Myths On Nuclear Power

It is cheap, it is safe, it is guaranteed, it makes sense economically, and it will solve the climate problem! These are the myths we all have heard by the nuclear power lobby being repeated over and over. Well, guess what, they aren’t true. We have even heard environmentalist journalists like Mark Lynas, the author of the famous book “Six Degrees”, supporting the nuclear power as a solution to solve the climate problem.

The presentation of the the book “Myths of Nuclear Power – A Guide”, at the European Parliament on October 26, 2010, busted the myths about nuclear energy. Two of the authors of this book, Antony Froggatt and Steve Thomas presented clear facts on the inefficiency and the inability of the nuclear power industry to survive without massive state subsidies and guaranteed recovery costs of their production from consumers.

The book clearly states facts which contradicts the claims of the nuclear power industry.

Myth No. 1: It is safe and there is no risk in using nuclear power.

Supporters of nuclear energy have successfully concealed the potentials for catastrophe from a nuclear power plant incidents. Most of the public remembers Chernobyl, but few know or remember potentially catastrophic situations in nuclear reactors in France, UK, Japan, Germany, Sweden, US, and Hungary.

With the new danger of terrorists attack, the nuclear energy exposes not just the risk of terrorists attacking nuclear power plants, but also the increasing risk of nuclear proliferation. The expansion of nuclear power stations to insecure or dictatorial states increases the circulation of plutonium and fissile material which might end up in malicious hands.

Myth No. 2: Nuclear energy is effective, economic, and it is cheap to produce.

Climate change deniers and skeptics have always opposed the renewables claiming that they are expensive and the world cannot afford them. The nuclear energy supporters have used this fear to move in the discussion and claim that nuclear energy is cheap and that it is on the brink of a “nuclear renaissance” which will provide energy at a price $1000/kW but in reality the price is estimated at $6000/kw and increasing. There have been 21 orders in the present time for nuclear power plants from China, Russia, Korea and Brazil, but just 6 from the EU and US. Although nuclear power has been in the market since the 50s, its costs are increasing and it is surviving thanks to massive state subsidies and contracts that their market will be guaranteed with the price born by the consumers. Although France might seem as a perfect model for relying on nuclear energy, the truth is that the costs to produce this energy have tripled. The most well-known case is the case of Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland—its costs have already increased from a 3 to 5.4 billion Euros, although it is not even close to the end of construction. So, the nuclear technology failed to reach the economy of scale where renewables are heading to. If the world would start rapidly build nuclear power plants, it will lead to a shortage of uranium fuel which would further increase prices. And there is always the problem of a permanent nuclear waste disposal which the nuclear industry has failed to solve.

Myth No. 3: Nuclear energy will solve the climate problem.

There is a growing campaign to show that nuclear power plants are the solution to the climate problem, compared to the “expensive” and not “reliable” renewables. The fact is that the number of nuclear power plants in the world is decreasing. Why? Because they are expensive, and they are funded by massive public subsidies. In Germany only, subsidies are up to 100 billion Euros and ongoing. In the the first 15 years in the US, the nuclear and wind technology produced comparable amount of energy but the subsidies going to them were very imbalanced—$39.4 billion to nuclear technology and just $900 million to the wind technology. As you see, the subsidies going to nuclear are 40 times more than those going to the renewables, but still the nuclear technology is not reaching the economy of scale, and its costs are increasing continuously. Whereas the costs of renewables are decreasing continuously as they go towards the economy of scale.

It is a shame and economically not sound if we devote our resources to a technology which is not efficient and effective, it is not reliable and bears risks, when we can devote these resources to renewables which are cheaper, and sustainable.

The other point is that even if humanity decides to invest in this costly and risky form of energy production, it is a technology which takes a long time to be developed. The construction time for a nuclear power plants goes averagely 9 years, but it can take also 18-24 years due to complexities and costs.

The costs of decommissioning the nuclear power plants after their lifetime of 25-40 years (depending on the type), is uncertain and it will usually be born by the taxpayers.

Renewable energy needs much less time to be installed and produced, it is cheaper and its costs are falling, it runs for a longer time (or forever), and can be easily switched off the grid in case you don’t need it (contrary to the nuclear power plants, which you need to keep them running even when there is no need for energy).

Although the trend shows that the costs for nuclear energy are rapidly increasing and the number of nuclear power plants still operating is decreasing, some EU countries still look at the nuclear energy as the savior for their energy demands and the mandate of lowering their carbon emissions by 20% until 2020. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland are holding talks to build a nuclear power plant in Lithuania. Estonia is growing impatient on the slow and non-productive talks on this nuclear power plant and it is deciding to build a nuclear power plant on its own in Estonia. This would be such a waste of resources for a country with limited budget and plenty of other renewable resources. That investment could go to decentralize and diversify the energy production, hand in hand with increasing the energy efficiency.

Investments in nuclear energy would be a loss of time and resources for humanity. They will also draw all the available resources that would instead go to fund renewables. Nuclear power is a centralized form of power production which you need it running, with or without demand for it. Whereas production from renewables like wind, solar, biomass, hydro etc. can be decentralized, can supply energy more efficiently, and in a cheaper and sustainable way. If we invest again in nuclear, we will take the chance away from the renewables which can supply us with sustainable and clean energy.