A Free-Market Energy Blog

No to New Nuclear: January 25, 2022, Statement

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 9, 2022

“Funny thing, nuclear opponents turn free market when they complain that the technology is too expensive. And they double their double-standard when it is complained that new nuclear is too dependent on government subsidies to be sustainable.”

The debate over the role of nuclear power is running hot. But from a climate alarmists’ perspective, is nuclear the answer or a false solution?

A recent entry in the squabble comes from four nuclear-related specialists [1], which was published by POWER magazine, “Former Nuclear Leaders: Say ‘No’ to New Reactors.”

Free Market View

Before delving into the “No” statement, a classical liberal view of nuclear power in the energy mix can be presented.

From a technological perspective, nuclear power is the one scalable option for mass zero-carbon emissions. But nuclear is the most complicated, expensive, and fraught (these all go together) method of boiling water to generate steam to generate electricity. The technology has long been prone to construction delays and cost overruns.

Many free market advocates give nuclear a pass by complaining that it is regulation that makes nuclear expensive and slow to build. But nuclear projects around the world under a variety of regulatory regimes provide data that such capacity is ultra-expensive, not just expensive. And there is question whether new capacity can be built without special government preferences, including government-limited insurance.


Funny thing, nuclear opponents turn free market when they complain that the technology is too expensive. And they double their double-standard when it is complained that new nuclear is too dependent on government subsidies to be sustainable.

Aren’t these two issues exactly what is the problem of wind and solar and electric vehicles? And on the matter of scale, can wind and solar begin to compare to what nuclear can generate on a firm, long-lived basis?

Color me suspicious.

Just Say No

The Say ‘No’ to New Reactors statement follows:

The climate is running hot. Evolving knowledge of climate sensitivity and polar ice melt-rate makes clear that sea-level rise is ramping, along with destructive storm, storm surge, severe precipitation and flooding, not forgetting wildfire. With mounting concern and recognition over the speed and pace of the low carbon energy transition that’s needed, nuclear has been reframed as a partial response to the threat of global heating. But at the heart of this are questions about whether nuclear could help with the climate crisis, whether nuclear is economically viable, what are the consequences of nuclear accidents, what to do with the waste, and whether there’s a place for nuclear within the swiftly expanding renewable energy evolution.

As key experts who have worked on the front-line of the nuclear issue, we’ve all involved at the highest governmental nuclear regulatory and radiation protection levels in the US, Germany, France and UK. In this context, we consider it our collective responsibility to comment on the main issue: Whether nuclear could play a significant role as a strategy against climate change.

The central message, repeated again and again, that a new generation of nuclear will be clean, safe, smart and cheap, is fiction. The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm. Nuclear isn’t cheap, but extremely costly. Perhaps most importantly nuclear is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change. To make a relevant contribution to global power generation, up to more than ten thousand new reactors would be required, depending on reactor design.”

The specific drawbacks of nuclear are then outlined:

In short, nuclear as strategy against climate change is:

  • Too costly in absolute terms to make a relevant contribution to global power production
  • More expensive than renewable energy in terms of energy production and CO2 mitigation, even taking into account costs of grid management tools like energy storage associated with renewables rollout.
  • Too costly and risky for financial market investment, and therefore dependent on very large public subsidies and loan guarantees.
  • Unsustainable due to the unresolved problem of very long-lived radioactive waste.
  • Financially unsustainable as no economic institution is prepared to insure against the full potential cost, environmental and human impacts of accidental radiation release – with the majority of those very significant costs being borne by the public.
  • Militarily hazardous since newly promoted reactor designs increase the risk of  nuclear weapons proliferation.
  • Inherently risky due to unavoidable cascading accidents from human error, internal faults, and external impacts; vulnerability to climate-driven sea-level rise, storm, storm surge, inundation and flooding hazard, resulting in international economic impacts.
  • Subject to too many unresolved technical and safety problems associated with newer unproven concepts, including ‘Advanced’ and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).
  • Too unwieldy and complex to create an efficient industrial regime for reactor construction and operation processes within the intended build-time and scope needed for climate change mitigation.
  • Unlikely to make a relevant contribution to necessary climate change mitigation needed by the 2030’s due to nuclear’s impracticably lengthy development and construction time-lines, and the overwhelming construction costs of the very great volume of reactors that would be needed to make a difference.


[1] The specialists are:

  • Dr. Greg Jaczko, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and founder of Maxean, an energy company.
  • Prof. Wolfgang Renneberg, a university professor and former Head of the Reactor Safety, Radiation Protection and Nuclear Waste, Federal Environment Ministry, Germany.
  • Dr. Bernard Laponche, a French engineer and author, and former Director General, French Agency for Energy Management, former Advisor to French Minister of Environment, Energy and Nuclear Safety.
  • Dr. Paul Dorfman, an associate fellow and researcher at the University of Sussex, and former Secretary UK Govt. Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters.


  1. Denis Rushworth  

    Jazko was an anti-nuclear activist when appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005 by President Bush and remained an anti-nuclear activist when appointed to chair the Commission in 2008 by President Obama. The Vogtle plant is about 100 miles from the ocean at an altitude of about 300 feet above sea level. That Jazko opposed it based on the tsunami that struck the seaside Fukushima plant is typical of the inanity that typified his time with the Commission.


  2. ConnGator  

    Interesting that France can get 70% of their energy from nuclear, and Switzerland close to 100%. They certainly don’t think it’s too expensive, risky, or dumb.

    Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was created in 1974 the number of new nuclear plants that have broken ground in America is zero. Coincidence?


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