Michael Liebreich, Senior Contributor Bloomberg NEF: We need to talk about nuclear. And I mean really talk, in a truth-and-reconciliation, moving-forward kind of way, not a let’s-all-shout-slogans-at-each-other, my-tribe-versus-your-tribe kind of way. Serious people are finally talking about decarbonizing national economies by mid-century, but such talk must be accompanied by credible plans – and no plan can be considered credible if it does not deal explicitly with nuclear power. If nuclear is in, what role will it play in the energy system? How are you going to ensure plants are affordable, built on time and to budget? How are you going to fund it? What are your assumptions about new nuclear technologies? And what is your long-term plan for nuclear waste? If nuclear is out, then how are you proposing to meet the world’s growing energy needs? Not just current electricity demand, but also the power required to electrify transport, heating and industry? And not just when it is sunny or windy, but all day every day, every week, every month, every season? The Green New Deal – as proposed earlier this year by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, co-sponsored by 92 Representatives, 12 Senators and dozens of prospective Democratic presidential candidates – is silent on nuclear. That is not credible. In or out? Maintain or shut existing plants? New build or no new build? Invest in the next generation of technologies or not? So let’s talk about nuclear power. Before we do, a “trigger warning”: whether you are a lifelong anti-nuclear campaigner or the technology’s most ardent fan, this might be uncomfortable. Are we ready? You are proposing to build five to 10 times the total global cumulative capacity of wind and solar, in just 11 years? And now, are you still sure you want to be shutting down existing nuclear power stations at the same time? It is perfectly possible in logic for it to be a very good idea to maintain current nuclear power stations, and a very bad idea to build new ones based on the same technology. So, there you have it. My take on the nuclear debate: wind and solar alone can’t provide enough zero-carbon power to decarbonize the economy in the near term; the overwhelming priority is to keep existing nuclear plants open; when it comes to new plants, the current generation of plant designs won’t cut it on economic grounds; and for goodness sake, let’s get serious about developing SMRs and researching the generation of nuclear technologies that might even follow them.
Bloomberg NEF 3rd July 2019 read more »