Nuclear energy is three times more expensive than combined cycle energy (natural gas plus steam). Basically, if a household’s monthly electricity bill was $85 for natural gas power, the bill would be about $255 for power from a nuclear reactor. Coal power is cheaper than nuclear power and considerably more expensive than the market winner, natural gas.
Natural gas fracking is great for Wyoming and the coal downturn is painful. But not understanding that natural gas is much cheaper and nuclear much more expensive is like not understanding inflation until it’s time to pay for groceries.
Nuclear energy markets are collapsing. The average age of conventional light water reactors (LWR) in the United States is 40 years. In 2021, 23 of the original fleet were closed and 19 were in various stages of costly decommissioning cleanup. Without replacements, nuclear power’s 19% share of US electrical power declines. Since 1996, the only traditional LWR to be commissioned was Tennessee’s 2016 Watts Bar Reactor. Construction of Georgia’s unfinished Vogtle reactors began in 2012. Ten years later, Georgian taxpayers have paid $3.5 billion in user fees on electricity bills, and Vogtle’s expenses exceed $34 billion. . The states of New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Illinois are offering state taxes to subsidize failing reactors.
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In June 2021, the Natrium Demonstration Project arrived in Wyoming with a “new” idea and promises of jobs, grants, grant pledges, and economic prosperity talk. The horse has a pretty color, but can it run? What is the price?
The Natrium project is part of an international “advanced reactor” initiative. Key experts who have worked “on the front line…at the highest government levels of nuclear and radiation regulation in the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom” issued a joint statement on January 25 which we briefly quote:
“The central message, repeated over and over again, that a new generation of nuclear will be clean, safe, smart and cheap, is a fiction. The reality is that nuclear is neither clean, safe nor smart; a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant damage.Nuclear is not cheap, but extremely expensive.
They add: “…nuclear is simply not part of a feasible strategy that could counter climate change. To make a relevant contribution to global electricity generation, up to more than ten thousand new reactors would be needed, depending on the reactor design.
Of the ten points listed by these leaders, there are three, edited for brevity:
Subject to too many unresolved technical and safety issues associated with unproven new concepts, including “advanced” reactors and small modular reactors.
Unsustainable due to the unresolved problem of very long-lived nuclear waste.
Intrinsically risky due to the inevitable cascading accidents due to human error, internal failures and external impacts…with the majority of these very significant costs being borne by the public.
The 2022 Wyoming Legislature welcomed Natrium by passing the Nuclear Power Generation and Storage Bill, “An Environmental Quality Act”, which agrees to site nuclear reactors and store highly radioactive waste in Wyoming. The sponsors of the bill were unaware that these were federal and not state decisions, although states have options.
The pretty horse is worse than a long shot. Best to check the facts and think about them before being bought.
Susan Gore is the founder of the Wyoming Liberty Group.