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Global nuclear industry’s survival threatened by its financial disasters

Fading away: Money runs short for nuclear energy’s survival, Independent Australia, Climate News Network 30 June 2017Renewable fuels are challenging nuclear energy’s survival everywhere, and financing new reactors is growing increasingly difficult. Paul Brown reports.

ANYWHERE YOU LOOK in the world, the future of the nuclear industry looks grim as costs escalate and politicians plump for renewables, putting nuclear energy’s survival in doubt.

The single most important fact in the industry’s demise is that its main rivals in the business of generating electricity – gas, wind and solar – are getting ever cheaper as nuclear costs only rise.

The political tide is turning against nuclear power in previously leading countries. Newly elected governments in South Korea and France, the two democratic countries most enthusiastic about the atom, are looking to reduce the role of nuclear in their energy mix.

Nuclear retreat

South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in has vowed to scrap all existing plans for new nuclear power plants and cancel lifetime extensions for aged reactors, heralding a major overhaul for the country’s energy policy……

France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, has said he will continue the previous government’s policy of reducing the country’s 75% reliance on nuclear power for its electricity production to 50%.

Even in the United Kingdom, where theoretically the government is still planning as many as ten new reactors, it is clear the companies that are supposed to build them are getting cold feet. The bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the U.S. nuclear giant, has led to fears that attempting to finance new nuclear build is risky, if not impossible…….

the heavily indebted French giant EDF… has already started building two giant reactors at Hinkley Point in the West of England, the only company in the free world likely to continue to try to finance nuclear new build in Britain. It plans another two reactors in Suffolk in eastern England, but these have not yet been started.

EDF, mostly owned by the French state, has 58 ageing reactors, most in need of refurbishment and extra safety features as a result of the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

The company remains publicly committed to building new reactors in Britain, but how it can finance all its projects is not explained.

Poor value

Another blow is that the UK’s National Audit Office, which monitors government expenditure, has just released a report saying that the Hinkley Point project was “risky and expensive” and not value for money for British consumers……

An extra problem for the French and for the operators of nuclear power stations elsewhere, particularly in the US, is that the cost of producing electricity from older nuclear reactors is greater than its current wholesale price.

Money-losers

A report by Bloomberg, the financial reporting service, says that more than half the U.S. reactors currently in operation are losing money and most of the rest are struggling to break even.

This has led to a debate about whether older reactors should be subsidised by the state in order to keep carbon emissions down. But even if that were to happen, the older reactors would not generate enough revenue to finance new build……..

As democratic governments with free markets become increasingly sceptical about the benefits of nuclear power, only Russia and China remain committed to it. In neither case is it possible to discover the true cost of their industry, or whether both governments intend to continue building nuclear plants.

China has announced ambitious plans for new reactors, but is pressing ahead faster with cheaper renewables and planned start-ups of new nuclear stations have been delayed.

The global nuclear industry appears to be fading away. https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/money-runs-short-for-nuclear-energys-survival,10458

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July 1, 2017 - Posted by | general

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