Surprise, surprise: the cost of building a new nuclear reactor at Flamanville in France has more than doubled to €8.5 billion from 3.3 billion! But this is not really a surprise, is it?
It is simply further evidence that the costs of the nuclear “renaissance” are out of control. I mean what are they making these things out of? Platinum?
Imagine the scene. You step into your boss’s office to discuss the project you’re working on…
YOU (nervously): Good morning, sir. I was wondering if I could have a word with you about Project X.
YOUR BOSS (sternly): Ah yes, Project X. The one that’s 100% over budget and almost 100% over schedule. I hope it’s good news.
YOUR BOSS (fixing you with a deadly stare): Go on.
YOU (in a very quiet voice): The budget’s overrun by another 25%...
You can guess the rest. You’d be clearing your desk and finding yourself in the street before finishing your sentence.
With the nuclear industry, however, this is not only to be expected, it seems to neither surprise nor infuriate hardly anyone. Nuclear spokespersons give some weak excuses, promise lessons will be learned, and then skulk away until they have to make the same shaming announcement in a few months time.
Meanwhile, governments are blithely outdoing themselves in trying to give the nuclear industry billions in subsidies without the guts to call them subsidies.
If you had a child that showed this repeated inability to learn from mistakes you’d be extremely worried. But we’re letting these guys build nuclear reactors – one of the most dangerous technologies on the planet.
Meanwhile – right now – we’re losing the battle against climate change and nuclear power is a major roadblock to us all winning that fight.
Billions and billions are being spent on new nuclear reactors that will be online and producing electricity in 2012. No wait, make that 2014. Sorry, we meant 2016. How about 2018? 2020? If not then it’ll definitely be 2025. Okay?
No. It’s not ok.
While the energy companies are squandering unimaginable piles of cash and tinkering with experimental nuclear reactors that might be ready at some unspecified date, climate change is bulleting towards us like a runaway train.
The worst part about all this is that it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be this way. We could be focussing on energy efficiency like there’s no tomorrow.
A report published by the Green Alliance and the World Wildlife Fund UK in October shows that in the UK “40 per cent of electricity demand might be avoided by 2030 – equivalent to the output of 15 nuclear power plants – saving in excess of £10 billion per year”.
Beth Hartman from the E Source consultancy calls energy efficiency "the cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy that we don’t use". A report by E Source found that the US wastes 30% of its energy (worth $60 billion) a year.
Ecofys says that by improving energy efficiency by just 1-2% a year would be the “equivalent to the production of 2,500 to 5,000 medium-sized power plants” and save more that €2 trillion in fuel costs by 2030.
That’s two trillion euros saved – 2,000,000,000,000 – count those zeroes. That’s a planet-saving amount of money. Think of the clean technologies that money could buy. Think of the poverty and disease it could help to eradicate.
So how about it? It’s a lesson even those in the nuclear industry could learn.
BREAKING NEWS! Somebody is learning the lesson: Italian utility ENEL, the partner of French utility EdF in the construction of Flamanville, has pulled out of the project and is taking its 12.5% stake with it.
“The last 24 hours have killed French nuclear finally because the cost makes it totally impossible to export and now you have one of the few partners actively withdrawing; it looks really bad,” says Per Lekander, an analyst for financial services giant UBS.
The smart money has spoken and it says nuclear power is a loser.