Nuclear Prices Itself Out of the Market
November 8, 2013
I watched part of CNN’s presentation of a pro-nuclear power film last night, coupled with some debates before and after. What was positive about the debate was the underlying assumption – a given- was that climate change was an ultimate, over – arching threat, and de-carbonizing the globe was an essential goal. That’s an important step forward.
On the negative side, the argument that got the most time was, whether we should worry about a nuclear accident or being exposed to low level radiation. These arguments generally tend not to go anywhere because they devolve into “my stats” versus”your stats”.
The reason that nuclear power has not made much headway in the last 30 years, is because it’s proven, in the eyes of the investment community, to be a bad risk – economically. No one will put money into it without massive subsidies and loan guarantees. We are watching that process play out, for instance, and the Vogtle plant, currently under construction in Georgia – where, with the familiar pattern of cost overruns, and construction snafus, it seems possible that taxpayers will be taking yet another bath, courtesy of the nuclear industry.
And there’s this from Europe.
The extent to which nuclear is being priced out of electricity markets has finally been revealed by the pricing mechanism unveiled by the British government in the deal to subsidise the Hinkley C nuclear.
The UK government will pay £92.5 for each megawatt hour produced from hinkley ($A154/MWh), around double the prevailing market price. This is after the UK supplied a loan guarantee for 65 per cent of the estimated $24 billion capital cost. The “strike price” – a fancy name for a feed in tariff – also has an escalator to take into account the impact of inflation, so the cost will rise in coming years.
So how does this compare with rival clean energy technologies? Pretty badly as it turns out.
This graph above, published by Craig Morris in Renewable Energy World reveals that the rates that will be offered for new nuclear from 2023 in the UK are far above what solar and wind currently cost. And, as Morris points out, the rates for solar and wind will go down by then, not up! Even offshore wind is getting £95/MWh from 2018 in the UK, but only for 15 years and without any loan guarantees.
This second graph below is even more interesting. It takes into account all the expensive PV that was installed with really high feed in tariffs at the start of Germany’s energy transition before the price of solar fell dramatically. From 2023, when the Hinkley reactor is due to be switched on, nuclear at this price still fairs poorly, and as the cost of those tariffs continue to decline, the cost of nuclear will continue to rise. It’s probably as good an illustration as any as to why Germany are not interested in new nuclear power station, and few countries are.