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Nuclear energy should not be part of the global solution to climate change

Nuclear energy should not be part of the global solution to climate change, April 12, 2022 . By Amory B. Lovins,  recent opinion piece in Utility Dive touting the merits of nuclear power favors a “technology-inclusive approach” over reliance “solely” on desirable-but-inadequate renewables. This framing avoids comparing technologies by claiming all are needed, and even makes comparisons sound unjustly discriminatory by echoing social-inclusion language. It condenses the exuberantly diverse renewable portfolio to “just one technology.” It also omits the biggest, cheapest resource — energy efficiency. Yet the piece evades nuclear power’s actual status, economics, prospects and operational role.

Nuclear power’s one-tenth share of global electricity is stagnant and slipping. In 2020, nuclear power added 0.4 GW more capacity than it retired — 782 times less than renewables’ 278 GW, equivalent to about 232 times less added annual output. In 2021, its capacity dropped for the seventh year in the past 13. The global fleet averages 32 years old, so retirements are outpacing additions. Nuclear culture, skills, vendors and prospects are shriveling — mostly due to bad economics. Sun and wind are now the cheapest bulk source for at least 91% of world electricity, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), so they’re winning about 10–20 times more investment. 

Claims of “competitive” foreign nuclear plants are cited to a 2016 report that was convincingly debunked—even by the opinion piece’s own author. In fact, BNEF finds the cheapest reactors, in China, cost at least twice as much per kWh as the Chinese wind and solar that outgenerate them 2:1, so China’s 2020 renewable investments at least matched the previous 12 years’ cumulative nuclear investment decisions…………

Competing climate solutions

In over 24,000 actual market projects, new unsubsidized renewables make electricity 5–13 times cheaper than nuclear newbuild according to BNEF; merchant bank Lazard analysis finds 3–8 times. Per dollar, renewables therefore provide 3–13 times more kWh and can displace 313 times more fossil-fueled generation. Still-cheaper efficiency is even more climate-effective……………………


April 14, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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