The sad reality of the nuclear dream » Tech T100

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Former nuclear regulators from the United States, Germany, and France, and the secretary of the UK government’s Radiological Protection Committee have published an absolutely unequivocal statement in which they state emphatically that “nuclear energy is simply not part of any viable strategy that can counteract climate change”.

The so-called “red scenario” that Bloomberg defined in his 2021 New Energy Outlook, in which nuclear energy increased its contribution to 66% compared to the current 5%, is shown for what it really is: excessively expensive, and tremendously dangerous. As much as he nuclear lobby pretend, and as much as intensify your communication actions when the limitations of nuclear energy become more evident, the stubborn reality is what it is: nuclear energy is not clean, safe, or intelligent, but rather a very complex technology with the potential to cause very significant damage. Nuclear power is not cheap, but extremely expensive. In order to consider making a relevant contribution to global energy generation, more than ten thousand new reactors would be required, depending on the design of the reactor, which would mean an insane commitment to unproven technologies, with unjustifiable costs, and with unaffordable risk. for the planet.

The clearest evidence can be seen in France, whose recent commitment to nuclear energy has already encountered another obstacle: the giant EDF has already announced a new delay of more than a year at the new generation plant Flamanville, in addition to a new extra cost of three hundred million euros, with which we are already talking about a total of twelve years of delay and a cost of 12.7 billion euros, four times higher than the originally budgeted 3.3 billion. We talk about one of the biggest fiascoes paid with public money in the country, and proof of the problems posed by the plans recently announced by its president.

France gets 70% of its electricity from a total of 56 nuclear reactors, but many of which are already reaching the end of their 40-year life cycle, so it has tried to convince the European Union to ‘reclassify’ the nuclear energy and gas as “clean energy”, which has unleashed criticism from other countries who see that strategy for what it really is: a step backwards.

What has France announced to deal with the umpteenth delay in the construction of its nuclear power plant? Very simple: authorize that the Cordemais coal plant, highly polluting, continue to operate until 2024. Precisely coal, the great enemy of sustainability, the fastest fuel is being withdrawn even in countries like the United States, despite the irresponsible plans of its former president.

The reality is that France’s nuclear plans could end up assuming, due to their delays, problems and cost overruns, many more emissions than the abandonment of coal and nuclear energy by other countries such as Denmark or Germany, despite the disinformation that the nuclear lobby has tried to pass off as true. “Oh my god, Germany emits so much more because of its reckless decision to go nuclear!!!” Well, in practice, and with the data in hand, the abandonment of nuclear energy by Germany that began in the year 2000 has not meant an increase in the use of coal, mainly thanks to the very strong investment that the country has made in the deployment of renewable energies, as can be seen in the graph below these lines. Less pro-nuclear alarmism and more data, please.

If something is becoming clear with the very strong push that the nuclear lobby is trying to give to its initiatives, it is that the only clear beneficiaries of nuclear energy are those who live from it. Nuclear energy is too expensive in absolute terms to make a relevant contribution to the world energy map, much more expensive than renewables even if we take into account the need to invest in storage systems. So expensive, in fact, that it makes the construction of new plants practically impossible for private initiative without the existence of very expensive government subsidies.

In addition, it generates very long-lasting waste, which makes it unsustainable, especially as we intend to scale its use: has anyone considered what we would do with the thousands of drums of waste that the construction of many more nuclear plants would generate? What about the risk posed by possible human errors or problems arising from increased environmental instability?

In reality, the nuclear lobby continues to rely on huge revenues to be made from scaling up the technology they advocate, and telling us about new and unproven technologies like ‘advanced reactors’ and ‘small modular reactors’ which, when faced with the realities of their construction, are too difficult to manage and complex to create an efficient industrial regime for the processes of construction and operation of reactors within the anticipated construction time, and with the necessary scope to achieve climate change mitigation.

Shut down the nuclear power plants in use and that have not caused problems? Probably not. But… build more? It is extremely unlikely that nuclear power plants will be able to make a relevant contribution to the climate change mitigation needed by the 2030s, given their incredibly long development and construction schedules, and the staggering construction costs of the sheer volume of reactors. that would be needed to make a difference.

The global energy transition is absolutely essential for the future because energy generation accounts for the vast majority of our greenhouse gas emissions: we are still poorly prepared for herAnd it’s going to be enormously expensive, and even more so if we listen to the nuclear lobby and choose the wrong path. Be very careful with false prophets who falsely claim to dominate the atom. But above all, let us not forget: no matter how expensive the abandonment of fossil fuels and the necessary energy transition may be, much more expensive is the cost of doing nothing.

This article is also available in English on my Medium page, «Why nuclear power isn’t going to solve our energy needs«

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