclear including the Economist which carries a special report into nuclear power under the title “the dream that failed”. It contains many reasons why nuclear is not the answer to the world’s energy dilemma, but the loudest message is on costs, here are just a few quotes:
“Renewables are getting cheaper, through technological change and through the benefits of mass production and market competition. In the long-run, technologies that get cheaper can be expected to edge out a technology that has only ever got more expensive.”
“Nuclear power would be more competitive if it were cheaper. Yet despite generous government research and development programmes stretching back decades, this does not look likely”.
“British studies in 2004, 2006 and 2008 put the overnight cost [the cost of the material and labour that goes into a new plant as if it had been purchased simultaneously] of new PWRs [pressurised water reactors] at $2,233/kW [€1,703], then $2,644 [€2,016], then $3,000 [€2,288].”
“The first two EPRs [European pressurised reactors] to be built in Europe, in France and Finland, have gone extravagantly over schedule and over budget.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Werner Faymann, Austrian Chancellor, expects petitions to start in at least six EU countries this year with the goal of having the EU abandon nuclear power. Austria is also seeking enough renewable energy to be able to export it by 2014/15.
In Japan, according to the Mainichi, a Japanese news site, Yuhei Sato, the governor of the Fukushima Prefecture, this Sunday called for an end to nuclear power and the promotion of renewable energy. “Fukushima aims to create a society that enjoys sustainable development by promoting renewable energy and not depending on nuclear power…we will call for all nuclear power stations in the prefecture to be shut down so that an accident like this never happens again,” he said.
At the nuclear plant itself, the clean-up operation will take years and hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced from their homes and will be for years to come. Meanwhile, only two of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are grid-connected and could be turned off in the coming months.
Renewable Energy Focus said that, “in the run-up to the 11 March anniversary of the Fukushima reactor meltdown, the steady drop of anti renewables articles in the mainstream media was becoming a torrent as the nuclear lobby cranked up its public relations machine.” Read the full article here.
Energy and Environmental Management Magazine reported that over 1,000 people demonstrated outside a UK nuclear power station called Hinkley Point C in Somerset – the biggest protest for decades.
Now is the time more than ever for renewables to fill the nuclear gap.