Report: Slow, expensive nuclear no climate champion as PV costs drop

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit
Email
A view of the Hinkley Point nuclear station from the west. Source: Roger Cornfoot, Creative Commons

The world is witnessing an “organic nuclear phaseout” partly precipitated by a drop in solar and wind costs, according to a new report that posits that nuclear power is too slow to build and too expensive to run to effectively fight climate change.

Utility-scale solar's levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) has dropped 88% in the last decade while the cost of nuclear has increased by 22%, according to the latest edition of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNIS).

This article requires Premium SubscriptionBasic (FREE) Subscription

Unlock unlimited access for 12 whole months of distinctive global analysis

Photovoltaics International is now included.

  • Regular insight and analysis of the industry’s biggest developments
  • In-depth interviews with the industry’s leading figures
  • Unlimited digital access to the PV Tech Power journal catalogue
  • Unlimited digital access to the Photovoltaics International journal catalogue
  • Access to more than 1,000 technical papers
  • Discounts on Solar Media’s portfolio of events, in-person and virtual

Or continue reading this article for free

It is now cheaper, the analysis claims, to build and run new renewables than extend existing nuclear power plants. 

“You can spend a dollar, a euro, a forint or a ruble only once: The climate emergency requires that investment decisions must favour the cheapest and fastest response strategies. The nuclear power option has consistently turned out the most expensive and the slowest,” said WNIS project coordinator Michael Schneider.

Nuclear construction has shrunk over the past decade; there are 46 units currently under construction globally, a sharp drop from 234 in 1979. Only one new nuclear project has been inaugurated so far this year.

“The renewal rate of nuclear power plants is too slow to guarantee the survival of the technology. The world is experiencing an undeclared ‘organic’ nuclear phaseout,” Schneider claimed.

Further cost overruns for £92.50/MWh Hinkley Point

The WNIS analysis stresses that nuclear plants’ slow build rates are problematic at a time of pressing climate emergency. New nuclear plants take on average between five and 17 years longer to build than utility-scale solar or onshore wind, and the nine nuclear reactors fired up in 2018 took an average of 10.9 years to build.

This very week, EDF revealed its beleaguered Hinkley Point C nuclear project in Somerset, England, has seen overall costs creep up from the £19.5 billion (US$24 billion) outlined in 2010 to somewhere between £21.5 billion (US$26.5 billion) and £22.5 billion ($US27.8 billion) today.

Power from Hinkley Point C – which is running years behind schedule and is estimated to come online in 2025 or 2026 – was set at £92.50/MWh (US$114/MWh) in 2012. Meanwhile, prices for wind energy in the UK dropped to £40/MWh (US$49/MWh) on 20 September.

The report says that it is more environmentally advantageous to close and replace existing nuclear plants with new technologies than it is to keep them running.

“The closure of uneconomic reactors will not directly save carbon dixide emissions but can indirectly save more carbon dioxide than closing a coal-fired plant, if the nuclear plant’s larger saved operating costs are reinvested in efficiency or cheap modern renewables that in turn displace more fossil-fuelled generation,” the report reads.

It notes that in 2018, 165GW of renewables were added to the world’s power grids. Nearly 100GW of new solar capacity came online, a 13% increase from the year before, while nuclear power output inched forward by 9GW, a 2.4% increase.

27 June 2024
9am BST
FREE WEBINAR -This special webinar will take a deep dive into the latest PV ModuleTech Bankability Ratings pyramid, capturing the relative bankability status of the top 70-80 PV module suppliers globally. In addition to revealing the latest ranking of global PV module suppliers, PV Tech’s Head of Research, Finlay Colville, will show the depth of analysis and commentary included within the report for module suppliers. A key output from the webinar will be to learn which PV module suppliers have moved up the rankings pyramid in recent years and why this growth has been achieved. Conversely, some of the companies that have fallen down the rankings will be discussed, in particular those suffering from market-share losses and financial problems.
8 October 2024
San Francisco Bay Area, USA
PV Tech has been running an annual PV CellTech Conference since 2016. PV CellTech USA, on 8-9 October 2024 is our second PV CellTech conference dedicated to the U.S. manufacturing sector. The event in 2023 was a sell out success and 2024 will once again gather the key stakeholders from PV manufacturing, equipment/materials, policy-making and strategy, capital equipment investment and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out PV manufacturing in the U.S. out to 2030 and beyond.
26 November 2024
Málaga, Spain
Understanding PV module supply to the European market in 2025. PV ModuleTech Europe 2024 is a two-day conference that tackles these challenges directly, with an agenda that addresses all aspects of module supplier selection; product availability, technology offerings, traceability of supply-chain, factory auditing, module testing and reliability, and company bankability.
11 March 2025
Frankfurt, Germany
The conference will gather the key stakeholders from PV manufacturing, equipment/materials, policy-making and strategy, capital equipment investment and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out PV manufacturing out to 2030 and beyond.
17 June 2025
Napa, USA
PV Tech has been running PV ModuleTech Conferences since 2017. PV ModuleTech USA, on 17-18 June 2025, will be our fourth PV ModulelTech conference dedicated to the U.S. utility scale solar sector. The event will gather the key stakeholders from solar developers, solar asset owners and investors, PV manufacturing, policy-making and and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out the PV module supply channels to the U.S. out to 2026 and beyond.

Read Next

June 25, 2024
GreenRock Energy has formed a partnership with Malaysian solar company Solarvest to develop 1GW solar PV projects in Taiwan and Malaysia.
June 25, 2024
The Japanese government needs to triple its installed renewables capacity to at least 363GW by 2035 to achieve its 2050 net zero target.
June 25, 2024
The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved solicitations for onshore renewable energy projects and large-scale energy storage, to guide the state to its 2030 energy storage policy target.
June 25, 2024
New modelling shows that electrification and flexibility can slash average day-ahead energy prices by 25% by 2030, and by 33% by 2040.
Sponsored
June 24, 2024
During SNEC 2024, PV Tech spoke with Chuan Lu, chairman and CEO of Astronergy, about the company’s strategy and shipment forecast.
June 24, 2024
The Intersolar Europe 2024 trade show closed its doors for another year on Friday (21st June). Ahead of further coverage and interviews from the conference, this piece will collate a few of the key takeaways that we saw on the ground at the show last week.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
July 2, 2024
Athens, Greece
Solar Media Events
July 9, 2024
Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Singapore
Upcoming Webinars
July 10, 2024
9am (BST) / 10am (CEST)
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Warsaw, Poland