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Nuclear Energy Industry faces day of reckoning from disruptive PV Solar energy technology

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Nuclear energy industry has seen a massive blow after the Fukushima incident, which led to the shutting down of numerous reactors across Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan. Many countries adopted policies to completely stop nuclear power generation after massive protests. Even though Japan is again restarting old nuclear plants, it is doing so gingerly and still facing huge protests from anti-nuclear campaigners.

Building new nuclear power plants has become a long tedious and costly process and given the rapid advancements being made by solar PV technology, we at Greenworldivnestor predict that nuclear power technology will slowly die a slow long death given that the cost curve for nuclear power is increasing. The risks are just too high from the failure of a nuclear power plant. In contract solar power has already become competitive with other fossil fuels and will decline at a low single digit percentage every year, putting additional pressure on competing energy sources. The problems of intermittency is also being solved by innovative methods and the falling costs of lithium batteries.

I don’t think that old nuclear power plants will be shut down soon, given that the costs of running these old depreciated plants is not too high but building on new nuclear power plants has become prohibitive and can only be done with strong government support. I don’t think governments will want to spend precious political capital in supporting this technology. Some countries like India which supporting nuclear power have seen little in terms of capacity addition. Compared to nuclear, solar power capacity additions has grown at an exponential pace.

Countries with a large nuclear power fleet will also find it hard to see old nuclear power plants getting extensions. USA will see almost a third of its nuclear power plants face the end of life by 2030. New nuclear power plant designs take a very long time to get approved. There has not been much improvement in nuclear power technology, with only a few companies like Westinghouse and Areva working on this technology. These companies are in a financially distressed state and not making too much money. China runs its own programs and now is developing its own technology.

Nuclear power technology is all set to become a niche technology like others such as geothermal and tidal power technology. Solar is set to dominate with wind a distant second. Others like coal and gas will still run, but more as support rather than as a mainstream energy source. Some companies in the USA such as NuPower are working on new technologies and processes such as module reactors but I don’t think that these concepts will work against the relentless onslaught of PV silicon power technology.

The Robinson reactor is one of the oldest still operating in the United States, but others are getting on in years. From 2029 to 2035, three dozen of the nation’s 99 reactors, representing more than a third of the industry’s generating capacity, will face closure as their operating licenses expire.

Any shutdowns would be another blow to nuclear energy, which provides 19 percent of the nation’s electricity but has struggled in recent years to compete against subsidized solar and wind power and plants that burn low-priced natural gas. Industry advocates say that by removing sources of clean electricity — a nuclear reaction produces no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases — the closings could affect the government’s ability to fulfill its pledge, made at the Paris climate talks last year, to reduce emissions.

Source – NY Times


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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