Renewables vs Nuclear
Image credit: Dan Meyers - Unsplash

Renewable energy is both cheaper and reduces emissions faster than nuclear power – even from existing nuclear sites, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, by French industry consultant Mycle Schneider.

According to the report, new renewables plants built in countries with nuclear generation can compete economically, not just with new nuclear plants, but also with existing facilities.

“The closure of uneconomic reactors will not directly save CO2 emissions but can indirectly save more CO2 than closing a coal-fired plant, if the nuclear plant’s larger saved operating costs are reinvested in efficiency measures or cheap modern renewables that in turn displace more fossil-fuelled generation,” argues Schneider in the report.

Furthermore, renewables coupled with efficiency measures can bolster energy security as well as nuclear power can, the report notes.

“The nuclear industry has become one of the most potent obstacles to renewables’ further progress by diverting demand and capital to itself.”

The report’s findings note that continuing use of existing nuclear power can diminish both growth and success of renewables, as has been seen in France, where despite recent renewables successes, nuclear lobbyists have been able to hold off any governmental plans to reduce the country’s nuclear fleet in the short-term, with French president Emmanuel Macron presenting a slower-than-expected build-up of onshore and offshore wind.

New and ongoing subsidies supporting the ongoing operation of uneconomic reactors in the US, as well as policies that give preference to nuclear, such as the “nuclear-must-run” rule in Japan creates an uncompetitive generation mix, in which efficiency and renewables are not allowed to compete, the report notes.

Non-nuclear options also save more CO2, dollar-for-dollar, emphasises Schneider, as current construction programmes are necessarily slow, taking between 5 and 17 years longer to build than a comparative utility-scale onshore wind or solar plant.

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 “So existing fossil-fuelled plants emit far more CO2 while awaiting substitution by the nuclear option. Stabilising the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow,” said Schneider.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is an annual overview of data on nuclear power age, operation, production, construction and performance.