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Logic supports renewables, not nuclear via PV Magazine

The latest edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report gives the energy source little hope in the race against fast, widespread, job-friendly, popular renewables. The report reiterates clean power is taking the lead in the world’s energy system and nuclear is not only too costly a remedy for carbon emissions but too slow to deploy. Nuclear output grew only 2.4% last year while solar and wind power volumes grew 18% and 29%, respectively.

EMILIANO BELLINI

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According to the latest survey, 272 reactors – two-thirds of the global fleet – have been operating for more than 30 years and in a decade or less most will have to be replaced by new generation capacity. “In the following decade to 2030, 188 units (165.5 GW) would have to be replaced – 3.2 times the number of start-ups achieved over the past decade, including 80 (19%) that have reached 41 years or more,” the report stated.

Uncompetitive

In the middle of this year, 28 reactors – 24 of them in Japan – are in long-term outage, indicating they have not generated power in the previous calendar year and first half of the current year. At least 27 of the 46 units under construction are behind schedule, mostly by several years, and only nine of the 17 units scheduled for start-up last year were connected to the grid.

Many reactors are uncompetitive against renewables in day-to-day electricity markets, in particular in the United States, and will shut down a decade or more before their licenses expire unless bailed out by new subsidies. The report explains that of “the prohibitive capital cost of [latest type] Gen-III+ reactors – on the order of $5,000-8,000-plus per kilowatt – 78-87% is for non-nuclear costs”. The authors add: “Thus, if the other 13-22% – the ‘nuclear island’ (nuclear steam supply system) – were free, the rest of the plant would still be grossly uncompetitive with renewables or efficiency. That is, even free steam from any kind of fuel, fission or fusion is not good enough because the rest of the plant costs too much.”

The advance of renewables, on the other hand, appears unstoppable, with solar and wind adding 96 GW and 49.2 GW of generation capacity, respectively, last year. Nuclear claimed an 8.8 GW share. Power output from solar and wind grew 13% and 29%, respectively, as nuclear saw meager growth of 2.4%. And while the estimated levelized cost of energy for utility scale solar has fallen by 88% in a decade – and wind 69% – the nuclear power price has surged 23%.

Even if a realistic carbon price were levied across the world, nuclear would trail renewables, according to today’s report.

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Too slow to fight climate change

One of the biggest hurdles facing new nuclear is the time it takes to deploy the technology, according to the report. New plants take 5-17 years, much longer than the timescale for deploying utility scale solar or onshore wind. That means fossil-fuel plants continue to emit far more CO2 while awaiting nuclear replacements.

Read more at Logic supports renewables, not nuclear

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