The cost of nuclear power

So far in this blog, I have talked about a lot of the points that both sides use to ‘defeat’ those they campaign against. One point that I haven’t really touched on yet is point that comes up in a most, if not all, debates about the efficacy of nuclear power and that is the issue of cost. I want to preface this blog post by saying that I am really not a financial expert, and I am only drawing my opinion from what I have read, but I’m going to do my best to summarise the different points. Both sides claim to better understand the cost of nuclear power better than their opponents, and there is definitely a lot of hearsay involved.

On one side, you have the anti-nuclear movement, who all claim that the cost of building and running a safe nuclear power plant, as well as the associated waste management costs (there are many examples, here’s one) are far to high to justify the potential risks and are more unsustainable than getting the same energy from renewables.

On the other side, you have the pro-nuclear movement. This side is a bit harder to tease apart because, aside from the voices of a few loud eco-modernists, the majority of those who campaign for nuclear power have some form of vested interest (while this is true with the anti’s with renewables, it is less direct). But the substantive force of this side’s argument is that nuclear is more expensive than coal, but is competitive with renewables and able to perform at a high capacity in a shorter amount of time than other non-fossil fuels. However a fair point should be made that, unlike the anti’s, the pro’s acknowledge the difficulties of their technologies (most renewables-only campaigners seem to gloss over the shortcomings of current technologies)

As it says in this great article from The Conversation:

What is the economic cost of nuclear power? That turns out to be a very difficult question to answer.

The main problem seems to be that there is no good models on which to base an estimation of cost. The vast majority of in-service nuclear reactors at the moment were built in the heyday of nuclear power back around the 1960s. Add to that increasing delays for safety certification, as well as new projects with unexpected delays, like the (much safer) EPR design being built in Finland that is five years overdue, and you get investors with not much faith in projected ROIs and a general lack of faith in the affordability of nuclear power in general.

A point none of this addresses is the fact that we are going to have to make economic sacrifices in the long term (and probably in the short term as well) if we are going to have any hope of combating climate change. Can nuclear be part of the solution? Hopefully, one day we’ll figure it out.

Say something controversial.


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