Tag Archives: renewables

New York Just Proved Why Bailing Out Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea


New York approved a $7.6-$10 billion subsidy to prop up uncompetitive nuclear power plants–twice as much money as it will take for the state to achieve a goal to generate 50% of its electricity with renewables by 2030.

Yesterday, New York became the first state to adopt a policy to subsidize aging, uncompetitive nuclear reactors. The state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies, passed a Clean Energy Standard that combines a 50% renewable energy standard by 2030 with massive subsidies to prop up uneconomical reactors. (You can download the whole PSC order here.)

Prepare yourself for loud celebrations from the nuclear industry, heaping praise on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and calling for other states to emulate the Empire State with lucrative incentives to insulate the nuclear industry from competition and to postpone closures of uneconomical reactors.

We hate to throw water on the parade, but the move actually proves what a bad idea it is to provide subsidies like this to prop up nuclear power. Let’s jump to the punch line, then we can fill in the blanks: New York just committed to spending twice as much money propping up old nuclear reactors than on new renewable energy, to get 2-3 times less energy from nuclear as renewables in the end.

Spend more, get less electricity, get more carbon emissions–and get a lot of radioactive waste. Continue reading


The accelerating decline of French nuclear power

The containment dome at Flamanville-3 has been installed. It would be exceedingly difficult and costly to replace the bottom head of the reactor pressure vessel installed here.

The containment dome at Flamanville-3 has been installed. It would be exceedingly difficult and costly to replace the bottom head of the reactor pressure vessel installed here.

For most people with any interest in energy issues, France is synonymous with nuclear power. With 78% of its electricity generated by the atom, it is by far the most nuclear-dependent country in the world. It’s state-owned flagship Electricite de France is the world’s largest nuclear utility. State-owned Areva is one of the largest nuclear reactor manufacturers in the world.

When nuclear industry lobbyists–anywhere in the world–try to find a success story for their technology, they invariably point to France. Continue reading

Solar comes (finally) to (much of) the Southeast

Perhaps the most misleading state welcoming sign ever--at least if you think "sunshine" should equal solar power.

Perhaps the most misleading state welcoming sign ever–at least if you think “sunshine” should equal solar power.

When it comes to solar power, the Southeast U.S.–despite its abundant sunshine–has long been like the kid at the back of the class who refuses to raise her hand: a complete non-participant in the action.

That is now changing, rapidly. Continue reading

Old Reactors v. New Renewables: The First Nuclear War of the 21st Century

The trend is clear: nuclear costs keep rising while solar and wind become ever more cost-effective.

The trend is clear: nuclear costs keep rising while solar and wind become ever more cost-effective.

By Mark Cooper

Within the past year, a bevy of independent, financial analysts (Lazard, Citi, Credit Suisse, McKinsey and Company, Sanford Bernstein, Morningstar) have heralded an economic revolution in the electricity sector. A quarter of a century of technological progress has led to the conclusion that over the course of the next decade a combination of efficiency, renewables and gas will meet the need for new resources and more importantly, render the antiquated baseload model largely obsolete.

The academic debate over whether we could get to an electricity system that relies entirely (99 percent) or mostly (80 percent) on renewables late in this century is largely irrelevant compared to the fact that over the next couple of decades we could see a rapid and substantial expansion of renewables (to say 30 percent of 40 percent), if the current economic forces are allowed to ply out and policies to advance the transformation of the electricity system are adopted.  Continue reading

EPA’s proposed carbon rules provide subsidies to uneconomic, aging, dangerous nuclear reactors

The fastest and cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions is more renewables and energy efficiency. This city in Japan shows what can be done....

The fastest and cheapest ways to reduce carbon emissions are more renewables and energy efficiency. This city in Japan shows points the path….

The Environmental Protection Agency’s long-awaited proposed rules to attain carbon emission reductions from existing power plants was released today.

We’ve noticed some environmental groups already have sent out mass e-mails urging their members to support the proposal. Not so fast. Very few government rule proposals deserve unqualified support and this proposal is no exception.

Indeed, its 645-page text includes some–although oddly worded and wholly unnecessary–support for nuclear power. The support is not only unnecessary, it would be counterproductive to building a clean, carbon-free energy system.   Continue reading

New report says renewables make up most of planned new U.S. generating capacity–and the reality is even better.

snlcapacitymapIf there was any lingering doubt that the tide has swung away from nuclear power and fossil fuels, consider this: a new report from SNL Financial finds that renewables represent–by a large margin–most of the new electrical generating capacity currently planned to be built in the U.S.

Fully 56.58% of new capacity is to come from renewables, according to the report, with wind making up the majority of the renewable installations. Natural gas comes in second at 30.52%. In total, the report says a total of 349,858 MW of new capacity is planned; wind is the largest single source at 111,936 MW.

Continue reading

Nuclear industry’s wishful thinking knows no bounds: No, Ukraine crisis is not going to boost nukes in Europe

Nuclear power hasn't worked out so well for Ukraine so far. There is no reason to believe it's going to help now either.

Nuclear power hasn’t worked out so well for Ukraine so far. There is no reason to believe it’s going to help now either.

Never let it be said that the global nuclear power industry lets a good crisis go to waste….the industry is now promoting the far-fetched notion that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia should lead to new development of nuclear power, especially in Eastern Europe.

There is certainly significant truth in the idea that the conflict could increasingly turn on energy issues in coming months and years–after all, Russia already has used shut-offs of natural gas to and through Ukraine as a political weapon in the past. But the idea is far-fetched because new nuclear power would be far too slow to make any difference to the region’s energy picture for the next decade at least, and nuclear power would do little to solve the region’s, especially Ukraine’s, reliance on Russian natural gas, which is used primarily for heating, not electricity generation. (We should note here that similarly cockamamie concepts emanating from U.S. energy fossil fuel interests, like building the Keystone XL pipeline or encouraging natural gas exports, can somehow occur quickly enough to make a difference for Ukraine or the current conflict generally are also industry-spawned fantasies).

Indeed, the fastest, cheapest and easiest steps Ukraine could and should take to reduce reliance on Russian gas is to improve its energy efficiency. Ukraine is one of the most energy inefficient nations on earth due to decades of subsidies that artificially reduce energy costs to the public and frequent failure to even collect on the energy bills that are charged to consumers and institutions. Buildings in Ukraine were not designed with energy efficiency in mind–quite the opposite–and the country is far behind in implementing even simple steps like switching to CFL or LED lightbulbs, much less improving its industrial sector.

That’s one big reason why our NIRS/WISE partners in Ukraine, Ecoclub in Rivne, have spent many summers retrofitting institutional buildings like orphanages and schools to be more energy efficient. Their hope always has been that once the improvements are seen–in both energy effectiveness and reduced costs–they would be emulated. But it requires a government-led effort to achieve the kind of efficiency savings the nation is capable of and needs, and to date corrupt Ukrainian governments have been far more interested in protecting and expanding subsidies to gain votes and garner favor with oligarchs than in improving energy efficiency. Hopefully that will change when a new government is elected in May–that’s certainly the kind of change the protestors still camped on the Maidan are hoping to see.

Renewables are also a potentially valid source of power in much of Ukraine, of course (as they are just about everywhere), but again, there has been little progress on renewables at a national scale. Ukrainian governments have instead invested, largely unsuccessfully in recent years, in building nuclear reactors to provide export power and hard currency rather than in modernizing the country’s own energy infrastructure. But a 2006 paper from many of Ukraine’s leading environmental groups, including Ecoclub, indicates some of the possibilities for the country.

Interestingly–to NIRS at least–we apparently have identified the Black Sea area, and especially now-Russian-dominated Crimea, as particularly fertile for wind power development. We don’t remember having done so, but the 2006 paper does say exactly that on page 28.

The reality that rapid and highly cost-effective improvements in energy efficiency and renewables would do far more than nuclear power to address Ukraine’s energy dependence hasn’t deterred the nuclear boosters at CNBC however, who breathlessly inform us that “Moscow has quietly taken the lead in the $500 billion market for nuclear exports, building the lion’s share of new facilities—and by extension earning influence and good will in key regions around the globe—as the U.S. sits on the sidelines.” Perhaps CNBC should read its own article, which states that the Russian share is only 37% of new nuclear projects. Or maybe lions don’t get the same share they used to…. And many of those alleged projects are  highly speculative.

CNBC adds, “The Russians view nuclear as an excellent export product,” said Barbara Judge, former chair of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, in an interview with CNBC. “They are using it as part of their plan to establish themselves as a geopolitical economic power.”

But, as Mark Cooper of the Institute for Energy and Environment at Vermont Law School points out, both Russia and China (which is–not yet anyway–aggressively exporting nuclear technology) “‘are subsidizing the bejesus out of their technology,’ which means privately owned U.S. companies can’t really compete.” Left unasked by CNBC is why such subsidies are necessary if nuclear is such an “excellent export product.”

One reason is that many of the countries Russia is selling to can’t actually afford to buy nuclear reactors, so Russia provides massive loans–many of which probably will never be repaid. And because the private sector worldwide rejects nuclear power on economic grounds–it is simply no longer economically competitive with competing electricity sources and grows even less so daily–those countries that actually succeed in building Russian-designed reactors (and our prediction is that most will never actually complete their plans) will find their electricity costs put them at a competitive disadvantage in world markets. That will lead to more countries dropping out of nuclear projects before they are complete, and a further erosion in the Russian trade balance. Ultimately, nuclear exports are likely to have a negative impact on the Russian economy.

Meanwhile, the UK itself seems to doubt the wisdom of its former official Barbara Judge. According to Reuters, “Britain is reviewing its nuclear cooperation agreement with Russian state firm Rosatom because of the Ukraine crisis, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said.” European countries, despite the nuclear industry’s self-perpetuated mirage, tend to believe that nations that invade other nations for their own self-aggrandizement are perhaps not the most reliable partners in building and supporting a nation’s energy infrastructure. Perhaps Russia’s “lion’s share” of new nuclear facilities isn’t going to be so large in the end after all….

Michael Mariotte

March 25, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/03/25/nuclear-industrys-wishful-thinking/

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