Nuclear vs. wind and solar power

Turbine/panel image

Lester R. Brown, one of the world’s most widely published authors and referred to by the Washington Post as "one of the world’s most influential thinkers", has recently published his views via the Earth Policy Institute on the nuclear vs. wind and solar power debate; stating that nuclear power is uneconomical compared to renewable energy.

Quoting from a recent analysis entitled "The Nuclear Illusion", Brown points out the cost of electricity from a new nuclear power plant costs around (USD) 14¢ per kilowatt hour compared to a wind farm’s very economical 7¢ per kilowatt hour. The costings take into account capital,  general operations and maintenance, transmission and distribution in relation to both options. 

However, the nuclear cost doesn’t incorporate major expenses including waste disposal, massive insurance premiums and decommissioning of nuclear plants when they reach the end of their serviceable life. With these extra issues, nuclear power generated electricity simply becomes unaffordable according to Brown. On the issue of nuclear waste storage, Brown uses the example of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in the USA where he estimates the cost for the actual storage, not including transport, is just under USD $1 billion per reactor.

Just a couple of years ago, the cost to construct a 1,500-megawatt nuclear plant was between $2 – 4 billion. As of this year, the figure has skyrocketed to over $7 billion. Uranium costs have increased six-fold since the beginning of this decade.

Quoting the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Brown states there are 439 operating nuclear reactors worldwide currently. Given the lifespan of these facilities, 93 will close between 2008 and 2015, followed by 192  between 2016 and 2025, then the remaining 154 will close after 2025 – yet only 36 nuclear reactors are currently being constructed worldwide

Brown states that wind generates more energy, increased employment, and more carbon dioxide reduction per dollar invested than nuclear and believes that while nuclear facilities will not disappear altogether, we are now entering an age of wind energy, solar power and geothermal sourced electricity generation. 

Read more of the The Flawed Economics of Nuclear Power.