The Death of Nuclear Power

The Death of Nuclear Power

This headline from an article in EnergyPostEU suggests a dismantling of nuclear power, and its death by the end of this century:

“200 – 400 Nuclear reactors to be decommissioned by 2040”

The death of nuclear can be attributed to environmentalists and activists who sowed fear of radiation among people who knew little about nuclear energy, other than the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions that ended the second world war. 

Europe is in the process of putting an end to nuclear power. Germany, Belgium, and Spain will close their nuclear power plants over the next ten to fifteen years. The UK will close all its nuclear power plants over the next ten years. France is to close 14 of its 58 reactors by 2035. Switzerland has voted against using nuclear power. 

In Japan, 24 of 33 nuclear power plants remain shutdown after the Fukushima disaster. Six of the 9 reactors that have been restarted are to be shut down over the next ten years.

The United States is already closing nuclear power plants before the end of their useful lives. Only 99 nuclear power plants remain in operation, with more being closed in the near term.

The accompanying chart shows that 70% of reactors currently in operation around the world are 30 or more years old. (Units between arrows.)

From EnergyPostEU: Chart, by age, from 1 to 51 years, of 447 nuclear reactors currently in operation.

It should be noted that existing reactors produced 10% of the world’s electricity in 2018.

Initial operating licenses are for 40 years in the US, with two, 20-year renewals a possibility. Most, i.e., 80 of 99, US nuclear power plants have received their first 20-year renewal. Some will require obtaining their second renewal as soon as 2029.

With a second renewal, nuclear power plants in the US can operate for a total of 80 years. Presumably, licensing practices are similar in other countries so existing nuclear power plants could remain in service for a total of 80 years.

With this in mind, all the existing reactors in the world will shut down before the end of this century.

It’s a near certainty that no more nuclear power plants will be built in Europe, Japan or the United States. A few Eastern European countries have voiced interest in nuclear power, but they will find it difficult to obtain support from the EU, and would have to turn to Russia, which, given their history, isn’t likely.

Today, there are only 55 new reactors being built and most of these are in Asia, with some being built in Russia and the Mideast. These should be completed by 2030, and if they remained in operation for 80 years could still be in operation by the beginning of the next century. If additional nuclear plants are built in Asia and elsewhere, nuclear power might extend its use further into the next century, but that’s a huge question mark given the opposition to nuclear power.

There is also hope that new small, modular reactors will be built, but given the existing level of fear of radiation this would seem to be more of a dream than reality. However, these smaller reactors would fit perfectly into Africa and other areas of the world where the huge initial cost of large nuclear power plants prevent them from being built.

This is a bleak forecast for a technology that can provide low-cost, safe baseload power.

Environmentalists and activists, such as Jane Fonda, have essentially killed the one technology that could have replaced fossil fuels for the generation of electricity.

Fortunately, without nuclear power, natural gas has the potential to be the backbone of low-cost, clean baseload electricity for the world.

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4 Replies to “The Death of Nuclear Power”

  1. Donn,
    Thank you for this and for all of your concise, well written and factual Newsletters. I read your newsletter with interest and a bit of nostalgia. I agree with you on the nuclear plants and am very sad to see nuclear being so misunderstood and unappreciated. This from a coal power engineer. When I started my career with B&W in 1966, it was in the Nuclear and Special Products Division that went on to build the very successful Duke Oconee units and many more commercial Nuclear Steam Systems plus many Navy Nuclear Steam Propulsion Systems. That was when (commercial) nuclear was declared so good and so inexpensive it will be “too cheap too meter”….I transferred (1967) from nuclear to the Power Generation Division (coal, oil and gas) and was told by senior people that I was making a mistake transferring to the Power Generation Division, (coal plant design & manufacture) because nuclear will be taking over the industry….Well now 50 some years later I am a retired coal plant engineer, living in SC where the local Utilities botched management of the SCE&G/Santee-Cooper, Summer Nuclear Plant. Long story short, we (and the entire world) need a complete portfolio of nuclear, coal, gas and renewables. Keep up your excellent work! Dick Storm

  2. That is why I assume that the endless flood of money to support the anti-nuke nonsense comes from both domestic and foreign natural gas producers.

    • Not just gas producers, anyone other than nuclear which is a very small industry.

    • There is no supporting evidence that natural gas producers are spending money to oppose nuclear power. The organizations opposing nuclear power are environmentalists and those who believe nuclear power will spread nuclear weapons. In Germany for example, it’s the Greens, i.e, the Green Party, who oppose nuclear power for fear of radiation.