Former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko yesterday said that nuclear energy is playing an increasingly insignificant role in electricity generation worldwide, and that, contrary to popular belief, it is actually more expensive than a range of methods of energy generation.
At a news conference in Taipei, Jaczko said that the future for nuclear power generation in the US and worldwide is one of “decreasing use and eventual phase-out.”
Referencing data generated by the US commission, Jaczko said that even if all US nuclear power plants were able to renew their operational licenses, the use of the energy source in the nation would come to an end by about 2055.
Diminishing use of nuclear power is a global trend, with just about 70 reactors under construction worldwide — a small fraction of operational reactors worldwide, he said, adding that the majority being built are in China.
The number of new plants is much lower than the number of facilities scheduled to be decommissioned, he said.
“The countries that have nuclear power plants are not building anywhere close to the amount of plants they need to replace existing plants,” Jaczko said. “Given the long lead time to build the plants, the cost and other factors, it is unlikely that nuclear energy will play a significant role in electricity generation in the next several decades.”
There is more than enough time for governments to look into alternative technologies without compromising their carbon reduction goals, he said, adding that global energy use is expected to grow significantly over the next 30 years.
He said that energy from nuclear power plants is not as inexpensive as advocates claim.
Referring to a chart compiled by the US Energy Information Administration in 2013, Jaczko said that the “total system levelized cost” for power plants utilizing advanced nuclear energy stood at US$108.40 per megawatt-hour (mWh), while for plants generating power from natural gas with carbon sequestration technology or from geothermal sources, costs were US$93.40 and US$89.60 per mWh.
The estimates skip the money required for nuclear waste disposal and site decommissioning, which constitute the most expensive part of such plants, he added.
Asked to comment on a plan by the state-run Taiwan Power Co to ship nuclear waste to France to be reprocessed, which has been proposed based on an agreement for cooperation between Taiwan and the US, Jaczko said that nuclear waste of US origin must gain US approval before it can be exported.
“Just because it is in the agreement does not mean it has to be done,” he said, adding that Taipower’s plan “does not make any sense.”
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