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Podcast / Audio

39. Nuclear Industry, the autopsy - Redefining Energy podcast

image credit: Credit: Redefining Energy
Laurent Segalen's picture
CEO Megawatt-X

Laurent is a Franco-British financier, founder of Megawatt-X, the London-based global platform for Renewable Energy Assets. For the past twenty years, Laurent has been trading and managing...

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  • Dec 1, 2020
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In 2020, every two days, wind and solar add more net capacity to the world than nuclear in a year. Fifteen years ago, the Nuclear Industry presented itself as the main solution to climate change; today, it is limping towards oblivion. This carnage is mainly self-inflicted: disregard for capital discipline, appalling track record in term of innovation deployment and more basically wrong economics when every other source of energy was working hard to scale up and reduce costs. To assist us in the Industry’s autopsy, we have invited Mycle Schneider, leading independent nuclear expert and coordinator of the internationally acclaimed World Nuclear Industry Status Report. We dissect the reasons why the industry is going from bad to worse, and why its last supports start to wane. Total tragedy.

Reference: https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/-The-Annual-Reports-.html

 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 1, 2020

I don't know that I'd go so far as saying the nuclear industry is in need of an autopsy-- if I'm comparing it to a person's lifetime, maybe it's better to say semi-retired. It's not gone completely and isn't completely retired from the workforce, but it's sticking around on a part-time basis to continue to provide its still irreplaceable services and institutional/legacy benefits, waiting until the young workforce can build up enough of those same skills and assets to fully replace it. But comfortably coming in on a half day here and there, taking long vacations. No need to plan out the funeral quite yet, but ease into the next phase of life!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 1, 2020

Laurent, thanks. The focus and desperation of renewables supporters to convince us nuclear is in its death throes can only be viewed as an encouraging sign.

Laurent Segalen's picture
Laurent Segalen on Dec 2, 2020

Let's be clear: we support nuclear energy as a strong provider of carbon free power, despite its cost, despite its inflexibility, despite its opacity.

But we are lamenting because the Industry is doing such a bad job at developing new capacity at reasonable cost and in a firm timetable. We hoped to rely on new units to solve climate change, get out of coal, limit natgas expansion. And why are we always let down? Where are the new technologies?  Sad, sad, sad.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 2, 2020

If you feel let down by the idea nuclear is "doing such a bad job at developing new capacity", you needn't punish yourself. Nuclear plants are being built around the world at an accelerating pace, in countries requiring a source of energy that doesn't disappear each night, or when the wind stops blowing.

And don't despair if "the new [nuclear] technologies", the ones which supposedly fix problems that were fixed decades ago, don't materialize any time soon. They're phantoms invented by renewables and gas developers to instill unwarranted fear in a technology few understand. How else are they going to sell expensive devices that generate electricity unpredictably and unreliably without disparaging a superior product?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 8, 2020

 Sad, sad, sad.

Couldn't agree more...

WW - nuclear generation has still not gotten back to its 2006 peak. So far it looks like generation will be flat if not decline in 2020.

 Nuclear plants are being built around the world at an accelerating pace,

New nuclear builds are only just keeping up with retiring capacity.

Three constructions starts so far in 2020 after only 5 in both 2018 and 2019 and 4 in 2017 - pathetic.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 14, 2020

Save your grief for new solar, Joe. It's been plummeting since 2016, a slide that will only accelerate after the 2021 expiration of the lavish PTC subsidies keeping it on life support.

It took a while for investors to figure out the sun doesn't shine at night - but better late than never!

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 16, 2020

Give me a break...

2020 will be record year for solar in US

US solar industry defies predictions to post growth in 2020

Solar installations expected to increase by 43 percent y-o-y from 2019 with a record 19GW of new capacity installations this year

According to the US Solar Market Insight Q4 2020 report, the country’s solar companies installed 3.8GW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in Q3, a 9 percent increase from Q2 installations, and a record 19GW of new solar capacity was installed this year.

Forecasts for 2021-2025 put total solar installations above 107GWdc, a 10GWdc increase from last quarter driven primarily by healthy increases to the utility-scale solar pipeline

For WW:

From this blog

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Dec 11, 2020

Thanks very much for this podcast and the facinating discussion of the state of the nuclear industry.  Prior to listening I was of the opinion that the industry is in dire straits. I had not realized it was as bad as you discussed.

I had thought that the nuclear power industry diverged from the military long ago.  I could not help but think as I listened to your comments about the industry´s COVID response, refueling and maintenance activities and possible impacts of climate change on existing nuclear plants, that the lack of transparency in reporting is part and parcel of the military´s conduct with respect to nuclear issues, i.e. that the activities are shrouded in secrecy and there is a never ending need for government financial support.  It only makes sense in light of your comments that, in some cases at least, an important driver for continuing with nuclear power development is to ensure that the requisite nuclear expertise for defense purposes continues to exist in, for example, the UK. 

I noted your main take away from the discussion: At the moment, more renewable capacity is being installed every two days than nuclear in a year.

That pretty much tells the story. Like you, I cannot help but hope that the various efforts underway with fusion will yield results.  But, I am not optimistic. Nor, apparently, are you.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Dec 11, 2020

I look forward to future podcasts on this subject.

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