“The Truth About Nuclear Power” by Veronique de Rugy
Myth 1: Nuclear power is a cheap alternative to fossil fuels.
Fact 1: It isn’t.
As Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute wrote in Reason magazine in 2009, “Nuclear energy is to the Right what solar energy is to the Left: Religious devotion in practice, a wonderful technology in theory, but an economic white elephant in fact (some crossovers on both sides notwithstanding). When the day comes that the electricity from solar or nuclear power plants is worth more than the costs associated with generating it, I will be as happy as the next Greenpeace member (in the case of the former) or MIT graduate (in the case of the latter) to support either technology.” Until that time comes, producing nuclear energy remains a very costly business.
Data from a 2009 interdisciplinary study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology compares the costs of generating a kilowatt hour of electricity using nuclear, coal, and gas power. Looking at the data, the cost differential is clear—nuclear-powered energy costs 14 percent more than gas to produce a unit of electricity, and it costs 30 percent more than coal. Furthermore, according to Gilbert Metcaf’s recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper on energy, this increased cost of nuclear energy includes a baked-in taxpayer subsidy of nearly 50 percent of nuclear power’s operating costs.
While the nuclear industry in the United States has seen continued improvements in operating performance over time, it remains uncompetitive with coal and natural gas on the basis of price. This cost differential is primarily the result of high capital costs and long construction times. Indeed, building a nuclear power plant in the United States has cost, on average, three times as was originally estimated. The United States Energy Information Administration estimates that these cost trends will continue for the near future. The Energy Information Administration...