The only time we believe the nuclear industry

Mycle Schneider is a clever guy.  He has been fighting reactors longer than i have and at one meeting we had a couple of decades back, someone was bemoaning an announcement that some country was planning on building many more reactors.  To which Mycle retorted

We don’t believe anything the nuclear industry says, except when they say they are going to build more reactors.

Mycle Schneider  - source wikipedia

Mycle Schneider – source wikipedia

This comment stuck in my head and as the years went by i watched to observe that it is true.  But it is not just anti-nuclear activists who fall for these lines.  The media (mainstream and alternative) loves to jump on these pronouncements as well.  Like the recent announcement that Russia plans to build 21 new reactors by 2030.  If you knew about Russia, you might know that new nuclear construction is highly dependent on oil prices.  When oil prices are high, the Russian state has more money and takes on these expensive projects.  Oil prices in Europe are currently running around US$90/barrel, which is pretty high.  And thus this announcement makes sense.

But when you dig deeper, you see that it is almost certainly not going to happen this way.  There is a strange piece of Russia which is not contiguous with the rest of the country (like Alaska does not connect to the lower 48).  It is called Kaliningrad.

One of Russia's few cold water ports

One of Russia’s few cold water ports

Russia has dropped over US$1 billion on the Kaliningrad based,  Baltic reactor project which it is now walking away from.  The Kaliningrad reactors have a nearly guaranteed market.  The old Soviet reactor in neighboring Lithuania was closed in 2009 as a condition for Lithuania’s entry into the EU.  This left a tremendous supply hole through out this Baltic region.  Power hungry Poland is considering reactors, but like much of central Europe is currently buying Russian natural gas.  If the Russians are not finishing the Kaliningrad reactor, they are certainly not building a bunch more in places like the Arctic Circle.

Similarly, without much fanfare the Ontario government has just decided to delay indefinitely plans to build two new reactors to replace aging plants there.   This story nearly disappeared into the media void.  But the story that Canada might sell a couple of reactors to Romania with Chinese financial backing keeps coming up repeatedly.  Despite the fact that all that has happened is a letter of intent has been signed.  i wonder how many nuclear letter of intents have actually turned into reactors.

Not worth the paper it is written on

Not worth the paper it is written on

The other big media induced nuclear myth is the explosive growth of nuclear power in China and how it should be a model for other countries.   What is usually missed in this story is China’s commitment to real renewables is larger than it’s commitment to reactors.  China is number 1 in installed capacity in wind and hydro power.  While i don’t especially want any reactors build, i would be quite pleased if the US were to prioritize real renewables in the same aggressive way China has.

Don’t believe the promises from highly paid salesmen.

Mycle Schneider and Anthony Froggatt’s master work is the annual World Nuclear Industry Report