Nuclear power’s economic failure via The Ecologist

Dr Jim Green 

| 13th December 2021 

A new report from Friends of the Earth Australia details the catastrophic cost overruns with nuclear power projects.

Despite the abundance of evidence that nuclear power is economically uncompetitive compared to renewables, the nuclear industry and some of its supporters continue to claim otherwise.

Those claims are typically based on implausible cost projections for non-existent reactor concepts. Moreover, the nuclear lobby’s claims about the cost of renewables are just as ridiculous.

Claims about ‘cheap’ nuclear power certainly don’t consider the real-world nuclear construction projects detailed in a new report by Friends of the Earth Australia.

Every power reactor construction project in Western Europe and the US over the past decade has been a disaster.

The V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (two AP1000 reactors) was abandoned after the expenditure of at least US$9 billion leading Westinghouse to file for bankruptcy in 2017.

Criminal investigations

Criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the V.C. Summer project are ongoing ‒ and bailout programs to prolong operation of ageing reactors in the US are also mired in corruption.

The only remaining reactor construction project in the US is the Vogtle project in Georgia (two AP1000 reactors). The current cost estimate of US$27-30+ billion is twice the estimate when construction began (US$14-15.5 billion).

Costs continue to increase and the Vogtle project only survives because of multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts. The project is six years behind schedule.


Western Europe

The only current reactor construction project in France is one EPR reactor under construction at Flamanville. The current cost estimate of €19.1 billion is 5.8 times greater than the original estimate.

The Flamanville reactor is 10 years behind schedule.

The only current reactor construction project in the UK comprises two EPR reactors under construction at Hinkley Point. In the late 2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was £2 billion.

The current cost estimate for two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point is £22-23 billion, over five times greater than the initial estimate.

In 2007, EDF boasted that Britons would be using electricity from an EPR reactor at Hinkley Point to cook their Christmas turkeys in 2017, but construction didn’t even begin until 2018.

Is China a shining light for nuclear power?

One EPR reactor (Olkiluoto-3) is under construction in Finland. The current cost estimate of about €11 billion is 3.7 times greater than the original estimate. Olkiluoto-3 is 13 years behind schedule.

Nuclear power is growing in a few countries, but only barely. China is said to be the industry’s shining light but nuclear growth is modest ‒ an average of 2.1 reactor construction starts per year over the past decade.

Moreover, nuclear growth in China is negligible compared to renewables ‒ 2 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power capacity were added in 2020 compared to 135 GW of renewables.

There were only three power reactor construction starts in Russia in the decade from 2011 to 2020, and only four in India.


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