CounterPunch's Strange Claims Regarding Nuclear Power


There's likely no energy source that faces more criticism, hatred and counter-propaganda than nuclear power. It remains unclear to me why any technology should be the target of such intense scrutiny that is capable of mobilizing entire political movements against it, and why the political left, in particular in America and Germany, is so opposed to a technology whose development requires some form of state driven expansion.

In a recent CounterPunch article, the Stanford academic and civil engineer Prof. Mark Jacobson reiterated some long-standing arguments against nuclear power. Notably that it is “too slow to deploy” and that “it costs too much”.

A shift to invest more heavily in nuclear energy over the next two decades could actually worsen the climate crisis, as cheaper, quicker alternatives are ignored for more expensive, slow-to-deploy nuclear reactors.

While I also would question the wisdom of any country to pursue 100% nuclear power, it's important to highlight that Jacobson's assertions do not withstand scrutiny. Historically, nuclear power has scaled at a faster pace than renewables once it reaches mass production. As of 2023, solar power may have potentially surpassed this historical trend globally (though not necessarily at the local level).

But what stood out to me in Jacobson’s article is the numbers that he throws around without checking it against International Benchmarking and Audited Accounts.

Nuclear costs are prohibitively high: It’ll cost $15 trillion to triple nuclear capacity, assuming existing reactors continue to function, which will not be the case, raising this big bet well over $15T. Who’s putting up $15T?

A small matchbox calculation shows just how ridiculous Jacobson’s claim is.

The world’s current installed nuclear capacity (as per a quick google search) is 371GWe. To triple the world’s capacity, we need to add double that i.e. 2 x 371GWe = 742GWe.

The nth of a kind cost of a nuclear power station is around $3billion/GWe (based on historical data from mass builds in France, the USA, China, South Korea, Japan and India).

In fact in China it’s already $2billion/GWe!

Read the rest of this piece at Hügo's Newsletter.

Hügo Krüger is a South African born Structural/Nuclear Engineer, writer and YouTube podcaster, commentating on topics relating to Energy and Geopolitical Matters, Hügo is married to an Iranian born Mathematician and Artist; the couple resides in Paris.

Photo: Vogel Nuclear Power Plant, NRC, in Public Domain.