The real economics of solar vs. nuclear power

June 17, 2013 at 11:22 am
Contributed by: Chris

For Quartz this week, I ran down the data on the cost of nuclear power vs. the cost of renewables, in response to The Breakthrough Institute’s recent claim that the cost of German solar is four times the cost of Finnish nuclear power. If you want to know what nuclear power really costs, here’s the data.

Read it here: The real reason to fight nuclear power has nothing to do with health risks

Note: I would not have said we should “fight” nuclear power; the title wasn’t my choosing, and it was more in reference to a previous Quartz article on the health aspects.  I just don’t think the current generation of nuclear technology makes economic sense, and the next generation has yet to prove itself…despite the claims of a loud chorus of nuclear advocates and a well-promoted film.

1 Comment

  1. Other objections to nuclear are:

    There is a worldwide shortage of master welders. A master welder is defined as having 10 years or more of experience and “perfect every time” welding ability. Catastrophes related to poor welding include the Bhopal gas leak and Chernobyl. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has an entire Web entry entitled “Reactor Coolant System Weld Issues.”18 Internet research on this issue reveals that welding has been a significant factor in almost every nuclear accident since the advent of nuclear power. Master welders are in such demand that they can earn up to one million dollars a year. There certainly are not enough of them to build another 100 reactors safely.There is also a dearth of civil engineers in the USA, India, England, South Africa, New Zealand,
    Australia, Canada, and other countries. The causes differ from country to country. In the U.S., the culprit is decades’-long lack of state investment in infrastructure and the consequent decline of enrollment in civil engineering degree programs; in India, it is being caused by huge state investments in much-needed infrastructure at a time when many civil engineers are leaving the profession for better-paying computer programming jobs. Since “civil engineering has an important part to play at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle,” building another 100 nuclear plants without adequately trained engineers might well come under the heading of “criminal negligence.”

    The U.S. has 13 universities issuing mining engineering degrees, down from 20 in the 1980s. Current statistics indicate that 90% of the 5,206 mining engineers presently in service are more than 50 years old. The average yearly retirement numbers projected by the industry in coming years are as follows: Around 300 will retire at 62 every year; about 230 at 65; and 170 at 70.21 One doesn’t have to be an expert in statistics to realize that the
    U.S. mining industry is heading for a severe shortfall of mining engineers. So who is going to mine the uranium needed for 100 new reactors?

    Uranium is also a finite resource. In 2007, Gerald Grandey, the president of Cameco Corporation—the largest uranium producer in the U.S.—said that he expected uranium demand to grow at 3% annually for the next decade, but that he doesn’t see uranium mining being able to keep pace with this demand.22 The fact is that available
    uranium supplies only enable us to maintain the current nuclear infrastructure. There were 433 working reactors worldwide in 2010, and these consumed 65,000 tons of uranium. But the world only mined 53,663 tons. The remainder came from nuclear warheads deactivated as part of various nuclear arms agreements. However, that source of uranium will soon run out. There simply isn’t enough uranium to supply another 40, 50, or 100 new nuclear power
    plants. Add to this the impending demographic crisis of skilled welders and civil and mining engineers, and the world will have difficulty even maintaining its present nuclear plants in good condition.

    But it doesn’t end there. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (the lobby for the nuclear energy industry), 38% of the nuclear industry’s work force will be eligible for retirement within the next five years. The industry will need to hire approximately 25,000 more workers by 2015 to maintain the present-day numbers of personnel.
    Where all these new workers will come from is a mystery, since few people are presently studying nuclear engineering or other nuclear-energy-specific skills. The American Nuclear Society (the industry’s professional organization) states that 700 nuclear engineers need to graduate each year to
    satisfy demand, but currently only 250 are graduating.

    Comment by Tsvi Bisk — June 18, 2013 @ 1:06 am

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