Nuclear Power and Climate Hysteria

Nuclear Power and Climate Hysteria

The Washington Examiner recently published an article, Nuclear energy is critical to the goal of reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions.

They also said, it was an iffy bet.

But, it’s not just iffy … it’s virtually an impossible dream.

While I enthusiastically support nuclear power and would like to see more nuclear power plants built in the US, this proposal, which has been made before, needs some simple analysis.

There are 99 nuclear power plants in operation today that generate 19.8% of the electricity we use in the United States. 

If nuclear were to replace all the other power plants, except for renewables and hydro, we would need to build 416 new nuclear power plants rated around 1,000 MW by the end of the century. 

It should be noted that all existing nuclear power plants will be retired by the end of this century even if all of the 99 were to get extensions to their operating licenses.

While we haven’t been able to build a single nuclear power plant in the last few years, except for the one that had been started earlier and recently finished by the TVA, we would need to build over five every year beginning now.

I predict, with nearly 100% certainty, this won’t happen.

Nuclear power plant. Two cylinder structures at middle left-center are two containment structures containing the reactors, one within each structure. The very large towers are cooling water towers to remove heat from the cooling water after the steam has passed through the steam turbine and condenser. The steam turbine drives a generator for generating electricity.

The Washington Examiner then raised the prospect of new smaller, modular reactors that might be built at lower cost. Cost, by the way, is one of the three reasons we haven’t built any new nuclear power plants in recent years. (The public’s unreasonable fear of radiation and environmentalists’ opposition to nuclear power are the other two.)

NuScale is the company that is most likely to be the first to receive authorization from the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to construct a nuclear plant of a new design. In actuality, it is a type of boiling water reactor, similar in many respects to existing reactors, except with automatic shutdown and with the unit buried underground.

The NuScale is a modular reactor rated 60 MW, so we would have to build nearly 7,000 of them to replace all the electricity we use, other than from renewables and hydro.

But this is only part of the story.

What about providing electricity for battery powered-vehicles (BEVs)?

BEVs must replace ICE vehicles if CO2 emissions are to be eliminated, and BEVs will need electricity for charging batteries.

If all the 272,000,000 light vehicles in the US were BEVs using 60 kWh batteries with a range of 400 miles, traveling 12,000 miles per year, we would need an additional hundred or so nuclear power plants of the current design by the end of this century.

The unknown in this equation is the percentage of BEVs that will be charged at night.

Existing load curves show considerable unused capacity during nighttime hours, but no one has any idea how much charging will take place at night.

Illustrative Load Curve. Curved line is demand during various hours of the day. Straight line is at peak demand for the day. Area below straight line and above curve is unused capacity. Actual unused capacity can be different than indicated for two reasons (1) Utilities maintain an approximate 10% reserve capacity to meet unanticipated demand. (2) Load curves change during the year as the seasons change. Peak demand usually occurs during the summer months due to air-conditioning load which is why generating units are shut down during the spring to perform maintenance, This can result in there being less unused capacity than the diagram would indicate.


An unrealistically large number of nuclear power plants would have to be built over the next 80 years, at the rate of five per year, to eliminate today’s use of fossil fuels for generating electricity. This becomes an even greater impossibility if BEVs replace gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. 

While nuclear power plants generate low-cost electricity that is reliable and safe, they are not a solution to any perceived climate threat from CO2.

Nuclear power plants should be built because they generate low-cost electricity that’s reliable and safe.

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