This past Sunday, May 15, will likely be the defining moment in the ongoing debate over Nuclear Power. Many here in the United States may feel that the discussion about Nuclear is over. Like Germany, most in America think Nuclear Energy is dangerous and a real environmental threat. No reasonable country would even consider adding a Nuclear Plant to its power grid, goes their reasoning.
Here in the US, only one new Nuc has been built in the last 25 years, and that plant opened in 2016 in Spring City, Tennessee, took 43 years to build and had massive cost overrides. Named the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant Number 2, it started operations on June 4, 2016, 20 years after its sister plant, Watts Bar Number 1, began operations.
Of course, many of the delays in Plant construction in this country are due to the shifting political winds. Many Americans, including the current President, are dead set against increasing Nuclear Electric production. This anti-nuclear sentiment, combined with Power Plant accidents like those at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 or Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, caused public opinion to shift against Nuclear Power.
However, the anti-nuclear passions have cooled over time, at least in some countries. Over one-quarter of the nations worldwide actively pursue nuclear power to support their electricity demand. It may surprise you that globally 50 countries are considering adding atomic plants to their electric grid, with 30 of those countries in the active stage of drawing up plants.
Included in this list of countries looking to add Nuclear are suck notables as Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, several European Countries are now seriously looking at Nuclear in their power output. The European countries include Poland, Ireland, Portugal, Norway, and France (which already has substantial Nuclear capability) and several other European Countries.
If you’re like me, this may come as a complete surprise. I keep up with the news coming out of Europe, and I’ve been reading that Germany just shut down their last three Nucs on Sunday. I assumed, incorrectly, as it turns out, that Germany represents the rest of Europe. Not so. As Germany took the most radical anti-nuclear stance in the world, shutting down all its plants, the rest of Europe is moving in the opposite direction, looking to expand their electric production from Nucs.
Tiny Finland, just north of Germany, vividly demonstrated this pro-nuclear stance. Also, on Sunday, the day Germany was closing its Nucs, Finland brought on its new plant at Olkiluoto. This giant plant is the second largest in the world, at peak production, putting out 1,600 Megawatts of power, or about 15% of Finland’s total need for Electricity. Most remarkable, the price of Electricity overnight dropped from 245 Euros per megawatt to just 75 Euros per megawatt. That’s a 75% reduction in the cost of Electricity for the country that is Europe’s highest electric consumer per capita.
There can be little doubt that this new power plant will be the beginning of an Energy Revolution for the fins. The modern economy is based on the consumption of power, and increasingly that power is in the form of Electricity. From our smartphones to our Electric Vehicles, there is an increasing reliance on all things electric. Today, almost all of us are connected to the grid. And not just those gadgets that we use every day. Also, advanced countries use electric power to move basic survival. For most of us, electric pumps supply the sewer and water systems we need. Even the natural gas we use for heating is pumped electrically.
Electricity has proven to be an inexpensive, reliable energy source to make modern life possible. Nuclear production of Electricity is among the most affordable and reliable methods currently in use. And that combination of reliable and inexpensive is critical. While wind and solar may be less expensive under certain circumstances, it is also less reliable, making some supplemental backup, like batteries, necessary for an entirely solar or wind project.
That, at least, is the thinking of the Finnish authorities and the 50 other countries that are now actively pursuing Nuclear Power. Although it may be almost impossible for those of us in Germany and America to believe: a Nuclear Power Revolution is beginning. More countries increasingly see nuclear as an incredibly inexpensive, relatively safe power source. Power can mean the difference between survival and death for modern societies. Because, after all, electric power provides the lifeline that so many need to exist. In today’s modern world, we are all reliant upon Electricity to one extent or another.
This weekend we were presented with the definitive test. Is Nuclear Power the long-term solution to our energy needs? Finland says yes, and Germany says no. Although we’re only at the beginning of this grand experiment, Finland is off to a good start, with lower electricity costs and a rising economy.
Follow me here on Medium for more stories on money and finance.