The biggest danger to the nuclear industry however is that of spiralling costs. Given cheap and plentiful gas and the rise of renewable power whose costs are falling, many industry observers wonder how nuclear power can compete. As competition from gas, wind and solar has grown, nuclear’s share of global electricity generation has declined to 11 per cent from a peak of 17 per cent in the mid-1990s. In its Energy Outlook report published in February, BP forecast that renewable energy would be the fastest-growing source of energy by 2040. Rising costs remain the big challenge. A recent analysis of the history of reactors published in the journal Energy Policy concluded the following: nuclear power projects are more expensive than in the early 1980s; nuclear construction lead times have increased two-fold in the past 50 years; and the increase in complexity and risks of nuclear projects results in high financial costs. “Nuclear projects are actually becoming more complex to carry out, inducing delays and higher costs,” says the study’s lead author, Joana Portugal Pereira, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London. “Safety and regulatory considerations play heavily into this, particularly in the wake of Fukushima.” In the case of Wylfa Newydd, the government will consider attaching taxpayer funds to the construction of the site, but with the ambition of achieving a strike price for the electricity that will be about £15/MWh cheaper than for Hinkley. Supporters of renewables point out that at about £77.50/MWh, this price is still higher than the £57.50/MWh allocated for UK offshore wind contracts last September. Simon Virley, partner and head of energy and natural resources at consultancy KPMG, argues that nuclear “can play an important role in providing the volume of low-carbon electricity we might need if we see widespread electrification of transport and heating — so long as the costs come down”.
FT 14th June 2018 read more »
Nuclear Power Won’t Survive Without A Government Handout. Once upon a time, if you were an American who didn’t like nuclear energy, you had to stage sit-ins and marches and chain yourself to various inanimate objects in hopes of closing the nation’s nuclear power plants. Today … all you have to do is sit back and wait. There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they’re responsible for producing about 20 percent of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren’t being built. And the ones still operational can’t compete with other sources of power on price. Just last week, several outlets reported on a leaked memo detailing a proposed Trump administration plan directing electric utilities to buy more from nuclear generators and coal plants in an effort to prop up the two struggling industries. The proposal is likely to butt up against political and legal opposition, even from within the electrical industry, in part because it would involve invoking Cold War-era emergency powers that constitute an unprecedented level of federal intervention in electricity markets. But without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion.
FiveThirtyEight 14th June 2018 read more »