Mark Jacobson: Small Modular Reactors will Cost 7-8 Times as Much as Clean Energy

November 9, 2022

Good Primer on state of nuclear in the US and around the world.


France, once Europe’s top power exporter, may not produce enough nuclear energy this winter to help European neighbours seeking alternatives to Russian gas, and may even have to ration electricity to meet its own needs.

France has for years helped to underpin Europe’s electricity supply, providing about 15% of the region’s total power generation.

But this year, for the first time since French records began in 2012, France has become a net power importer as its own production of nuclear energy hit a 30-year low, based on data from consultancy EnAppSys.

The supply squeeze, caused by a wave of repairs at the country’s nuclear power stations, couldn’t have come at a worse time. Europe is in the grip of an energy crisis as Russian gas supplies plummet in the wake of the Ukraine conflict and France, which derives 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy, has lost its edge.

French power prices have hit a string of all-time highs – topping 1,000 euros ($1,004.10) per megawatt hour earlier this month – on expectations the country will not have enough electricity to meet domestic demand. That surge, from prices of around 70 euros a year ago, has added to a cost-of-living crisis.

“Sky-high electricity prices are an economic threat, with France’s nuclear issues seemingly turning into a greater challenge than Russian gas flows,” said Norbert Rücker, head of economics and next generation research at Julius Baer.

A record number of France’s 56 nuclear reactors have gone offline for overdue maintenance and checks related to corrosion issues that first surfaced last December. Some reactors have had to cut production during the summer to prevent rivers used to cool reactors from overheating.

As of Aug. 29, 57% of nuclear generation capacity was offline, based on data provided by state-controlled nuclear power group Electricite de France, or EDF.

Dr Jacobson’s warnings remind me of why I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy that Saudi Arabia’s nuclear plants will be “safe, clean and efficient.”

Arab News:

While Iran continues to press ahead with its controversial nuclear program, Viktorsson said: “I think the UAE is already a model, and the cooperation between (the UAE and Saudi Arabia) could be another model of how two countries next to each other could support each other in the peaceful aspects of nuclear power.

“In the region, as we see in other regions of the world, there is a lot of openness and discussions and cooperation between regulatory authorities. And this is something that we are introducing now also in this region. It’s of great, great benefit.”

Safety is the highest priority for FANR and the UAE when it comes to nuclear power, according to Viktorsson. Since 2008, the country’s nuclear policy has “emphasized that the UAE is going to comply with the highest international standards in safety, security and non-proliferation. And we are implementing that in the siting of the Barakah power plant.


9 Responses to “Mark Jacobson: Small Modular Reactors will Cost 7-8 Times as Much as Clean Energy”

  1. Mark Jacobson is all washed up! Back when he and Michael Shellenberger debated on a panel hosted by Oliver Morton, they both had about 30K Twitter followers. Shellenberger now leads Jacobson by almost an order of magnitude. There’s clearly a major movement among people concerned about climate towards embracing nuclear energy. Even Chris Cuomo whose father and brother both closed nuclear plants is changing his mind:

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Right, I always judge expertise and grasp of the facts by the number of Twitter followers. I can’t wait to hear what Lady Gaga has to say on HALEU processing.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Shellenberger a free agent? RUFKM?

      A movement? 80-90% of people in the US want more solar (89%) and wind (83%) and more government help for them. 37% want more nukes, unless they’re anywhere nearby, then support tanks. Wind and solar support would be higher but decades of relentless lying by shills like Shellenberger have fooled some.

      Shellenberger’s qualifications to contradict climate scientists:
      Master’s Degree in Anthropology from University of California, Santa Cruz.
      Graduated from the Peace and Global Studies (PAGS) program at Earlham College in 1993

      Shellenberger’s main function seems to be to act as a sphincter to splat out pro-nuke farts, and shill for the nuclear industry by misrepresenting himself and his Breakthrough Inst. as “environmentalist” of some bizarre kind. That allows it to sell right wing economics, climate denying delayalism, and anti-renewable fanaticism to right wing media mouthpieces.

      People like Shellenberger are a big reason so many believe in heaven and hell, so they can convince themselves that those who lie, cheat, steal, kill, rape and profit from all of it will get what they deserve eventually. I’m not so easily fooled so I’m forced to rely on facts and actions in this world. The last hope for civilization is peaceful revolution removing the Shellenbergers of the world from power.

      • Well, you’ve provided one good credential for Michael Shellenberger. You know you’ve really arrived in the public climate/energy discussions when you make the coveted Desmog Blog database.

        What are Shellenberger’s qualifications to contradict climate scientists? He’s spent decades researching, interviewing top experts and writing about these topics. Academic degrees are fine but they’re not the be all and end all. Academics don’t have a monopoly on knowledge.

      • BTW he’s also earned a lot of respect from notable relevant figures such as James Hansen.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    This is the known “easy-access” geothermal map, so if France (EDF) could implement some dry geothermal power plants they’d have a clear advantage.

    Countries with territory along plate boundaries or the African Rift Valley have the edge here.

  3. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Excuses, excuses, excuses from the man who hates Finland.
    Any statistics and analysis, from a partisan viewpoint, will fetch, roll over and play dead on command. What to do?
    First establish what must, as in MUST, be done. Answer: Stop using fossil fuels. Tick.
    Second, establish how to do what must be done! Try a large honest non partisan and intelligent committee. BOL!
    Third. Do what is established must be done!
    We are buggared.
    So chip away at the brick wall and avoid the black pit. All the best.

  4. John Oneill Says:

    The availability of reactors in France has gone up to 48% – but even at that, the electricity there is still far less carbon-intensive than its neighbours’. At the moment, the grid in France is at 100 grams CO2/kWh, Spain at 195, UK at 175, Belgium at 148, Germany at 363, and North Italy at 298. Spain, Italy, Germany are much more reliant on solar than France, UK and Germany have much more wind.
    The avowed policy of the French government for the last decade has been to cut back on nuclear, milking it of funds to boost its competitors, and to subsidise wind and solar. Segolene Royale, a minister in the previous President’s government, arranged for the closure of two 900MW reactors, and proposed building a thousand kilometers of ‘solar roads’. The reactors were closed, eventually, under the aegis of the current president, Macron, but the ~ two kilometers of ‘solar roads’ completed have since become electronic junk. Turns out the older reactors aren’t subject to cracking at the pipe junction causing problems on the newer ones. If the planned closures of a score of reactos had been going ahead on schedule, France would be in a far worse condition than now, and its emissions would be much higher.

  5. J4Zonian Says:

    If France had replaced its fossil and fissile fuel with clean safe fast cheap reliable renewable energy its electricity emissions would be zero. It could have done that at a much smaller cost, and, it turns out, greater reliability. The nature of nukes is that they seem to be safe and run at a high capacity factor…until they’re not, and they don’t. Catastrophic failures are part of the deal with nukes, and it’s insane to continue making that deal with Satan (or EDF; whichever) when it’s so completely unnecessary and is only being done so narcissistic psychopaths can demonstrate their mastery over atoms. Symbolic sadism.

    So 22 or 23 of France’s reactors were shut down all summer for emergency safety reasons despite the fascism-and-war crisis. Let’s remember that 5 more are merrily destroying aquatic ecosystems because closing them would have been just a step too far; the crisis of comfort took precedence over protecting the natural basis of all life. Wudda suprize.

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