25 January 2015

Counterpunch (US): The Nuclear “Renaissance” is Over

Meet the Renewable Energy Revolution The Nuclear “Renaissance” is Over

Counterpunch, January 22, 2015


The nuclear renaissance-that-never-was is over. As a brazen propaganda campaign — “if we say there is a nuclear renaissance then there is one” was pretty much all there was to it — it has belly-flopped into an empty swimming pool. Even the mainstream media is dismissing the notion now as a never-was-and-never-will-be mirage (although it meekly bought in for a long time before the evidence of the sham was incontrovertible.)

But like the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the nuclear industry continues to claim that it is “not dead” yet and actually “getting better.”

Consequently, in a last ditch attempt to belie reality, the nuclear industry endeavors to reinvent itself with a steady parade of better nuclear mouse-traps. One day it’s the Small Modular Reactor! Then it’s the Answer to Climate Change! Or it’s got to be the Fast Integral Reactor!

But the nuclear industry is none of those things. It’s just over. It won’t go slowly and it won’t go quietly, and it won’t go without trying to suck up a whole lot more of our tax dollars. But go it will. And according to the venerable international investment bank, UBS, that exit will come sooner rather than later.

The bank is even telling its clients “it’s time to join the revolution,” reports REneweconomy, an Australian energy publication. The renewable energy revolution, that is. No mention of any “renaissance.”

Old style centralized generation, represented by nuclear and fossil fuel energy, will be “the dinosaur of the future energy system,” says UBS. “Too big, too inflexible, not even relevant for backup power in the long run.”

The green revolution that UBS foresees, will be driven by true energy independence, a revolution led by you and me. States UBS: “By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, i.e., not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities. It is also the most efficient way to produce power where it is consumed, because transmission losses will be minimized.”

According to Reneweconomy, UBS bases this forecast in part on its estimate that the payback time for unsubsidized investment in electric vehicles plus rooftop solar plus battery storage will be as low as 6-8 years by 2020 – triggering a massive revolution in the energy industry.

The global decline of nuclear is clearly mapped out annually in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, which tracks the trajectory of nuclear energy (still downward) along with the growth in renewables (dramatically upward). It calls out the mythology, particularly when it comes to inflated statistics. For example, a recent edition of the World Nuclear News trumpeted a nuclear generation increase with the headline, “Nuclear generating capacity rises in 2014.” But the bravado of the story’s excitement that “The world starts 2015 with 436 operable reactors,” withered rapidly when it quietly mentioned this was up from “435 reactors” from a year ago. Not quite so headline-worthy when you do the math. But even that is misleading.

The key word here of course is “operable.” It does not say “operating.” As the 2014 WNISR reveals, reality is not so nuanced. “The nuclear industry is in decline: The 388 operating [our emphasis] reactors are 50 fewer than the peak in 2002.” And 48 fewer than WNN seeks to hoodwink readers into believing by its slight-of-hand wordsmithing. Maybe that’s because there are 48 idle reactors in Japan currently, that could be operating. Except that they aren’t.

A decentralized electricity world is where things are headed, and it’s a place nuclear power just isn’t going. We are starting the revolution without it.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development.