Powering Finn’s Land:  No Nukes Required

Nuclear power vs renewable energy in Finland

I have no idea what the badge says but Finn insisted on adding it.

During our 15th SolarQuotes vodcast filmed on Friday, Finn tried to get my goat by pointing out greenhouse gas emissions would be considerably higher without nuclear power.

Fortunately, my goat was agile and able to avoid his grasp because that sounds right to me.  Without nuclear power, emissions would be higher.

Seeing he wasn’t about to get a Ronald goat dinner that way, he changed tack and said he believed countries in the far north of Europe, such as Finland, would need nuclear power to get off fossil fuels because of long dark winters where the sun might only rise for a few hours a day.

This did manage to get a little bit of my goat.  Maybe just enough for a goat taco.  My gut feeling was, given the immense expense of new nuclear generation these days, even in Finland renewable energy should be cheaper than nuclear power.

But I didn’t argue with him because it was just a gut feeling.  I didn’t actually know.  My ability to not argue about something solely based on my feelings and being content to wait until I have real evidence is a superpower of mine.  Before the internet I didn’t realize this was a unique gift but now I know I walk a lonely road.

So I decided to look into whether or not it would be cheaper to use renewable energy than nuclear energy in Finland.  Or since he came from there — Finn’s Land.

Nuclear Power Makes No Sense In Australia

First I’ll state Finn and I are in 100% agreement that nuclear power is not economically viable in Australia.  Our renewable energy resources are so vast and the cost of wind and solar power so low, there’s no way it can pay here.

Helsinki’s Hellish Winter Solar Resources

Finn is right to be leery of solar power’s ability to power Finland.  It doesn’t look too bad if you compare the annual output of 1 kilowatt of optimally positioned solar panels in Sydney to Finland’s capital:

  • Sydney: 1,420 kilowatt-hours per year
  • Helsinki:  932 kilowatt-hours per year

That’s only one-third less, so it looks like it might only increase the cost of solar power by one-third, which isn’t too bad considering how cheap it has become.  But if we look at solar output during the worst month of the year we get:

  • Sydney:  May — 86 kilowatt-hours
  • Helsinki:  December — 4 kilowatt-hours

That is not a typo.  In the worst month the Helsinki solar panels will only produce 4.5% as much as in Sydney with an average output of only 0.13 kilowatt-per day.  The energy produced in the worst month as a percentage of what’s produced in the best month is:

  • Sydney:  May output compared to December — 61%
  • Helsinki:  December output compared to July — 2.8%

Clearly this makes powering Finland with solar power in the wintertime a difficult proposition.  It’s not very practical to store summertime solar energy for use in winter.  I suppose you could grow trees in the summertime and burn the wood in the winter, but how primitive would a country have to be to use wood as a major energy source?

The Cost Of Nuclear Power In Finland

I am going to look at the total likely cost for Finland to commission and build a new reactor right now or in the near future.  I’m not going to worry about what nuclear power may cost in 10, 20, or 50 years.  The best indicator should be what it costs to build a nuclear reactor in developed countries now or, better yet, how much Finland’s newest reactor costs.  Looking at their latest nuclear energy project, the 1.6 gigawatt Olkiluoto Reactor 3,  I see…


What a shit storm!

Construction started in 2005 and it’s still not finished1 14 years later.  It was supposed to enter operation in 2009 but now that doesn’t look like it will happen until 2020.

We don’t know how much it costs as figures have not been released.  We have an estimate of $13.7 billion from 2012 before it ran into a whole new set of cost overruns and delays.  A similar nuclear reactor was started in Flamanville, France in 2007 and it’s still not finished yet either.  It’s estimated cost is $17.6 billion.  As the Finnish Okiluoto reactor has taken even longer to build, its total cost may be even higher at around $20 billion.  As it is a 1.6 gigawatt reactor that would be $12,500 per kilowatt of power output.

If the reactor operates at an average of 90% capacity for 40 years then to get a 5% real return2 on a $20 billion dollar investment they would need to get 29 cents per kilowatt-hour produced.  They’ll also need extra on top of that to cover fuel, operations, maintenance, disposal, security and decommissioning.  I’ll be kind and say that only comes to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.  So to get a 5% return this nuclear reactor would have to sell its electricity at an average wholesale price of 32 cents per kilowatt-hour.

This is insane.

One good thing is the Finnish people are only on the hook for the original $4.8 billion that was budgeted.  But the companies involved might still go bust or claw some money back in court.  I wouldn’t know, I’m not a Finnish lawyer.  I don’t even know if they have lawyers in Finland.  Maybe they just settle everything with Viking fights.

Now I see why the Hinkley C reactor in the UK required a minimum payment of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money for its first 35 years of operation in order to go ahead.  The cost of modern nuclear power is absolutely nuts.  It’s nuttier than a knife wielding Mr Peanut bowling with the severed head of his defeated enemy.

Do not fuck with Mr Peanut. He will cut you.

Maybe the nuclear industry has learned from the disasters of the French Flamanville and Finnish Olkiluoto reactors and will be able to build another one for less, but after seeing what can go wrong would you offer to go round again for a significantly lower price?  Once all costs are included I think new nuclear power could cost Finland 20 cents per kilowatt-hour of wholesale electricity generated.  If I was being very optimistic I would say maybe they could get it for 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.  But even if fortune smiles on the Finns and they can get it for only 8 cents a kilowatt-hour, it still doesn’t look good compared to other options available.

Option 1:  Use Gas & Offset Emissions

Gas burned in a 50% efficient power plant in Europe will have a fuel cost right now of around 7.2 cents per kilowatt-hour and releases 370 grams of CO2.  It’s possible CO2 could be agriculturally removed from the atmosphere and sequestered for as little as $70 a tonne, but I will use a figure of $100 a tonne3.  That would come to 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour generated.  If we throw in another 2.5 cents to cover the relatively low cost of building, operating, and maintaining gas power stations it comes to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.  That’s equal to my optimistic estimate of the cost of new nuclear with the advantage that gas generation is a lot more flexible.

I’m not saying this is a sensible way to generate clean electricity, but if nuclear can’t beat this it clearly has serious problems.

Option 2:  A Long Extension Lead

The distance a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission line would need to be to reach from Finland to the following countries is very roughly:

  • Spain:  3,500 km
  • Tunisia:  3,100 km
  • Turkey:  3,000 km

Both Spain and Tunisia are sunnier, but Turkey is closest and the terrain on the way is a lot flatter, so I’ll consider building a transmission line from Finland to there.

Losses for a HVDC cable over 3,000 kilometers would be around 10%, so to provide as much power as a 1.6 gigawatt nuclear reactor its capacity would need to be 1.8 gigawatts.  An estimate for a 600 megawatt HVDC line from Robertstown in South Australia to Wagga Wagga is $655,000 per km.4  Tripling its capacity would not triple its cost, but I’ll assume it’s more expensive to build transmission lines in Europe and use a figure of $2 million per km; so a 3,000 km cable will cost $6 billion.

In reality all countries connected to the transmission line would be willing to contribute to its cost or at least pay to use it after it was built, but I’ll assume Europeans are really bad at building transmission lines and $6 billion is Finland’s share.

Assuming the transmission line does nothing but supply Finland with 1.6 gigawatts of power and they need a 5% return on their investment to build, operate and maintain it, it will cost 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour it supplies.

Wind power in Turkey is currently being built for under 5 cents per kilowatt-hour while, according to official figures, solar power is still expensive at around 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, but I expect its price will fall rapidly.  If Finland has to pay 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for renewable Turkish electricity, then after transmission losses it will be 5.5 cents.  Adding 2.1 cents for long distance transmission will bring it to 7.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  This is half the cost of my optimistic estimate of 15 cents for new nuclear.

Option 3:  Finnish Wind Power

The average price bid for new wind power in Finland in March this year was 4 cents per kilowatt-hour while the cheapest bid was 2 cents.  As its cost is still falling, home blown wind power should cost an average of under 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The wind doesn’t always blow when you want it.  But it does tend to blow more in winter in Finland, which is when the sun doesn’t really rise into the sky but instead stealths around behind clouds and hills for a few hours.  To cover shortfalls in wind output, energy storage such as pumped hydro and/or batteries or other sources of electricity will be required.  Looking at where Finland gets its electricity now I see it is:

  • Hydroelectricity — around 17%
  • Wood — around 13%

This has to make Finland the most wood powered developed nation in the world.  It mostly uses waste from their lumber and paper pulping industries.

This means Finland already gets around 30% of its electricity from dispatchable renewable energy resources that can ramp their power output up or down depending on how much wind power is being produced.  Their hydropower should be very flexible as it all comes from dams and not run of the river hydro, while wood power would, in general, be less able to respond to supply and demand.

Finland also currently gets around 25% of its electricity from nuclear energy, but this is very inflexible.  Because nuclear fuel is so cheap, running a reactor at half power costs almost as much as running it at full power — which is a lot.5

Unlike their neighbor, Norway, which is firmly wedged against Finland’s butt, around half of new cars sold this year won’t be electric.  But Finland does have more electric cars per capita than we do and they’re planning to get more.  If Finns could charge their electric cars for cheap when electricity demand is low and wind output is high — and vice versa — it should be a convenient way to accommodate large amounts of wind power.  Electric vehicles could also supply power to the grid when needed, but it’s not clear at the moment if that will be common.

But even if Finland has to build a large amount of expensive new energy storage and this doubles the cost of using electricity from wind, it will still only come to around half my optimistic estimate of the cost of nuclear power.  And the cost of renewables and energy storage are certain to continue to fall in price.

Option 4:  Reality

You’d think after the immense cost blowout of the new Olkiluoto nuclear reactor Finland wouldn’t want to touch nuclear power with a 10 kilometre exclusion zone.  But in 2010 they planned to build the 1.2 gigawatt Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Station.  After several years of delay it looks like construction will begin in 2021 and it is planned to be complete in 2028.

On the bright side, it’s a Russian design that may be less likely to explode in cost like the Olkiluoto and Flamanville nuclear reactors.  But even if everything goes to plan — and I’m willing to take bets it won’t — its electricity will cost around 8 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money.  That’s double the current cost of Finnish wind and at best it will be 9 years before it’s supplied.  By then renewable energy and storage will cost much less.  The Hinkley C reactor in Wales will get a minimum of around 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, so it will be interesting to see if the Russian design can come in at 40% of that.  It will make the Brits look super stupid if it does.

Since construction hasn’t started yet I definitely think it would be a good idea to cancel the nuclear reactor, but at the moment Finland is giving the impression it’s going ahead.  Regardless of if it gets built or not, Finland’s international electricity transmission capacity will increase, as is happening throughout Europe.  They will also expand wind generation which currently provides around 7% of their electricity.

Will Nuclear Power Get Cheaper?

Nuclear power may get cheaper in the future.  After all, it’s hard to see how it could become more expensive than the cost of the small number of reactors currently under construction in the developed world.  But I don’t see it ever becoming competitive with renewable energy, even in countries with long dark winters.

While nuclear power is super pricey now, it has never been cheap.  You may hear examples of low cost nuclear power touted, but those are successful projects and if it was possible to tell if a project will successfully remain in budget before it starts then there would be no such thing as cost overruns.

Also, many costs are often left out of estimates.  These can include insurance6 waste disposal, decommissioning, real costs of capital, and increased need for spinning reserve capacity to cope with a large reactor going offline.

This means there is no magic way to suddenly make nuclear power competitive with renewable energy.  While new technological developments could lower its cost, if nuclear power is going to be a significant source of energy in the future, someone is going to have to build and operate a reactor that can beat renewables on total cost.  And I don’t see that happening given how cheap renewable energy is.


  1. Or maybe I should say it’s not “Finnished”?
  2. This is not a high figure as EDF uses a 9% figure for cost of capital for the Hinkley C reactor in the UK.
  3. This would generally involve sequestering carbon in agricultural waste.
  4. Page 5 in this report.
  5. This means a reactor that shuts down costs its owners almost as much as one that operates normally.  Sure, they could save money by sacking the workers, but if it’s not properly maintained it will eventually turn into a very large and very expensive to get rid of lawn ornament.
  6. While a modern nuclear reactor is very unlikely to release dangerous amounts of radioactivity into the environment, they should still be insured and if they aren’t insured the cost doesn’t disappear, it just gets pushed onto society.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.


  1. If each of Australia’s 2 million or so home solar installations were valued at $5000, the total would exceed $10 billion. The result is perhaps a 20 year, 2% (fair weather ) contribution to the >250,000GWh annual generation.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Keep in mind rooftop solar displaces grid electricity that can cost 30 cents or more. This makes it a very good investment for almost anyone with an unshaded roof. Of course, the average household won’t see the 9% return on capital EDF will get for the Hinkley C reactor, but we can’t all get our dosh from British households.

  2. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Ronald

    I wonder if you are comparing apples with oranges – surely Finland and the UK (and others) must have some rationale for building nuclear?
    Perhaps you need to include storage costs for intermittent sources?
    I do know that nuclear produces absolutely PRODIGIOUS quantities of energy – also, Hinckley C has a design life of 60 years, not 40.
    Interestingly, the UK recently achieved 100 days of operation, without burning any coal in power stations. How did they do this?
    1. Just over 5% from PV (small)
    2. Just over 5% from wind (small)
    3. About 20% from nuclear.
    4. About 59% from Natural gas (huge)

    I’m not sure if they sequestered the CO2 after burning that much gas, but at least is cleaner and less polluting than coal.

    My question to you is, how are they going to take natural gas out of the equation (and its attendant CO2 contribution)? Add 20 times as much intermittent renewables, and gazillions of dollars worth of batteries (that will need to be 100% replaced every 10 years or so)?
    Put in massive transmission lines to Spain (then, how do they ensure security of supply)? Interestingly, Europe has reportedly lost millions of dollars of renewable opportunity, due to curtailment – their grid was designed for concentrated point sources of generation, and is not working very well with distributed renewable supplies. It will need a massive upgrade – more costs that should be attributed to renewables.
    I’m not saying we should go the nuclear route, or should not be going for more intermittent renewables. But, I do think it is disingenuous to ignore the true, total cost of implementation of any given technology.
    I suspect professionals in Finland and the UK have done their homework?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      If the Finns only have to pay the original $4.8 billion for Olkiluoto reactor 3 that’s not too bad as it’s not that much worse than for seaborne coal and a hell of a lot better for the environment and it was planned before the massive fall in costs of renewables. But the 20 cents for Hinkley C is just nuts and professionals in the UK at the time demonstrated it was nuts and they were ignored. I presume it was the British version of the Abbott government and Morrison waving his lump of coal around in Parliament.

  3. At present 100 new nuclear power station are being built right now with 300 more on the drawing board.

    It takes 60 Months from start to finish to build a nuclear power station.
    Why would so many countries continue to build them if it wasen’t economic?
    Just wonder-

    I love my solar panels and hot water heater but millions of us are living in apartments with no change of installing solar panels.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Paul

      Where did you get that information from? Currently there are 13 new nuclear power stations under construction and total of 57 nuclear reactors for electricity generation under construction at new and existing sites. The information is here:


      • Hi Ronald
        The information was obtained from –World Nuclear Association–

        Nuclear plant construction 
        at present we have 450 operating worldwide

        Over 100 power reactors with a total gross capacity of about 120,000 MWe are on order or planned, and over 300 more are proposed. Most reactors currently planned are in the Asian region, with fast-growing economies and rapidly-rising electricity demand.

        Many countries with existing nuclear power programmes either have plans to, or are building, new power reactors. Every country worldwide that has operating nuclear power plants, or plants under construction, has a dedicated country profile in the Information Library.

        About 30 countries are considering, planning or starting nuclear power programmes (see information paper on Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries).

        • Ronald Brakels says

          On order or planned is different from under construction, but thanks for the information.

          What will determine if nuclear power plants will continue to be built is the cost of electricity from them can compete with renewables. Do you have any estimates for the total per kilowatt-hour cost of electricity from new reactors in developed countries?

          • Hi Ronald
            No I dont have any estimates for the total per Kw-Hour cost from new reactors
            My time is better spend getting the weed out of my garden than looking that up

          • Lazard’s 2018 report:
            • New nuclear: US$112‒189 / MWh (up from US$92‒132 in 2014)
            • Wind: US$29‒56 (US$37‒81 in 2014),
            • Utility-scale solar: US$36‒46 (US$72‒86 in 2014).
            • Natural-gas combined-cycle plant: US$41‒74 for a (US$61‒87 in 2014)
            • Nuclear construction costs US$6.5‒12.5 million per megawatt (US$5.4‒8.3 million in 2014)
            btw here’s a summary of developments with small modular reactors

          • According to http://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/what-we-do/the-harmony-programme.aspx they seem to think the LCOE of Nuclear is about $50-$100 per MWh and solar is about $100-$190 per MWh.

            Sounds to me like wishful thinking by a nuclear association. Ahh, aparently the figures are from “Projected Costs of Generating Electricity – 2015 Edition, International Energy Agency and OECD Nuclear Energy Agency”. Any figures on the cost of Solar and Wind from 2015 are going to be woefully out of date and too expensive.

            I’m perfectly happy for there to be nuclear power, but like Ronald, I’m pretty skeptical of its future (or even current) financial viability, but if countries or power companies want to spend their money on it then it is low-carbon energy, so I’ll keep me happy.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Hi Jim

          I noticed your Lazard’s reference doesn’t include costs of, and energy losses for storage – batteries and pumped hydro.

          It seems the plan is to use Natural Gas peaking plants to cover intermittency – cheaper than other options, but still produces CO2, so not really a sustainable solution.

    • Geoff Miell says

      You say:

      “It takes 60 Months from start to finish to build a nuclear power station.”

      That appears to be the absolute best case. A 2011 International Nuclear Atlantic Conference – INAC 2011 paper abstract says:

      “The cost of electricity generated by nuclear power is greatly affected by the capital cost, which is dependent on the construction time of the plant. This work analyses the construction time of PWRs in several countries with different market structure and licensing experience. Countries which succeeded to establish a more collaborative environment among utilities, constructors, regulators, and energy planners through effective partnerships were able to build PWRs in shorter times. The construction time in Germany, France and Russia was around 80 months and in Japan, about 60 months. The envelope of 95% of the cases includes a range between 50 and 250 months of construction time. The evaluations show that construction time of PWRs has been longer for countries that did not hold the technology to build their own reactors, and depended on contracts with foreign suppliers. The nominal power of the reactors was considered a measure of plant size, technology complexity and standardization. Countries with standardized reactor designs (France, Japan and Russia) were able to build
      plants in shorter times.”

      And under the heading “3. Construction time of PWRs” it included:

      “The average construction time of nuclear power plants between 1976 and 2009 was 92 months or 7.7 years with a maximum of 10 years between 1996 and 2000.”

      See: https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/42/105/42105221.pdf

      Then add in the approval process times and the nuclear option cannot be considered a timely technology to provide rapid, effective mitigation for dangerous climate change. Uranium and thorium are finite resources, thus they are not long-term sustainable, and there’s the high-level waste problem that will be imposed on multiple generations to come.
      See my comment: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/fuel-efficiency-standards/#comment-438325

      Ian Dunlop’s op-ed (referred in my linked comment) includes:

      “To stay below 2°C, global emissions must peak now and be reduced by around 7% annually, something no country has ever achieved. The lower 1.5°C Paris target requires even more rapid reduction. Meanwhile, emissions rise in line with worst case scenarios.”

      Renewables are cheaper, quicker to deploy, reliable (with adequate energy storage and robust interconnectors), safer/lower-risk, long-term sustainable, and without the ultra-long-term waste problem.

  4. Hi, wondering if someone could advise if this summary from Peter Farley, a fellow of the Australian Institution of Engineers, is broadly accurate. The nuclear figure is accurate, not sure about the others. Peter writes: “As for nuclear the 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage. … For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000 MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries. … That is why nuclear is irrelevant in Australia. It has nothing to do with greenies, it’s just about cost and reliability.”

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Jim

      As a ballpark figure that’s about correct. Especially considering the new Vogtle reactors won’t come online for 2 and 3 years.

      • Thanks Ronald! Here’s the recent experience with nuclear power in north America and western Europe:
        — V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (2 x AP1000 reactors) abandoned after expenditure of at least A$12.8 billion. Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy and parent company Toshiba almost went bankrupt as well. Westinghouse and Toshiba have joined the growing number of companies that will no longer take on the risks of large reactor construction projects.
        — Vogtle project in US state of Georgia (2 x AP1000 reactors): cost estimate has doubled to A$40 billion and will increase further, and the project might yet be abandoned.
        — UK: 3 of 6 proposed reactor projects have been abandoned (Moorside, Wylfa, Oldbury), two remain in limbo and Hinkley Point C is proceeding at an estimated cost of A$40 billion for two EPR reactors. Lifetimes subsidies estimated at £30‒50+ billion for Hinkley Point.
        — UK Wylfa (Wales) project: Hitachi abandoned the project despite offers from UK government to take a one third equity stake in the project; to consider providing all of the required debt financing; and to consider providing a Contract for Difference to the project with a strike price expected to be about £75 per megawatt hour.
        — France and Finland – EPR reactors, nearly 10 years behind schedule, 3 times over-budget, latest estimates A$16‒20 billion for each reactor.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Well, if you can REALLY buy all of the wind, solar, pumped hydro, and batteries for the same amount as the Vogtle’s US$30 billion, things look more than rosy.

        My calculations using a 33% capacity factor for wind (on the day I looked, it was closer to 22% – but the writers stated that 30-35% was more normal):
        Used 20% factor for rooftop PV, as my own installation is well placed, and in a good Zone and gets 18% – is probably above average.
        Used 35% estimate for tracking solar – as it cannot really work at night, not much just after dawn and before dusk, and clouds will sometimes intervene.
        I’ve allowed for 45% of the energy produced to then do a return trip through the pumped hydro and battery storage, with a 15% loss amounting to 458 MW of loss (you could use a different figure, at your discretion – but these would often be used at nightime or in poor weather, when wind may shut down due to excessive windspeed – but won’t change the outcome much).

        So, my calculations suggest an actual average of 6,325 MW from the alternative system – I’m assuming there will be enough storage, but feel this may be a little marginal at times – I guess the “mix” could be re-jigged.

        Compared to 1,980 MW nuclear – sounds like a slam-dunk.

        All depends if you can REALLY buy all the systems for an equivalent price.
        And, we will continue to burn toxic coal until it is all in place?

    • Ian Thompson says


      Jim – we’ve been sold a pup.

      The result of my calculations using the Votgle cost seemed too good to be true – here was me wondering if Peter Farley’s purchase of all that renewables could REALLY be done for the cost of Votgle – but now I see units 1 & 2 started running in 1989 at a cost of US$8.87 billion – which is a lot less than $34 billion.
      He is talking about the cost for planned units 3 & 4, which has certainly had it’s share of (financial) problems – so is more likely an “outlier”.
      Olkiluota cost $4.8 billion for units 1 & 2 (1,770 MW), so very much less than Votgle.
      So – I don’t think you’d really have the money to buy so much on the list.

      Also – with 24,000 MW of generating capacity, I don’t think a total of 10,000 MW of storage is anywhere near enough to cover a few cloudy days and long term lower-than-average wind speeds. c.f. home systems might use 12 kWhr for a 5 kW PV system.

      So, I don’t think the comparison should be made, between an outlier cost, and a system that is below par.

  5. Should be mentioned that the Olkiluoto EPR reactor is a First-Of-A-Kind (FOAK) build, so of course it will have cost/time overruns. The third to be built cost $7.5B and is already complete.

    High costs and long lead times are commonplace for FOAKs, and they often apply to all energy generation types (including solar).

  6. “My ability to not argue about something solely based on my feelings and being content to wait until I have real evidence is a superpower of mine.”

    It really, really, is!

  7. Des Scahill says

    Even just mining radioactive materials, let alone refining them then using them for other purposes has huge risks as this 2013 article in the SMH shows:


    An estimated 1.4 million litres of radioactive slurry burst the mine’s Leach Tank 1 and spilled out.

    The Ranger mine, operated by Energy Resources Australia (ERA) in the middle of Kakadu National Park at the time already had a history of 120 spills.

    We don’t seem to have learned anything at all from such events. There’s still unresolved ‘debate’ going on about storing the world’s nuclear waste in the outback and getting paid for doing so, or centralizing all of Australia’s radioactive waste at facilities located in suburbs of Sydney.

    The reason why anyone would even bother to talk about using ‘nuclear’ generation of electricity and torturing basic principles of accounting and commonsense until those confess that it makes sense to do so completely escapes me.

    The only conclusion I can reach is that at some unknown time in the past, all the lunatics escaped from their various aslyums, donned white coats to pose a ‘doctors of problem solving’ and are now secretly running the place, with world domination as their ultimate goal. There does seem to be strong circumstantial evidence on TV just at the moment that the early victims of this conspiratorial plot are around.

    Also of some interest is at 2015 study by Duke University in the USA which you can find here: https://phys.org/news/2015-09-radioactive-contaminants-coal-ash.html which I’ll quote from:

    “A new Duke University-led study has revealed the presence of radioactive contaminants in coal ash from all three major U.S. coal-producing basins.

    The study found that levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil, and up to 10 times higher than in the parent coal itself because of the way combustion concentrates radioactivity.”found that levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil, and up to 10 times higher than in the parent coal itself because of the way combustion concentrates radioactivity.”

    The same article mentions in passing the other known contaminants in coal such as selenium, lead, and arsenic

    • Ian Thompson says

      Nasty – but, no-one died! The death rate figures for nuclear – which include mining and processing, and waste disposal – are 0.04 deaths per terrawatt-hour of energy produced.
      Solar – 0.4 deaths, a factor of 10 more (I’ve said 100 before – my bad)
      Wind – 0.15 deaths, a better factor of 3.75 greater than nuclear.
      Coal – 161 deaths per terrawatt-hour, over 4,000 times more than nuclear, and we are still using it!

      I think the safety argument against nuclear is specious – it is the safest technology there is for producing power.
      I think “the long time to construct” is also specious – if economically viable, government should have committed 10-15 years ago, when we would now be largely carbon free – but the Greens hijacked this opportunity.
      However, the economic argument is far more real – if nuclear is really uneconomic, then we have to decide if we pay anyway in order to lower carbon emissions, or otherwise feel certain renewables can be implemented in a sufficiently short time-frame, and at a low enough cost – it’s that simple.

  8. The flies in the ointment are: waste disposal and accidents.

    When I was living in the UK 20 years ago I read an item in the Observer that waste from Windscale was being stored in drums, some outside, others in tin sheds, that were beginning to show signs of deterioration. Scientists were worried that a runaway reaction may occur. How is waste sequestered safely and cheaply, certainly not in drums at the bottom of the ocean as has happened ?

    Look at Fukushima. A complete disaster for Japan not that the Japanese govt. will ever admit it. And that is only one example. You can be sure that in the future there will be more catastrophes of this magnitude. Humans are greedy, well the ones that are on the gravy train when it comes to nuclear power, and have an unerring ability for laziness and cutting corners when critical procedures need to be observed.

    • Ian Thompson says

      Hi David

      Are you sure you’ve got your facts accurate?

      The 2011 disaster in Japan was the Tsunami that killed 20,000 people – and also resulted in causing the Fukushima reactor melt-down.

      The Fukushima disaster has resulted in great disruption, no doubt, but only 1 death. Hell, the 737 Max8 crashes killed 346 people! Are you now going to suggest we ban air travel? Even Chernobyl only had 38 deaths – but this was barely a Commercial reactor (more a military one). Noone died in the Three Mile Island accidental radioactive gas release in the USA.

      The data I have is that the fatality rate for Nuclear – INCLUDING the mining of uranium, refining, and decommissioning – is 0.04 deaths per terrawatt-hour of electicity produced. Whereas, the Solar PV death rate is 0.4 deaths per terrawatt-hour of energy produced – some 100 times greater than nuclear.
      (Or, nuclear is 100 times safer than Solar).

      I don’t know why the rate for Solar is so high – perhaps it is because you’d need about 50,000,000 panels to replace the energy production of only 1 decent 3 GW nuclear plant (you can calculate this out yourself) – so the risks of falling off roof accidents and electrocution are so much increased.

      Coal is the thing we should be getting rid of – death rate 161 deaths per terrawatt-hour – even if this means going nuclear – which will also largely eliminate CO2 production. Finn is correct!

      Mercury has been detected in mother’s milk in the USA – getting there from the fallout of burning coal. Mercury has been implicated in the reduced intellectual development of children in the USA.

  9. Jack Watson says

    I note you didn’t do a comparison on the basis of windpower between Finland and Oz.

  10. Jack Watson says

    ps… The key being the NON-storage of power requirement.

  11. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Jack
    I’m not following your point?

    Wind shows hugh daily, seasonal, and annual variation over massive geographical areas – so using wind, how would you plan to avoid storage requirements?

    Finland has access to large dispatchable power sources – hydro-energy – can’t really compare with much of Oz?

  12. This is in part about national security and gaining energy supply independence in an uncertain energy world so the more options we have the better. Energy supply across hostile borders would be a significant subtle weakness in case of hostilities as the Nazis found out in WW2.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Distributed wind and solar would certainly be a lot safer from enemy attack than nuclear concentrated in a couple of locations.

  13. Ernie Elliott says

    Hi guys, just thinking outside the box, how much research is done into tidal generation? After all, for renewable energy, it would have to be the most reliable source, with two low tides and two high tides each and every day. How difficult is it to produce? Especially since there are such huge tidal differences there.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Tidal energy is much more expensive than wind with optimistic estimates generally being at least 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. Part of the reason is because the marine environment is hard on machinery. But if conditions in Finland are naturally suitable maybe it would make sense for it to be part of the mix.

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