Nuclear’s popularity with the environmental lobby can be summed up by NGO Greenpeace’s successful campaign to get Germany to ditch it years before there was any momentum for the country to abandon its polluting thermal and brown coal industries. And, while wind and solar costs have fallen precipitously, the new generation of European pressurised reactors (EPRs) have proved an almost 20-year black hole of delays and hair-raising cost escalations. But John Reilly, a prominent energy economist at US university MIT, rejects the idea that ever-cheaper renewables will inevitably squeeze out nuclear. “[S]ystem costs, which are being absorbed by the utility system because of how the regulations are structured… are likely to get higher as we get great penetration of intermittent renewables,” he says. Predictable, low-carbon generation—criteria nuclear meets—could still have a role to play. Similar in some ways to industries such as steel—where China’s approach of building cheaply, quickly and to a good-enough standard competes with more costly, full-bells-and-whistles facilities in traditional developed economies—the nuclear sector faces a divide. Advanced radioactive fission reactors are expensive to produce compared with cheaper and more utilitarian Chinese and Russian versions of older technology. Safety is the watchword for the newer designs, as they seek to eliminate—or at least greatly reduce—all active cooling systems that require human intervention to keep the reactor stable. Among the more advanced prototypes is that developed by NuScale, a US firm funded by the country’s Department of Energy, which consists of prefabricated modular reactors that can easily be moved and scaled up to suit any local power need. But the challenge is economic feasibility. Recent estimates by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) project a cost of about $0.08/kWh for advanced nuclear power compared with somewhere in the region of $0.05/kWh for wind and solar power, and $0.03/kWh for coal and natural gas (figures vary widely among different plants).
Petroleum Economist 18th June 2020 read more »
Nuclear energy needs to reinvent itself so that its benefits, risks and deeds are understood in terms of the values guiding us through this pandemic, says Jeremy Gordon. We are in the middle of the biggest public spending spree the world has ever known- and simultaneously, the biggest science-based policy response the world has ever known. It is gratifying to see that large scale coordinated action is possible, even if it is only when we realise that worst-case scenarios are also possible.
Nuclear Engineering International 18th June 2020 read more »