The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

With rapid advances in renewables, nuclear power gets less and less economic

Money down holeFlag-USANuclear Power Is Losing Money At An Astonishing Rate, Think Progress [excellent graphs] BY JOE ROMM AUG 4, 2016 Half of existing nuclear power plants are no longer profitable. The New York Times and others have tried to blame renewable energy for this, but the admittedly astounding price drops of renewables aren’t the primary cause of the industry’s woes — cheap fracked gas is.

The point of blaming renewables, which currently receive significant government subsidies, is apparently to argue that existing nukes deserve some sort of additional subsidy to keep running — beyond the staggering $100+ billion in subsidies the nuclear industry has received over the decades. But a major reason solar and wind energy receive federal subsidies — which are being phased out over the next few years — is because they are emerging technologies whose prices are still rapidly coming down the learning curve, whereas nuclear is an incumbent technology with a negative learning curve.

As you can imagine, if existing nuclear power plants have become unprofitable, then new nuclear power plants make no economic sense whatsoever. Perhaps no surprise, then, that a Reuters headline blared last month, “New Nuclear Reactor Builds Fall To Zero In First Half Of 2016 — Report.”

The utility consultancy Brattle Group came to a similar view on existing nukes in a 2014 analysis, concluding that 51 percent of the merchant (deregulated) nuclear fleet, some 23 Gigawatts, could be unprofitable by 2015. In researching this post, I spoke at length with economist Peter Fox-Penner, one of the country’s leading experts on both the electric grid and decarbonization, the author of Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities. Fox-Penner is the former chair of the Brattle Group…………..

the rapidly dropping price of solar and wind power has started to create problems for inflexible and costly power sources like nuclear power. While their market penetration is vastly lower than nuclear power, there are times during the day when there is an excess of very-low-cost renewables — since they don’t have the high fueling and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs nuclear has.

Nuclear advocates want you to believe that this problem with renewables is long-term and unsolvable — whereas it is in fact short-term and straightforward to solve (see “Why The Renewables Revolution Is Now Unstoppable“). It’s not a surprise the usually slow-to-change utility system was unprepared for the astonishingly rapid growth of low-cost solar and wind power. But with electricity storage prices collapsing and literally hundreds of businesses now starting to emerge to find uses for cheap, over-abundant carbon-free power during the day, this is really a short-term problem……….

it seems as if the NYPSC is severely overpaying their nukes. That seems especially likely given that the nukes in New York State already get a RGGI benefit — whose baseline level the PSC calculates at $10.41 per ton (that number is then later adjusted to reflect the actual RGGI price, which fluctuates, and is currently closer to $5).

I also have serious doubts that this subsidy needs to last until 2029. Within a decade, we are likely to find that existing nukes are even less valuable than we thought. As I’ve said, the rapid advances in renewables, batteries and other storage, demand response, efficiency, and electric vehicles mean that integrating low-cost renewables into the grid will almost certainly be far easier and cheaper and faster than people realize.


August 5, 2016 - Posted by | general

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