The nuclear renaissance is dead: somebody tell the Georgia legislature the wind is blowing towards the sun

Sombody should tell Georgia Power and Southern Company they’re still pushing a dead power source. It’s time to go from far-too-expensive nuclear directly to solar onshore and wind offshore.

Remember in the last year or so five U.S. nukes have been shut down and five more have been cancelled while in Canada two more have been cancelled, plus maybe two more, and maybe as many as six are to be shut down. Dr Jim Green wrote for Ecologist yesterday, The nuclear renaissance is stone cold dead,

Perhaps the most shocking developments have been in the United States, where the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to profitably operate existing reactors—especially ageing reactors requiring refurbishments—let alone build new ones.

Almost half of the world’s reactors have operated for 30 years or more, so the problem of ageing reactors will increasingly come into focus in coming years.

Peter Bradford, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, notes that by 2009, applications for 31 new reactors in the US were pending. “The 31 proposed reactors are down to four actually being built and a few others lingering on in search of a licence, which is good for 20 years”, Bradford writes.

“Those four are hopelessly uneconomic but proceed because their state legislatures have committed to finish them as long as a dollar remains to be taken from any electric customer’s pocket. Operating reactors are being closed as uneconomic for the first time in 15 years.”

Two of those four are in South Carolina and the other two are Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle 3 and 4, eating up ever more ratepayer dollars and resources that should be going to solar and wind.

Even nuclear proponents are catching on that nuclear is like burning $20 bills to generate electricity, in Bill McKibben’s phrase. On the demand side, replacing lighting with LEDs and smart controls could displace the entire U.S. nuclear fleet at far less cost than building more nukes. On the supply side,”> evidences continues to mount that solar and wind are cheaper than any fossil fuel and have been cheaper than nukes for some time now. On top of plummetting solar prices there’s that fast solar learning curve:

While the costs of renewables are falling—and in the case of solar PV, plummeting—nuclear power is subject to a ‘negative learning curve’. Economic boffins at Citigroup explain:

“The capital cost of nuclear build has actually risen in recent decades in some developed markets, partly due to increased safety expenditure, and due to smaller construction programmes (i.e. lower economies of scale).

“Moreover the ‘fixed cost’ nature of nuclear generation in combination with its relatively high price (when back end liabilities are taken into account) also places the technology at a significant disadvantage; utilities are reluctant to enter into a very long term (20+ years of operation, and decades of aftercare provisioning) investment with almost no control over costs post commissioning, with the uncertainty and rates of change currently occurring in the energy mix.”

That’s right: Citi GPS dismissed nuclear in a single page of a hundred page report.

And nuclear corruption is not just for document-forging Doosan anymore:

Academic Richard Tanter noted that 2012 was a “busy year for nuclear corruption”. The same could be said for 2013. South Korea is one of four countries that is supposedly driving the nuclear renaissance (along with China, India and Russia).

But plans to expand nuclear power to 41% of electricity supply by 2035 have been reduced to a 29% target in the wake of a major scandal involving bribery and faked safety certificates for thousands of reactor parts, and another scandal involving the cover-up of an accident that sent the temperature of a reactor core soaring.

One hundred people have been arrested including a former chief executive of Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), a vice president of Korea Electric Power Corp., and a former deputy minister in charge of energy.

In September, the chief executive of KHNP issued a public apology, saying “our domestic nuclear project is facing the utmost crisis” and noting that public trust has “hit the ground” because of the Fukushima disaster and the corruption.

The proportion of South Koreans who consider nuclear power safe fell from 71% in 2010 to 35% in 2012, while a 2011 survey found 68% opposition to new reactors in South Korea (and 69% opposition across 24 countries).

There’s a lot more in the article about Germany, Australia, and of course Fukushima. The writer’s conclusion:

The nuclear renaissance is dead … stone cold dead.

The Economist said that a year ago.

What to do instead? As Greenpeace pointed out in March 2012 in Lessons Learned from Fukushima,

Mature, robust and affordable renewable energy technologies are available and up to the task of replacing hazardous nuclear reactors. During the last five years, 22 times more new power generating capacity based on wind and solar was built (230,000MW) compared to nuclear (10,600MW). Renewable power plants built in just the one single year of 2011 are capable of generating as much electricity as 16 large nuclear reactors.

And solar and wind are replacing nuclear even faster in the almost two years since then.

Somebody should tell Southern Company and Georgia Power. And the Georgia legislature, which meets again in January, that the wind is blowing towards the sun.