nuclear-news

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

Emmanuel Macron Gets Nuclear Energy All Wrong

The price of nuclear generation today is inordinate: a rip-off in terms of value, to put it bluntly. Indeed, while safety concerns drive up the cost of nuclear plant insurance, the price of renewables is predicted to sink further, by as much as 50 percent or more by 2030. ……No nuclear reactors anywhere are built without enormous government support, and France will be no different: The bill for the French taxpayers will start at $57 billion, according to the New York Times.

The single greatest barrier to the so-called nuclear renaissance is nuclear power itself and its inability to deliver affordable power on time and on budget.

Nuclear power won’t help France meet its climate goals on budget or on time.

 https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/22/macron-france-nuclear-energy-climate-renewables/ By Paul Hockenos, a Berlin-based journalist. 22  Mar 22,  At year’s end, Germany will shutter its last three nuclear plants; Belgium will follow suit by 2025. France, on the other hand, is committed to remaining Europe’s last stronghold of nuclear energy. At the center of French President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election platform is his plan to construct as many as 14 new-generation reactors and a fleet of smaller nuclear plants, supposedly to bolster the country’s climate protection strategy.

France’s bet on nuclear energy, however, is an egregious miscalculation that will severely inhibit its decarbonization efforts. At a critical juncture in the battle against climate change, diverting any finances and losing time with nuclear power, which has been in decline worldwide for decades, will only set back the country’s climate efforts, perhaps dooming its chances to go carbon neutral by 2050. Indeed, this Hail Mary pass, taken out of desperation as France has fallen woefully behind on its climate targets, will most probably come to naught anyway as the era of nuclear power wanes further no matter France’s declarations. 

The simple explanation: Fully fledged renewables are faster, cheaper, and lower risk than nuclear power.

Despite the flurry of media hype around new nuclear energy and loose talk of a “nuclear renaissance,” in recent years, the arguments against nuclear power have grown demonstrably stronger.

Critics’ original concern with nuclear power, namely its safety, remains levelheaded and paramount. The two most catastrophic meltdowns—namely in 1986 at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant and in 2011 at Japan’s Fukushima site—are well known and had horrific repercussions that haunt those regions today. But these mega disasters are only the blockbusters. 

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there have been 33 serious incidents at nuclear power stations worldwide since 1952—two in France, and six of them in the United States. Currently, a fifth of France’s geriatric nuclear generation is shut down because of safety issues—the older reactors get, the higher the risk of an accident—exacerbating an acute energy crunch there. So much for the 24/7 reliability of nuclear power.

And then there’s the now 80-year-old conundrum of how and where to dispose of radioactive waste. To date, no secure repositories are in operation anywhere in the world for the spent fuel, which remains toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. Experts estimate that more than 250,000 metric tons of radioactive waste—over 14,000 metric tons in France and 90,000 metric tons in the United States—is currently in temporary storage near nuclear power plants and military production facilities worldwide.

In France and elsewhere, there’s broad agreement that for security and health reasons, highly radioactive material can’t simply be lodged interminably at interim sites. But France’s wish to one day entomb its toxic refuse 500 meters below the Earth’s surface and 186 miles east of Paris is still on hold as locals refuse to accept the presence of a long-term nuclear repository near their homes. The story is the same just about everywhere: No one wants to raise families near a nuclear waste dump.

But these days, there are other arguments against nuclear energy that are arguably even more averse to a nuclear revival than the issues of safety and nuclear waste.

Nuclear power plants have actually pulled off one of the most remarkable feats of recent technological history: Where virtually all other technologies have gotten cheaper over time as they have developed and matured, nuclear power has actually become more expensive. Indeed, it has grown dauntingly costly compared with renewables: at least four times as costly as utility-scale solar and onshore wind power. While the cost of solar and wind energy generation, as well as battery storage, plummets by the year—in 2020 alone, onshore wind costs declined by 13 percent and those of utility-scale solar photovoltaics by 7 percent—the bill for new nuclear sites climbs upward.

The price of nuclear generation today is inordinate: a rip-off in terms of value, to put it bluntly. Indeed, while safety concerns drive up the cost of nuclear plant insurance, the price of renewables is predicted to sink further, by as much as 50 percent or more by 2030. This price trend is one reason why in 2020 total investment in new renewable electricity surpassed $300 billion, 17 times global investment in nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report. No nuclear reactors anywhere are built without enormous government support, and France will be no different: The bill for the French taxpayers will start at $57 billion, according to the New York Times.

This yawning price differential means renewables generate many more times the electricity per dollar invested than does nuclear—and thus decreases emissions by a greater factor.

The single greatest barrier to the so-called nuclear renaissance is nuclear power itself and its inability to deliver affordable power on time and on budget. If Europe’s current headline nuclear projects are a measure—marred for decades now by massive cost overruns and protracted delays—France’s hopes to have its first new reactor up and running by 2035 are illusory. In Flamanville in northwest France, the French energy firm EDF is struggling to finish a reactor that is a full decade behind schedule and now roughly four times above cost projections. The Olkiluoto 3 reactors in Finland, also many times over budget, have been delayed again and again since the early 2000s.

Indeed, not one reactor conceived since 2000 in the European Union has generated even a kilowatt of energy. The Olkiluoto 3 plant may begin commercial activities this year. As for the new, smaller, presumably cheaper nuclear reactors envisioned by billionaire Bill Gates among others, not one is in operation anywhere in the world.

In a widely circulated Jan. 25 letter penned by four former top nuclear energy regulators in France, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the authors excoriated the viability of relying on nuclear energy to beat climate change: Nuclear energy, they argue, “is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change. To make a relevant contribution to global power generation, up to more than ten thousand new reactors would be required, depending on reactor design.”

The fact is that nuclear power is simply too cumbersome to really play a meaningful role in tackling climate change—in France or elsewhere. We don’t have that kind of time. Indeed, there is no way countries can meet their 2030 decarbonization goals agreed to at the Paris Agreement by embarking now on nuclear power programs.


In stark contrast, renewable energy is a sprinter: Farms can be licensed, financed, and deployed much faster because they’re smaller, less capital intensive, more quickly approved, and easier to build. Depending on the country, vast utility-scale solar fields and onshore wind farms can materialize in just a handful of years. Last year, China brought to life about 50 gigawatts of solar capacity—that’s as much electricity generation as 10 nuclear reactors. Even the average nine-year schedule of offshore wind parks is still much, much shorter than nuclear’s erratic, extended timelines.

In Europe and elsewhere, building out nuclear power will greatly hamper the effort to curb climate change, not help it. “The more urgent climate change is, the more we must invest judiciously, not indiscriminately,” writes sustainability expert Amory Lovins, “to buy cheap, fast, sure options instead of costly, slow, speculative ones.”

In the end, the evidence speaks conclusively for ramping down fossil fuels and nuclear energy as fast as possible while embarking on an all-out expansion of sustainable renewables: wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, and tidal/wave energy. Modern gas works will back up this clean energy model until green hydrogen can take over. Ever better energy storage, smart grids, energy conservation, and digital management will make this model of the future work.

Germany and Belgium—like Austria, Italy, and nine other EU countries—are looking the facts straight in the eye. By swearing off nuclear energy and fossil fuels at the same time, these countries will have the best chance at making a net-zero energy system functional by 2050, at the latest.  https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/22/macron-france-nuclear-energy-climate-renewables/

Paul Hockenos is a Berlin-based journalist. His recent book is Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall and the Birth of the New Berlin (The New Press).   

April 11, 2022 - Posted by | France, politics

1 Comment »

  1. Nerve is an exception. The French are poised to put a fascist into power. Just the most depraved insanity possible. She will provoke atrocities and a nuclear accident. How can people sink so low

    Comment by Terry Southards | April 11, 2022 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: