Nuclear is cost-competitive with fossil fuels and cheaper than
present-day renewables. The major financial impediment is the
typically very large upfront capital cost. This is often
exacerbated by ...
extended schedules for clearing regulatory
and permit hurdles. Yet, when evaluated on a lifecycle basis
that incorporates the costs of construction, interest during
construction, fuel, operation, maintenance, waste management,
and decommissioning, nuclear compares favorably with
conventional power plants (Figure 2.3.12).
This evaluation sidesteps widespread public concerns
about nuclear safety, especially in the wake of the Fukushima
meltdown. Additional public concerns exist over the handling
and disposal of radioactive waste and associated risks. Finally,
the expansion of nuclear power creates worry about the
proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Historically, the nuclear industry saw huge growth until
the 1970s, when interest dampened because of mounting
safety concerns in response to two serious accidents, Three
Mile Island in the US in 1979 and Chernobyl in what was then the Soviet Union in 1986. Interest in nuclear revived with the growing
need to expand energy supply while limiting GHG emissions. Fukushima
recently raised fresh concerns regarding safety, prompting Japan to
conduct a full safety review of its nuclear plants, which continues today.
The current situation is mixed, with some countries continuing to build
nuclear plants, while others are more hesitant, and a few are pulling the plug on the nuclear option altogether. Germany, for one, plans to decommission all its nuclear power plants by 2022.
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