You are here

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The alternative is now the mainstream

According to Lazard, the most cost-effective options to reduce carbon emissions are wind and utility-scale solar. Rooftop solar might fit there, except that Lazard found that the cost of installing rooftop solar in the U.S. runs twice that of the rest of the world.

Back in the day − OK, even five years ago − solar and wind power were often described as "alternatives." Alternatives to coal, or nuclear, or whatever energy source they were being compared to. The implication of being an "alternative" is that it isn't quite mainstream yet, perhaps not yet ready for the big time.

If that's the case, perhaps the Nuclear Energy Institute should set up a new section promoting nuclear power on its website titled Alternatives to Clean Energy. Because clean energy is now the mainstream and the electricity production sources of the 20th century are, at most, alternatives.

In November, the International Energy Agency (IEA) pointed out that renewables are now the second largest generation source in the world, topped only by coal, and that renewables accounted for half of all new generation in 2014.1

But more forward-looking − and even more compelling − is a report released from the investment bank Lazard, which examines the levelized costs of the various energy technologies.2 Wind and solar are not only beating nuclear − as would be expected − but also coal and even natural gas. Remember that next time you read about some utility exec (or uninformed journalist) complaining that nuclear reactors are closing because of competition from low-priced gas.

Sure, the ready availability of gas right now due to large-scale fracking means there is ample supply at low cost − but the real competition on the price end from here to eternity, what the nuclear utilities know lies ahead for them, is that nuclear REALLY can't compete with renewables. In fact, according to Lazard, wind and solar are now less than half the price of new nuclear. "And the curve is still heading down" for renewables, "while nuclear is the only technology to show a significant increase."

In the only glimmer of hope for nuclear power (and for fossil fuels too, for that matter), Lazard somehow concludes that "alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the baseload generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future."

At the same time, Lazard issued a second report3, which concludes that energy storage technologies are now at an "inflection point." The bank found that storage is already competitive, without subsidies, for some applications, such as grid stability. But the report also states that storage costs will continue to drop dramatically over the next five years, meaning that other applications for storage will become cost-competitive as well, and quickly. Still, the bank states that we're not yet at the point where storage can economically meet the "transformational scenarios envisioned by renewable energy advocates."

Taken together, the reports lead to only one conclusion: clean energy is no longer the "alternative," it is already the mainstream. Whether that transformation hits full steam two years from now, or five years, or even ten years is less relevant than the reality that it is unstoppable. All the nuclear-powered ideology in the world isn't going to put a dangerous, obsolete technology on top, especially when it is already the most expensive option available and the gap is only widening.

− Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Information & Resource Service




Energy efficiency could slash US$250 billion annually from decarbonization costs

A new report − 'How Energy Efficiency Cuts Costs for a 2° C Future' − analyzes how energy efficiency policies and programs in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Mexico, and the U.S. can reduce the cost of economy-wide decarbonization by up to US$250 billion (€235b) per year for these regions, with no net cost to society through to 2030. The report was commissioned by ClimateWorks and the research was carried out by a consortium of groups led by Fraunhofer ISI.

The study modeled several pathways to identify the contribution of energy efficiency to achieving a 2°C upper limit for climate change. It found that between now and 2030, energy efficiency can reduce the global cost of limiting warming by up to US$2.8 trillion (€2.64t) compared to a more energy intensive pathway. The potential annual savings of the energy efficiency pathway vary by nation, ranging from 0.1−0.4% of annual GDP.

In addition, the economic benefits of energy efficiency can help eliminate energy poverty. Recent research by the World Bank shows that the world can achieve universal access to electricity through investments of between US$40−100 billion (€38−94b) annually. The major savings from energy efficiency could help finance this critical goal.

As well as reducing the costs of decarbonization, energy efficiency in the regions studied could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 11 billion metric tons (Gt) of CO2e in 2030 − roughly two-thirds of the reductions needed in these regions to limit warming to 2°C.

ClimateWorks, 2015, "How Energy Efficiency Cuts Costs for a 2° C Future",

Nuclear Phaseout Congress 2016

The Nuclear Phaseout Congress 2016, organized by the Swiss Energy Foundation, will be held on 21 March 2016 in Zurich. Speakers will include:

  • Naoto Kan, former Japanese Prime Minister
  • Gregory Jaczko, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Jürgen Trittin, Member of the Bundestag, German Federal Minister for the Environment (1998−2005)
  • Other experts including Yves Marignac, Oda Becker, and Mycle Schneider.

The congress is to discuss the global development of nuclear energy, the risks posed by aging reactors and the challenges faced by the nuclear regulators, those within the political sphere and society as a whole. The congress will be held in German and English.

More Information:

Contact: Myriam Planzer, [email protected]

Ukraine nuclear plants without power as towers feeding energy to Crimea blown up

A senior Ukrainian energy official revealed that a November 20 attack on transmission towers that cut off the delivery of electricity from Ukraine to Crimea also created an emergency situation at nuclear power plants.

The apparent act of sabotage in Ukraine's Kherson region forced an emergency power unloading at several Ukrainian nuclear power plants according to the first deputy director of Ukraine's energy company Ukrenergo, Yuriy Katich.

Russia's Crimea was forced to switch to autonomous reserve power after transmission towers in the adjacent Ukrainian region were blown up, causing a blackout. Meanwhile, the repairs were delayed by Right Sector and Crimean Tatar "activists" attempting to block crews from getting to the scene. None of the groups have accepted responsibility.

Katich said: "All of these events have led to an additional emergency shutdown of the electrical network of two units at thermal power plants – the Dnieper and Uglegorskaya – and the emergency unloading by 500 MW of nuclear power plants in Ukraine. This includes Zaporozhskaya NPP and the South Ukrainian NPP. I want to stress that such emergency unloading of a nuclear plant – it is very dangerous."

Crimea's chief prosecutor, Natalia Poklonskaya, has called the blowing up of the transmission towers sabotage, which "has created a threat to lives and wellbeing of some two million people of various nationalities," while a regional authority suggested qualifying it as "an act of terror."

23 Nov 2015, 'Ukraine nuclear power plants 'dangerously' without power as towers feeding energy to Crimea blown up',

21 Nov 2015, 'State of emergency, blackout in Russia's Crimea after transmission towers in Ukraine blown up',