Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Is Nuclear Power cheaper than renewable energy?

This is a letter from the excellent Gerry Wolff in response to yet another claim that nuclear power is cheap, this time in the Sunday Times


Contrary to the often-repeated claim that nuclear power is cheap (“Saving Britain's economy: ditch expensive wind farms”, 6 November), it is one of the most expensive ways of generating electricity. It only seems cheap if we make wildly optimistic estimates of the cost of building nuclear plants, or assume that capital costs have been paid off, and if we ignore the enormous subsidies enjoyed by the nuclear industry all around the world.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, says that nuclear power is more expensive than offshore wind power.

The Economist has written that "More than half of the subsidies (in real terms) ever lavished on energy by OECD governments have gone to the nuclear industry."

A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists says that "Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away."

A report by the Insurance Forum, Leipzig, a company specialising in actuarial calculations, shows that, if the nuclear industry was required to insure fully against the cost of accidents, the price of nuclear electricity would rise by a range of values—€ 0.14 per kWh up to € 2.36 per kWh—depending on assumptions made.

Reports by the Energy Fair group show that nuclear power in the UK today benefits from 7 main types of subsidy, and the Government is proposing more.

Around the world, the average annual growth of wind power in the last 5 years has been more than 27% and the annual growth in solar power has been about 30%. In 2010, the worldwide growth of solar power was a whopping 70%. There is now abundant evidence that renewables can provide robust and reliable supplies of power, they are cheaper than nuclear power, and they can be built very much more quickly than nuclear power.

Instead of clinging to a failed technology of the past, we should be grasping the huge opportunities opening up in the clean, green technologies of the future.


Dr Gerry Wolff PhD CEng

Energy Fair



Mike said...

that make article make no mention of the cost of renewable, nor does it compare nuclear power with renewable power.
And apart from the slim figures of how much nuclear would be without subsidies. It contains no other data nor any forward link to back up the data clams.
The title you gave is terrible misleading and uninformative. I better title would be 'Another rant about nuclear energy but this one from a doctorate' because that what it amounts to.
Instead of ranting come up with visible solutions. Nuclear power is used not because it's cheep but because it has a high capacity output while taking up a very little space. I'd be all for wind farms but not only does no one want to live by a wind farm but you need a vast amount of them to generate the same out put than our existing nuclear stations. Couple that with the rarity of suitable wind farm area. (since wind turbines do shit unless there wind to drive them.)
We need better solutions for our power grid make up and try to forget about the cost, while it matters in some regard it shouldn't hold back your ideas.

~ Mike

P.S. I regard nuclear energy to be the less evil to coal power stations. Nuclear or coal choose one or remove yourself from the power grid.

DocRichard said...

Good points Mike

Electricity costs are notoriously difficult to measure accurately, but Wikipedia has an intro here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

They give average
Onshore Wind: 97 $/MWh
Offshore wind: 243 $/MWh
PV: 210 $/MWh
Nuclear: 113 $/MWh

Addin insurance, Nuclear goes up to between 193 and a whopping $3,265 MWh.

No wonder they don't talk about insuring it!

Renewables are not just wind farms. It is multi-modal, and therefore divers and stable. Before you mention intermittency, read up on HVDC supergrid, if you haven't already.

Thanks for pushing me to do the calculations. I've been putting it off for ages.