WhyAren’t There More Nuclear Plants?
Nuclearpower, once an energy source considered “cheap to meter” isbecoming too expensive to use depending on the cost of equipment andmaintenance. Nuclear electricity production was at its highest in2006, by 2010-14 the power reduced by 3 percent globally (Grallaet al. 94).On a global scale, countries like Israel, Germany, and Italy haveexpressed worries and concerns about its safety, economic value, costand environment conservation roles in case of a meltdown (Kimet al. 822).Each country in the world has the mandate to balance its energy needswhile considering toxic gas emission to the environment and costeffectiveness. According to the US Energy Information Administration,Japan relies on 27 percent nuclear power which included 54 nuclearreactors as of 2011 before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plantmeltdown (Kimet al. 823).US commercial nuclear power stations account for 20 percent of thenational energy used in the country. After the Fukushima Daiichinuclear plant meltdown, the question remains, “why the decline overthe past few years?” In this research paper, I will discuss how theexpensive cost of equipment and maintenance has led to the decline innuclear power generation.
Thedrop in nuclear energy production started about ten years ago. The2008-09 global economic crises resulted in a softened energy demandand the situation worsened after the meltdown in 2011 (Kim,et al. 826).As of 2013, the worldwide nuclear power production amounted to 2,362terawatt-hours of electricity. This production met eleven percent ofthe world’s energy demands, a percentage comparable to nuclearpower generation in 1983 (Gralla,et al. 99).The meltdown hit the industry in some ways raising concerns over“safety shifted” energy policies in the major countries likeJapan and the United States. Japan responded to the collapse bycanceling plans for 14 new reactors while the remaining forty-eightremained closed for upgrades and safety reviews. Germany closed 17reactors while France’s newly elected president promised to cut thedependency on nuclear energy from three-quarters of supply toone-half by the year 2025 (Khatib,230).According to the analysis of the economics of the nuclear industry,prices heightened after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdownin 2011. The OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency report affirmed thatequipment cost was 20 percent higher as of 2010 than the previousyears due to increased security and safety requirements (Khatib232). On the other hand, low carbon solar and wind power generation becamecheaper.
Ananalysis by Lazard financial advisory firm reassures of the economicconstraints towards expanding nuclear plants. The cost of building anuclear plant in the US ranges between 5.4 and 8.4 million dollarsper megawatt (Budnitz735).Additionally, the maintenance, fuel, and operation costs total to anaverage price of 92 dollars and 132 dollars for each megawatt-hourgenerated. Compared to other power generation options, this is muchmore than the unsubsidized utility-scale onshore wind and solarenergy. Additional costs of solar electricity range between 72 and 86dollars per megawatt hour produced while for onshore winds, it isbetween 37 and 81 dollars (Lovering,et al. 375).Therefore, power from natural gas run plants is much cheaper comparedto nuclear power stations. According to the Lazard report, this datais based on exploration US natural gas deposits. This fact makesnatural gas power plants as a leading option for utility powergenerator.
TheEnergy Policy Act 2005 ensures that nuclear power stations becomeeligible for incentives such as tax credits and loan guarantees(Budnitz737).However, the total costs of operations based on the incentivesoffered to the facilities prove expensive in the long run. Four newreactors are under construction in Georgia and South Carolina. On thecontrary, in the past two years, five nuclear reactor plants haveshut down. The government views the construction of small modularreactors a suitable solution to the current economic problems innuclear energy production (Lovering,et al. 378).The observation of the IEA-NEA nuclear roadmap, many countries scaleddown their programs with the US being in no position to adapt to thenew technology of nuclear power production (Khatib229).The need for nuclear power and markets, therefore only expand incountries where there is strong government backing. A lesson gotlearned in most countries, with China trimming its expansive nuclearcapacity to consider safety measures. China and India will, however,continue to expand their nuclear energy production to satisfy energydeficit demand and address climate change (Budnitz739).
Inconclusion, it is clear that nuclear plant construction is anexpensive investment that governments undertake to ensure a cleansupply of energy. Nuclear power may be a source of clean energy forsixty to eighty years which is dependable and affordable meeting 20percent of energy needs in the United States and contributesabundantly to the gross domestic product. The determining factorssuch as efficiency, technology and performance improvements of theseplants vary depending on the cost. Hence, there is a need for anon-time budget to improve the safety of the equipment used inconstruction. It is more probable that more solar and wind energyfarms will be built in the future to curb the increased cost ofnuclear plants construction. If the Fukushima’s site can becomecleaned up entirely, the possible technology of “inherently safeand economical” reactors may suitably operate in the future.Whichever technology type applied in the development, nuclear powerplant construction is much expensive.
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Gralla,Fabienne, et al. "The role of sustainability in nuclear energyplans—What do national energy strategies tell us?." EnergyResearch & Social Science 22(2016): 94-106.
Khatib,Hisham. "A review of the IEA/NEA Projected Costs ofElectricity–2015 edition." EnergyPolicy 88(2016): 229-233.
Kim,Younghwan, Minki Kim, and Wonjoon Kim. "Effect of the Fukushimanuclear disaster on global public acceptance of nuclearenergy." EnergyPolicy 61(2013): 822-828.
Lovering,Jessica R., Arthur Yip, and Ted Nordhaus. "Historicalconstruction costs of global nuclear power reactors." EnergyPolicy 91(2016): 371-382.