Nuclear Energy is a Bad Investment

Media Contacts
Gary Kalman

NCPIRG report shows that dollar for dollar, a clean energy portfolio can produce more energy than nuclear power.

NCPIRG Education Fund

NCPIRG Education Fund’s report, “The High Costs of Nuclear Power” introduces data showing that renewable energy sources produce more electricity than nuclear plants for less money.

Despite the inefficiency in cost, the nuclear industry has proposed building about 30 new reactors across the country at an estimated cost of $300 billion. Here in North Carolina, Progress Energy has submitted proposals for two new reactors that could cost $20 billion or more.

North Carolina leaders need to have all of the facts about investing in nuclear energy before approving Progress Energy’s proposal to build more power plants in the state.

Per Dollar of Investment:

A dollar invested in energy efficiency would yield greater than five times more electricity than a dollar invested in nuclear power.

“New nuclear plants are losers for the public. They would drive up power bills while ruining our chances to slow climate change,” explains Jim Warren, Executive Director of North Carolina Waste Awareness & Reduction Network (NCWARN). “Energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to protect customer pocketbooks and our climate— and it will allow for ramping up wind, solar and other truly clean energy sources.”

  • Energy efficiency measures can deliver greater than five times more electricity than nuclear power.
  • Combined heat and power (which generates both useful heat and electricity for a factory, a school campus or an office building) can generate nearly four times more energy than nuclear power.
  • Investing $300 billion in energy efficiency measures would bring America’s energy consumption levels down by 20 percent below forecasted levels by 2030— no greater than it is today.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that the United States could cost effectively reduce its overall energy consumption by 25 to 30 percent or more over the next 20 to 25 years. At this rate, Americans would save the equivalent of the output of more than 100 nuclear reactors.

“Not only is nuclear energy dangerous and too expensive, it also will not deliver in time,” said John Deans, a Greenpeace organizer. “We can’t wait to meet our energy challenges and fight global warming; we can meet them sooner and more cheaply by using our energy more efficiently and investing in renewable energy.”

Taxpayers shoulder nuclear construction costs and financial risks of accidents:

Not only is nuclear power less cost efficient than clean energy methods, but its increasing construction costs fall directly on the taxpayers and ratepayers rather than on the nuclear industry.

“Taxpayers should not be subsidizing nuclear power when there are faster, cleaner, cheaper alternatives to meet our energy needs,” said Kyla Walters, NCPIRG Associate. 

Under current laws, the taxpayers finance construction costs of the nuclear industry. Federal loan guarantees shift outstanding balances to taxpayers if nuclear companies default on their loan payments. In the event of nuclear catastrophe, the nuclear industry is liable for only the first $10 billion in inflation-adjusted damages.

The report recommends the following policies to ensure taxpayers get the best return for their investment:

  • Before approving Progress Energy’s proposal, North Carolina leaders should require the company to prove that nuclear energy is more cost-effective than other energy sources, including energy efficient methods.
  • North Carolina legislators should protect taxpayers from paying for Progress Energy’s financial risks. In particular, regulators should not allow utilities to levy advance charges on consumers in order to finance the construction of new reactors.
  • At the federal level, Congress should repeal the Price Anderson Act, under which taxpayers have major responsibility for any major nuclear accident.
  • America should shift current federal subsidies away from nuclear and fossil fuel energy, creating a fund for research and development and installation of more effective energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
  • The U.S. government should enact a renewable electricity standard to ensure that 25 percent of the national electricity supply comes from renewable resources by 2025. From such federal standards, the floor would be set for each state to boost their renewable energy production and deployment capabilities.