Nuclear energy is a reliable resource
The future is solar and not nuclear
Solar energy is not only sustainable and inexhaustible, but also the most cost-effective way of providing energy. Photovoltaics in particular has made huge technological advances in the last two decades, so that no other form of energy generation is now price-competitive without subsidies. And it can be scaled as required, from a small photovoltaic system on the roof to the size of a nuclear power plant.
In September, the world's largest solar park with a capacity of 2.2 gigawatts went online in northwest China. In addition, the power plant was provided with 202 megawatt hours of storage capacity. Built in just 11 months, the total cost of the project is the equivalent of around 1.9 billion euros. Due to its location on the northwestern Chinese plateau, the power plant will reliably deliver electricity all year round. Solar energy, together with other renewable energies, is far superior to all other forms of energy supply in the gigawatt range.
In any case, competition between solar parks and any coal or gas-fired power plants is out of the question because of their climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions and costs. A comparison with nuclear power plants is also interesting. This shows that nuclear energy is inferior to solar energy in all respects, even if one ignores the risk of proliferation, the enormous safety risks and the consequential costs of nuclear waste.
If you compare the solar park with the data from the current “World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020”, it quickly becomes clear that nuclear energy should and will not play a role in the energy system of the future. (https://www.worldnuclearreport.org)
Power and amount of electricity
With its output of 2.2 gigawatts, the solar park can easily be compared with nuclear power plants currently under construction. Newer nuclear power plant capacities are usually between 1 and 2 gigawatts. The currently 408 active nuclear power plants (as of July 2020) can only have a total output of 362 gigawatts. (https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2020_lr.pdf)
The current nuclear power plants in China also have an average output of around 1 gigawatt. The solar power plant in the Chinese desert should run for around 2,500 annual full load hours - a nuclear power plant around 7,000. The solar power generation of the world's largest solar park with 2.2 gigawatts will roughly correspond to a typical nuclear power plant of 0.8 gigawatts.
While the Chinese solar park and storage facility was built in less than a year, the average construction time of the commissioned (!) Nuclear power plants is 10 years. Currently, at least 33 (64 percent) of the 52 reactors under construction worldwide are struggling with delays, so that the average construction time of these reactors is already 7.3 years and the majority are still years away from completion. (https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2020_lr.pdf)
The cost of the Chinese solar power plant amounted to 1.9 billion euros. A bargain compared to the nuclear power plants currently under construction in Europe, Flamanville 3 in France (19 billion euros) and Hinkley Point C in the UK (20 billion euros). But the Chinese nuclear power plants are also far behind the speed of solar energy with a planned construction time of around 6 to 7 years, especially since the Chinese nuclear power plants are also struggling with considerable construction delays.
China on the nuclear retreat
The 5-year plan for 2016-2020 of the Chinese nuclear program provided for 30 gigawatts to be under construction, currently around 14 gigawatts (https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2020_lr.pdf). Thus the world's largest sponsor of the nuclear industry is slowly but steadily on the retreat from this technological aberration; which is likely to be accelerated by the falling demand for electricity in the wake of the corona crisis and the falling costs for the provision of renewable energies including storage.
The view to Europe
Of course, some will now object that such a solar park, for example in the Czech Republic, where a new nuclear power plant is currently being built, makes little sense, because firstly the area and secondly the hours of sunshine are not available to the same extent as in the Chinese desert. That is true, of course, but the Czech Republic also has enough roof areas and open spaces to generate the amount of electricity that the new and old nuclear power plants generate more cheaply with millions of small and medium-sized solar systems plus storage facilities. The state would not have to finance the construction of nuclear power plants with billions. In contrast to solar systems, there is no private operator anyway. The many solar systems could also be ready long before the planned, earliest start of construction of the nuclear power plant in 2029. (https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/klima-energie-und-umwelt/tschechien-haben-den-bau-neuer-atomkraftwerke-vor-16699438.html)
By the time this nuclear power plant is connected to the grid, the Czech Republic could have successfully converted to 100% renewable energies with the construction of solar, wind power and other renewable energies plus storage, if, yes, if there was the political will there. In addition, the national budget would not be ruined. Nuclear power plants can only be built with state subsidies, but these will burden the country with costs and risks for centuries. A glance at France, Finland and Great Britain should actually suffice not to succumb to the nuclear temptation.
Nuclear power does not provide climate protection
In addition to the extensive arguments on the advantages of renewables using solar energy as an example, it is also important to note that the construction of nuclear reactors, despite the apparently CO2-free energy supply, does not bring any advantage for climate protection. Researchers from the University of Sussex and the International School of Management (ISM) in Munich have made a comparison in a new study; between states that rely on nuclear energy and those that rely on renewable energies. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-020-00696-3)
After evaluating the data from 123 countries, the scientists come to the conclusion that only countries that consistently rely on renewable energies reduce their emissions. In addition, it is also clear that nuclear power and renewable energies do not go together, ergo compete with each other, since nuclear power is not flexible enough to compensate for the strong fluctuations in solar and wind energy. For the authors it is therefore clear: “Investments in nuclear energy instead of renewable energies should be questioned. Countries planning such large-scale investments risk not realizing their full potential in the fight against climate change ”.
Incurable nuclear proponents will, as always, refuse to admit it. But the bare numbers speak for themselves: nuclear power is hopelessly inferior to solar power in all respects.
- The author Hans-Josef Fell sat for the Greens from 1998 to 2013 in the German Bundestag. The energy expert was a co-author of the EEG in 2000. Now he is President of the Energy Watch Group (EWG). You can find more about his work at www.hans-josef-fell.de. -
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