Growing Nuclear Costs Undercut Boosters

Nuclear power’s ever-inflating costs and cheaper renewable energy sources’ continued rise undermine nuclear cheerleaders’ recycled arguments.

We only need to look just south to see the most spectacular current failure of “investment” in the nuclear boondoggle. Georgia Power’s two new Vogtle plant reactors are already six years overdue and at least $16 billion over budget, with no real end in sight to the public money being poured into them. Georgia ratepayers have already paid $3.5 billion for the plants, which have yet to generate a single kilowatt of power. Residential customers, industrial users, and utility investors are gearing up for war over who will take what share of the massive excess costs.

Vogtle’s reactors were supposed to represent a better new design, and have drawn massive federal subsidies to keep the project on life support. The independent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released a new report (PDF) providing more details and analysis of the Vogtle project.

Around the nation, power utilities and the nuclear industry have executed massive lobbying efforts drawing politicians from many states into the same old cycle of pro-nuclear promises followed by crashing economic realities. They’re now touting another supposedly new and improved small module reactor design, backed by a Bill Gates-founded company. 

Meanwhile, skeptics point to cheaper clean alternatives that undercut cheerleaders’ arguments. Solar, wind, and most recently battery storage (PDF) innovations continue to power productivity growth and declining renewables’ per-unit costs.

Similar hard economic realities scuttled the last overhyped “nuclear renaissance.” Given the contrast between skyrocketing nuclear costs and falling renewable energy costs, one is left to wonder how many more times the public will allow politicians to fall for expensive promises that are never met.

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