Nuclear Economics

Government Reports

  • Nuclear Power in an Age of Uncertainty, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, February 1984. This report, written at the end of the previous era of nuclear power plant construction in the United States, argues that much of the failure of nuclear power plants to prove cost-effective could be attributed to the relatively immaturity of the technology, and that improvements in both the power plants themselves and their management could make the plants viable.

Pro-Nuclear Studies

  • The Future of Nuclear Power: An  Interdisciplinary MIT Study. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003. This study examines a growth scenario where the present deployment of 360 GWe of nuclear capacity worldwide is expanded to 1000 GWe in mid-century, keeping nuclear’s share of the electricity market about constant. “There is no question that the up-front costs associated with making nuclear power competitive, are higher than those associated with fossil fuels,” said Dr. Ernest Moniz, co-chair of the study. “But as our study shows, there are many ways to mitigate these costs and, over time, the societal and environmental price of carbon emissions could dramatically improve the competitiveness of nuclear power.” In his Comment on MIT Study “The Future of Nuclear Power“. Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, criticizes the MIT study for failing to compare either the costs or emission reduction potential of other forms of energy with nuclear energy. Without this comparison, Lovins argues, “The alleged need for all options, including nuclear power, is purely the authors’ personal opinion wrapped in a study of other questions.”
  • The New Economics of Nuclear Power, World Nuclear Association, December 2005. This report by the nuclear power industry’s trade association concludes that in most industrialized economies today, nuclear power plants are the most economical way to generate baseload electricity, even before factoring in the geopolitical and environmental advantages of nuclear power.

Anti-Nuclear Studies

  • Nuclear Power: Economics and Climate-Protection Potential, Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, 11 Sept. 2005. Lovins notes that despite claims by nuclear power supporters, nuclear power worldwide has less installed capacity than decentralized no- and low-carbon competitors such as renewables and co-generation. “Efforts to make nuclear power appear competitive with central coal or gas plants by enlarging nuclear subsidies or taxing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are futile, because windpower and some other renewables, cogeneration, and technologies for wringing more work from each kilowatt hour will still win in the marketplace.”
  • Nuclear Power: Competitive Economics and Climate-Change Potential, Amory Lovins, British Royal Academy for Engineering Forum for the Future, 13 March 2006. In this presentation, Lovins argues that the experience of both private companies and local governments demonstrates that increased energy efficiency and renewable use can be done in an economically profitable manner.
  • Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Climate Change. Brice Smith, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, May 2006. This book documents accident, proliferation and contamination threats associated with reviving the nuclear industry as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The book also details economically competitive alternative fuel sources which can address U.S. and world electricity needs.
  • What History Can Teach US About the Future Costs of US Nuclear Power, Nathan E. Hultman, Jonathan G. Koomey, and Daniel E. Kammen. Paper submitted to Science Policy Forum, 1 August 2006. The authors developed a database of actual electricity costs from 99 individual U.S. nuclear reactors, and used it to analyze the potential for Gen IV reactors to achieve their design objectives. They conclude that “past technology development patterns indicated the importance of including high-cost surprises in the planning process.”
  • The Rise of Renewable Energy, Daniel M. Kammen, Scientific American, September 2006. Kammen examines the costs of developing renewable energy as a means of reducing carbon emissions, and concludes that the United States and other countries must make a major commitment to developing renewable energy sources that generate little or no carbon.
  • Mighty Mice, Amory Lovins, Nuclear Engineering International. Lovins reviews the economic viability of small, fast and simple microgeneration and efficiency projects. He concludes that “a free market … seems increasingly unlikely to favour nuclear power. Rather, the economic fundamentals of distributed resources promise an ever-faster shift to very efficient end-use combined with diverse generators the right size for their task. That shift could render insufficient or even irrelevant the resolution of the perceived non-economic risks that preoccupy the nuclear industry.”