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“We can solve the climate crisis with wind and solar and without putting (prolonging) the ridiculous burden of nuclear onto future generations.
The Biden Administration Needs to Stop Appeasement of the Nuclear Lobby
Author: Ari Socolow on November 26, 2021
I follow developments in renewable energy and work in the space. 2021 has been a remarkable year for the decline in the cost of offshore wind. We are seeing something similar in the solar/PV space. It is ending with Vestas’ surprise unveiling of an onshore wind turbine that can generate 7.2 MW, dramatically more output than anything we have seen to date. It is almost reminiscent of Moore’s law.
We do not need any more advancements in wind and solar for them to be dramatically less expensive than any new facilities based on generation of electricity from fossil fuels. The US Department of Energy under Trump had indicated in 2020 that the lowest cost of energy by the middle of the decade would be from offshore wind, solar/PV and then onshore wind. It is now already here. New energy projects should only be wind of some sort or solar. (MIT is making advances in fusion, but they have also said that their next tests will be in 2025. Any full scale production remains several decades away; we cannot wait).
Against this backdrop, Twitter is now full of bots and maybe people on the payroll of the nuclear lobby who are advancing nuclear. They reason that nuclear is more durable than wind and solar, both of which are intermittent. They also say that nuclear is safe enough to prevent another Fukushima, Chernobyl or Three Mile Island now that it is dependent on small modular nuclear reactors (SMNR).
Unfortunately, after the entire situation where Emmanuel Macron got upset about the US and UK edging France out of an Australian nuclear submarine deal, we’ve started seeing US government officials try to appease France by bringing nuclear back into the mix in the US and other places where it has no business being. Biden’s DOE officials who have spent their entire life researching wind and solar are releasing ridiculous videos on LinkedIn and Anthony Blinken got Romania to agreement to a nuclear deal that, if it were ever built, will make Romania the pariah of Europe for the next 5 centuries. To boot, people who should know better, including Obama’s Secretary of Energy, are now advocating extending the life of existing nuclear facilities.
The pronuclear stuff is bought and paid for by an industry that has a lot to lose. There are certainly also banks that have extended credit to the nuclear industry that have a hand in this. But, the realities are clear. Not only is nuclear 4x the cost of wind or solar, but SMNR requires about 7x the lead time. Wind and solar have the durability of nuclear when paired with a long term storage solution and there are many that are now being brought to market that have a levelized cost of storage around 5 cents per kilowatt hour (those interested can check out Gridscale, Azelio’s TES.POD, ESS Tech or multiple lithium-based solutions). Nuclear, including SMNR, simply should not be part of any discussions about new energy generation sources.
As far as extending the life of nuclear and Diablo Canyon in particular, the plant now requires a $4.50 billion upgrade to be cooled more efficiently and to be less environmentally taxing (but, even after this upgrade it will still require an extraordinary amount of the area’s fresh water supply to be properly cooled and it will still be environmentally taxing). And dangerous (I’ve been in both Japan and the Ukraine and I don’t think California wants the risk of becoming either one). Andrew Cuomo finally closed Indian Point that is only 35 miles from Times Square in New York earlier this year before he had to resign. Even so, it is estimated to take another 60 years before it is fully decommissioned and safe. With wind and solar being 100% safe and dramatically more cost-effective, we should continue along the course of removing all risks of a global catastrophe in our energy production system, not just those that release carbon into the atmosphere.
We can solve the climate crisis with wind and solar and without putting (prolonging) the ridiculous burden of nuclear onto future generations.