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We're supposed to believe that nuclear is too scary to build, but how many people do you know that are genuinely living in fear of nuclear power?

Let's be honest, if anyone's truly scared of nuclear power, they're probably not the kind of person you need to listen to anyway.

Just pat them on the head, patronisingly tell them that everything's going to be OK, make your excuses and leave.

Seriously though, nuclear power's just one of those things we don't really need to know/care about.

Most people are clueless about how much of the electricity that literally powers our lives is generated by nuclear sources. It's all insanely complex. Once you start throwing intra-continental inter-connectors into the mix, who really knows where the last few kW came from anyway?

More importantly, who cares? We pay the electric companies to provide electricity. The rest is their problem.

Unfortunately, energy policy has been driven by governments of late. Governments don't really understand the energy sector, and in some cases, are heavily influenced by activist groups.

'Activist' is the opposite of 'expert'

This toxic mix leaves us all especially vulnerable to shocks caused by things like the Russia/Ukraine gas price spike or the deep freeze that hit Texas in 2021.

Tempting as it is to claim that nuclear fixes this, it's just not that simple.

But the argument for nuclear being involved as a primary source of electricity is unquestionable. Especially if we're looking for lower carbon sources of base power.

This podcast is a fantastic listen on the nuclear topic πŸ‘‡

Mark Nelson β€” Nuclear Power: Change the Memes, Change the Future (EP.144)
Mark Nelson is the Managing Director of Radiant Energy Group, a consultancy which advises governments, nonprofits and industry about nuclear energy. He j…

It occurred to me while listening that maybe the nuclear 'problem' isn't really about fear these days.

See, everyone's heard about the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, but it's unclear precisely how many people died because of it. Beyond the 'official' death tolls of 31 or 50 (depends who you ask) there have been multiple studies and spins to try and quantify the 'true' number of people affected by the fallout.

Buried at the end of that BBC article is this little nugget πŸ‘‡

Three engineers who volunteered to drain millions of gallons of water from tanks beneath the burning reactor in the days immediately after the explosion waded through highly radioactive water and debris to reach the release valves. Their heroics are one of the most dramatic moments in HBO’s recent dramatisation of the disaster.
Astonishingly, two of the three men are still alive despite having minimal protection from the radiation during their mission. The third man, Borys Baranov, survived until 2005.

Since Chernobyl, how many disasters have there been? Not many, and very few fatalities. Much like the aviation industry, lessons have been learnt, safety procedures massively upgraded.

Oh, and Chernobyl didn't even shut down for that long. It re-opened the same year and kept going until 2000... From the IL transcript πŸ‘‡

Mark Nelson: But then the plant kept operating, it kept operating for 14 years. The plant made more electricity the year after the blast than it did of the blast.
Made more the year after that, made more the year after that. It kept setting plant efficiency records. And when it was finally shut down in year 2000, workers were quite upset that the best jobs available were being taken.
And those who had some emotional connection to the plant were saying, why would you shut down this one? This type of reactor's in operation around Eastern Europe and European Russia, and you were not shutting down those. Why would we shut down ours, which has had the most number of safety upgrades based on our learning experience from the disaster?
So Jim, right there, I've had smart, young, physics educated, anti-nuclear people convert to being pro-nuclear on the spot when I replaced the Chernobyl meme with Chernobyl kept operating and was shut down by European Union cash payouts' meme.

Yep. The EU got involved πŸ‘‡

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) established the Chernobyl Shelter Fund in 1997 to support Ukraine in developing a site for temporary shelter over the destroyed Reactor 4 to make it safe and stable.
The fund received more than €1.6bn ($1.9bn) from 45 donors and was closed in late 2020. It helped to support the decommissioning work at the site.

And if you were one of those former Eastern bloc countries still running nuclear plants based on the RBMK design (irrespective of upgrades), you weren't allowed to join the EU unless you promised to decommission them.

Now, we've gone full circle. Czechia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia have formed a nuclear alliance with France to push for greater nuclear investment.

Nine EU countries join France in a nuclear alliance

So, if we've moved on from fear of disasters as a decision driver, and it's obvious that nuclear is an excellent low carbon fuel source, and we know that renewables aren't reliable enough without an energy storage revolution... Why isn't nuclear power already the dominant power source?

Time is money

From a political perspective, autocrats have one big advantage. They can implement long-term plans, still be around to see the benefits, point at the success and say "I did that".

Democratically-elected governments don't have that luxury. Short term popularity policies are far easier to pass.

The 'recently announced' Sizewell C nuclear plant has been in the UK pipeline since 2010!

And there are still no guarantees that the remainder of the funding will be available. As with many nuclear projects, the payoff cycle is insanely long and comes with no guarantees. Hinckley Point C construction began in 2018 and isn't expected to start generating electricity until June 2026.

Who wants to invest in such a long-term project?

This is precisely the kind of investment that governments need to involve themselves in, and as a pure capitalist (the proper one, not the crony one) I don't say that lightly. The penny seems to be dropping in the UK & EU πŸ‘‡

The UK government should urgently launch a fully-funded Great British Nuclear (GBN) programme to tackle the country's energy crisis, according to an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak from a trade union, nuclear industry representatives and a group of politicians.

If it's not a question of fear, and governments are coming around to the idea of bridging the financing gap to 'grease the wheels' and incentivise long term investments, are we (finally) on the brink of a nuclear revolution?