True cost of nuclear power
Sir, – In response to Dr Pat Morrissey’s letter (March 3rd), I would agree that nuclear power has a part to play in addressing climate change. I agree that countries that have a nuclear programme should keep their nuclear power stations working as long as possible as they are a low-carbon source of electricity.
However, I only see nuclear playing a relatively small role. Price and delays in construction still are common; for example, the Olkiluoto reactor in Finland was planned to start working in 2009 but now the target date is the end of 2018. The original estimated cost was €3.2 billion but in 2012 the cost had risen to €8.5 billion at least.
The planned Hinkley Point C reactor in the UK is planned to start operating in roughly 2025. This is unlikely given the usual delays with nuclear power station construction. If it is built on time and within budget (£20 billion) the cost per kWh (unit of electricity), which is guaranteed for 35 years, will result in consumers paying more than £30 billion over market price over the 35-year life of the contract. This cost per unit of electricity is more than wind and solar power.
The cheapest unsubsidised wind energy in the world is in Morocco, according to Bloomberg Energy, and its price is roughly a third of the nuclear electricity from Hinkley C.
The other plant mentioned in the article was Flamanville in France. This plant is years behind schedule and three times over budget.
The cost of wind (including offshore wind) and solar electricity are falling rapidly and this is likely to continue. These price reductions are much greater than energy experts were predicting.
These sources can be deployed now and quickly.
It is inaccurate to state that all we have in Ireland is “greenwash” and that our wind and solar “installations have not led to a reduction in our emissions”. According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, in 2015 use of renewable in electricity generation resulted in a reduction of 3.2 million tons of carbon dioxide. Wind and solar are intermittent and much work is being done on electricity storage, smart meters and other technologies to deal with this issue.
The dangers of climate change are great and we must reduce our emissions as quickly as possible. This means reducing energy demand as well replacing carbon-intensive electricity with low-emission sources.
There are limited amounts of money that can be invested in energy and this will favour wind and solar over nuclear. Wind and solar can be developed and deployed more quickly than nuclear. – Yours, etc,