What Happened to Nuclear Power in the US?

Falling electricity demand and the energy glut!

The Fukushima meltdown, the consequences it produced in Japan, the contamination it’s spreading around, the expenses of trying to contain it… none of these issues turned Americans against nuclear power. But now, cheap energy and declining demand for electricity have accomplished that.

In 2011, “a few days before” Fukushima melted down, when Gallup conducted its annual Environment poll, 38% of Americans were against nuclear energy, and 57% were in favor of it. A year later, with the Fukushima disaster in the news on a daily basis? Against nuclear power: 40%; in favor: 57% – unchanged from before the fiasco.

But the in-favor levels of both years were already down from peak popularity of nuclear power in the survey’s history going back to 1994. In 2010, 62% of Americans were in favor of nuclear power. The question Gallup asked:

“Overall do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S.”

Now, for the first time in the poll’s history, a majority of Americans (54%) opposes nuclear power, a big jump from 43% a year ago, and a massive move from 33% in 2010. Those who favor nuclear power dropped to 44%, from 51% a year ago:


So what had happened by 2010 to cause this?

In the US, the fracking revolution set off surging production of natural gas. By 2008, prices began to collapse. In late February and early March this year, natural gas was trading on the NYMEX at lows not seen since 1998!

The price of natural gas has caused the price of coal to crash, both of which are dominant fuels for electrical power generation in the US, each providing over 30% of the total. Generators, able to dispatch electricity generation to power plants that burn the other fuel, can force both fuels to compete with each other.

With prices of the main fuels for power generation in collapse, the sense of an energy shortage has disappeared and moved electricity off the priority list. Gallup:

And although there have not been any major nuclear incidents since Fukushima in 2011, a majority of U.S. adults now oppose nuclear energy. This suggests that energy prices and the perceived abundance of energy sources are the most relevant factors in attitudes toward nuclear power, rather than safety concerns prompted by nuclear incidents.

Then there’s the cost of gasoline, which has plunged since 2014. Suddenly there’s some room for environmental concerns. Gallup:

Lower gasoline prices over the past year are likely driving greater opposition toward the use of nuclear power. As Americans have paid less at the pump, their level of worry about the nation’s energy situation has dropped to 15-year-low levels. This appears to have resulted in more Americans prioritizing environmental protection and fewer backing nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

This has played out across the political spectrum. Among Republicans, the percentage in favor of nuclear power had reached 76% back in 2009. It dropped to 68% last year and plunged 15 percentage points to 53% now!  That’s a huge move.

Among Independents, those favoring nuclear power has inched down from 48% last year to 46% now. And the percentage of Democrats favoring nuclear power dropped from 54% in 2009 to 42% last year, and dropped another 8 points to 34% now.

Gallup’s “bottom line” is that lower gas prices seem “to have lessened Americans’ perceptions that energy sources such as nuclear power are needed.

The increased opposition to nuclear power does not seem to result from a fear of it, as there have been no major nuclear disasters anywhere in the world since 2011.

Nuclear power plants are expensive to build, often costing billions upfront, although they require relatively low maintenance costs once they are running. And nuclear energy has lower greenhouse gas emissions than other power sources, especially coal, so it is considered a clean provider of electricity.

Still, nuclear energy is a bet that the cost over time of coal or natural gas to power an electric plant will be higher than the upfront cost of building a nuclear reactor. And at a time when oil prices are low, it seems Americans are not in favor of making that bet.

The paradise of cheap energy has some consequences.

Low prices are currently toppling coal miners and natural-gas drillers alike, with some of the smaller ones already in bankruptcy and the larger ones approaching it. On Wednesday, Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal miner, warned it might be next.

In the restructuring process, these companies are cutting capital expenditures even more than they have already, because funding has dried up. And over time, as both industries collapse, production will taper off and prices will rise to survivable levels, which might be several times as high as today. As they’re getting hit in their bank accounts, Americans might change their minds.

Or they might not: Last year, electricity demand in the US fell from a year earlier for the first time since the Financial Crisis, dragged down by residential and industrial demand.


The chart from the EIA shows how electricity generation went from a vibrant industry with growth rates between 4% and 6% in 1975 to a no-growth or slow-decline morass. And that just doesn’t leave a lot of economic room for building ultra-expensive, controversial nuclear power plants, simply from a supply-and-demand perspective. And Americans might have gotten the drift.

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  51 comments for “What Happened to Nuclear Power in the US?

  1. william says:

    I saw a stat a few years back that large datacenters and telecom were 8-10% of the electricity consumption. And now increasingly, large IT companies are producing their own electricity: solar, wind or hydro. The established utilities are losing this revenue source. Plus with one third of the U.S. counties losing population, residential consumption will not make up for it.

    • CrazyCooter says:

      Vertical integration at its finest.

      When I moved to AK, I stayed with a friend in San Franicisco for a couple of days on the trip up here. He had a buddy that worked at Google and got me a tour. I forget the precise team the guy worked for, but I think it was somewhere along the lines of “I manage the team that provides the storage for search phrases” (i.e. they save every search phrase). The most curious thing he said during the whole tour:

      “I buy storage by the mega-watt”.

      To be clear, they don’t cost/structure storage purchases by actual bytes, such as MegaByte, but by the amount of power it takes to use the storage – which means electricity is the biggest cost factor – not the drives.

      Few humans truly appreciate what is happening in big data. If you find it all confusing, but also worrying, just pay in cash as much as possible, delete your email after reading it (and then empty your email accounts “trash”), avoid the cloud at all costs, and get a dumb clam phone (or if you have to have a smart phone – I like BlackBerry as I loathe Andriod and IOs anymore – and encrypt everything).

      But, then again, I am “crazy”. :-)



      • Jerry Bear says:

        by trying so hard to avoid scrutiny you are making yourself conspicuous to the forces of darkness.

    • Petunia says:

      Large IT companies should relocate to places that have long cold winters which would cut their electricity costs by a lot. Most of the cost is in the AC and they wouldn’t need any most of the year. Every time I see a story on Detroit, I think they are missing a huge opportunity to recreate themselves as the high tech data center of America. They have the space, infrastructure, and weather. Every time I see a data center going to a southern city I just cringe.

  2. CrazyCooter says:

    I have always looked this problem on long time horizons and it has always been worrisome (i.e. I want a flushing s**ter when I am 80). While we may be seeing collapses in production, it is relative to the over-production stimulated by free money (or the long decline of real production being replaced by debt based consumerism). The world still uses huge amounts of energy. The numbers are really hard to get ones head around – even though it feels “down”, the volumes are huge.

    Everything today (~80%) is fossil fuel driven. Your entire standard of living runs on oil, natural gas, and coal. So does the world population. The way “reserves” are presented are often misleading at best or fraudulent at worst so folks don’t get where this goes over a few decades.

    And folks will inevitably say “but they have been saying this for years” and I will say “you can’t drive a car looking in the rear view mirror.” If one is willing to do a bit of research and sort through the facts, it is fairly hard to miss the conclusion.

    On the point of growth, our economic problems today will pass, where energy production is contracting – they always pass given enough time – and eventually things will eventually want to grow again. But what will energy *expansion* cost in that future situation?

    Here is an example:

    In January 2016, the Alaska North Slope averaged 549,679 barrels a day in production. A well managed field (lots of capital and technology deployed) will decline at an annual rate of, say, 5%. If I plan to retire in 25 years, ANS production will be down to 152,475 barrels a day which I believe is around the hard shut down level as the pipeline can’t function, even with additional heaters being added (it turns into a big tube of chapstick), as the flow is just too slow.

    So, in 25 years, given this projection, ANS might actually go off the market due to technical issues/costs. Many of the old, giant and super giant fields are going to be offline or in stripper status – and they are replaced with what? 1000 small fields that consume 1000 times more capital and produce at the same price? Are those smaller fields going to last as long as the old giants?

    This same principal applies to pretty much all fossil fuels.

    The only solution I have seen that goes 100 years or more (and satisfies the current global energy appetite) is LFTR or Liquid Floruide Throium Reactors. I won’t go into details (there is a google talk on the subject and easily searchable material) but it scales and it is proven – no scientific break through required.

    Just some thoughts. Have a great weekend!



    • Tom Belstler says:

      Having spent my entire working life, 37 years, in various areas of bulk power production, fossil, hydro, nuclear and bulk transmission I totally agree with Cooter. Further, the US has a bad habit of not planning for the future,. We would rather wait until we are up against the proverbial wall and then implement a quick and dirty solution which is always many more times as expensive as a planned solution.

      Nuclear plants are quite expensive to build and even worse, take 10 or more years to get going from the application process to synchronization. Now is the time to build new nuclear plants, preferably Thorium fueled. If we do it now we will avoid the spasmodic gotta have it tomorrow syndrome that can double, triple or quadruple the building costs of a plant. Millstone 3 went from $985M to $4.1B because of various delays and a highly unfavorable political climate. Then there is the Shoreham debacle which saw the anti nuke crazies shut down a plant that was operating and saddled the taxpayers of Suffolk county with a $1B bill from which they derived no benefit. To top that off, they still had to purchase the power that the plant would have produced. Luckily for the residents, the State elected a governor of the right party and he helped them out by spreading some of the cost throughout the State of NY.

      When I was in my late 20s, I did a study on the relationship between power consumption and economic growth and found that there is at least and 85% correlation. So, no growth in electricity consumption means no growth in the economy. Conversely, a drop in electricity over a period of more than a few months always means a declining economy.

      Wind and solar are niche markets and always need to be backed up on a one for one basis in case the wind stops blowing or the insolation forecast is off. I give credit to the wind and solar forecasters, they get it right about 85% of the time but it’s that 15% that kills the curve so to speak. “Well, we had to drop off 30,000 customers because the wind didn’t blow as forecast” will not sit well at all with the customers that have no power or with the regulators.

      • Epeen says:

        As I mentioned on the nuclear power article, I am under the firm belief that Thorium power and reasearch surrounding it has been suppressed. I firmly believe that this is the answer to all of our energy needs. The trouble is that it is so abundant that there will be very little money to be made in its extraction. Also once a plant is up and running the cost will be very little to run it causing energy proces to drop.

        You cannot make nuclear weapons out of it so no government is interested despite the fact that the US government had a working Thorium plant for many years.

        There is very little risk as you are constantly trying to keep the reaction going rather that trying to stop it from leaving your control.

        • Winston says:

          “I am under the firm belief that Thorium power and reasearch surrounding it has been suppressed.”

          You beat me to it and I agree.

          Building reactors is not how the majority of profits are made with nuclear power. It operates on the razor-razorblade profit model – the profits come from the very custom fuel assemblies used with each design whereas bulk thorium salts mixed with a few other ingredients could be made by and supplied by virtually anyone.

          Only countries like China who have no uranium fuel assembly industry to capture government are working seriously on thorium salt reactors. As a result, we are stuck with the ANTIQUATED technology pressurized water reactor designs which are inherently dangerous and incredibly inefficient, converting only 1% of their nuclear fuel to energy while creating huge amounts of long half life, highly radioactive transuranic waste.

          Not only 97% efficient, “walk-away safe” thorium salt are reactors possible. There are uranium reactor designs that can nearly completely “burn” transuranic waste. But, of course, the uranium fuel assembly industry wouldn’t want any of those because going from 1% utilization of nuclear fuel to 97% would mean a HUGE reduction in sales until everything now using fossil fuels transitioned to zero-CO2 electrical power (as Elon Musk envisions), thereby greatly increasing electrical power consumption.

        • Tom Belstler says:

          I would point out that almost everything in a US nuker is custom designed. Every one of them differs in some way from every other one of the same design. The only bunch that really do standardization well are the French.

        • Jerry Bear says:

          Then we need to get the government involved in the same way the government got involved in the Interstate Highway System. Basic energy could be set up as a public utility rather than left up to private enterprise, if private enterprise refuses to get involved. something could be worked out. If the profit is so inherently low, why not run it as non-profit?

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Replacement of oil by alternative sources

          While oil has many other important uses (lubrication, plastics, roadways, roofing) this section considers only its use as an energy source. The CMO is a powerful means of understanding the difficulty of replacing oil energy by other sources. SRI International chemist Ripudaman Malhotra, working with Crane and colleague Ed Kinderman, used it to describe the looming energy crisis in sobering terms.[13] Malhotra illustrates the problem of producing one CMO energy that we currently derive from oil each year from five different alternative sources. Installing capacity to produce 1 CMO per year requires long and significant development.

          Allowing fifty years to develop the requisite capacity, 1 CMO of energy per year could be produced by any one of these developments:

          4 Three Gorges Dams,[14] developed each year for 50 years, or
          52 nuclear power plants,[15] developed each year for 50 years, or
          104 coal-fired power plants,[16] developed each year for 50 years, or
          32,850 wind turbines,[17][18] developed each year for 50 years, or
          91,250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels[19] developed each year for 50 years



          A partial list of products made from Petroleum (144 of 6000 items)

          One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make things like:


          Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers
          Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

          Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company.

          Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear.

          All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on.

          The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.
          In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably).


    • CENTURION says:

      Cooter, you are correct. BUT, the average person (the “average voter”, God forbid) is too stupid to think of this.

      But, why bother? People like you and I see it coming. We can prepare and anticipate the future better than the average voting dolt.

      I will not be surprised by anything coming at us. Why should I?

      • CrazyCooter says:

        I have posted this here several times before … but … it is probably best summarized as Will Durant’s “History of Civilization” in a single cartoon …




      • Jerry Bear says:

        The primary reason we have this awful, grotesquely inefficient and insanely dirty and dangerous pressurized water reactor technology is it can be used to make bomb grade material.

    • Agnes says:

      I also agree with Cooter. Thorium reactors are the way to go, and we should not wait to build them because “The answer to lower prices is lower prices :( “

    • Lars says:

      Cooter, I like your comment but Thorium is still not a commerciably viable technology it seems. If it were India would have a Thorium power plant already, they have the World`s most accessible resources.
      In the meantime nuclear is needed, just ask the Chinese. The Russians are running their first commecial fast breeder reactor now (on initial low load) that is able to “burn through” much of the waste created in the coming decades. Countries like the US, the UK, France and Russia and others are sitting on huge stockpiles of nuclear waste just waiting to be exploited.

      As I see it the US has a very sound energy infrastructure for producing power as it is now with the big three; coal, ng and nuclear. Reducing either of them significantly will drive up the price of the remaining two. The same goes if you install too much wind and solar, just ask the Germans or the Danes.
      The problem is that most people have no idea what it takes to run a modern grid. They get the perception that ng is cheap now in the US, but don`t understand that if you reduce nuclear and coal significantly the price of ng will go up.

    • Jerry Bear says:

      Fast neutron gas based reactors can completely burn the fissionable material placed in them instead of just about 1%. Any liquid based reactor is dangerous and should be avoided. In the typical gas based design, you fuse the fuel into a ceramic matrix, remove the control rods ands use… shall we say, helium to extract the heat and drive the generators. This will crank along continuously for 20 years and then the whole unit will just be replaced with a new unit. Basically, only fairly short lived radioactive waste is generated. Using both Uranium and thorium, we would have enough energy for our major needs to last 1500 years. The process would gradually use up bomb grade material as it is needed to kick start the reactor and get the show on the road, It is vastly safer than current steam based reactors. A modest sealed unit could supply the needs of a medium sized city.

  3. Dan Romig says:

    I reckon you should ask those who live by the Hanford site near the Columbia river in Washington state what they think of nuclear power.

    As Buckminster Fuller stated, “We have a nuclear power plant right where it belongs. 92 million miles away from earth.”

    Minnesota, my home, gets about a quarter of its juice from fission.

  4. Nicko says:

    The good news is Japan is in the process of turning back on the majority of their 50 reactors. This anti-nuclear sentiment will fade. Nuclear is seeing a resurgence in many countries around the world, particularly in China, India, and Middle East.

    • Tom Belstler says:

      I am not sure the Japanese should be allowed to operate nuclear plants. In the aftermath of Fukushima they worked very hard at doing everything wrong and nothing right. GE which manufactured the reactors involved had a specialist team ready to go within hours but they were refused entry into Japan. GE also runs simulations of the plants and gets real time data from them so they actually had the best idea of how the accident was developing and what impact it would have on the plant. The Japanese refused all outside help despite it being obvious that the situation was deteriorating dramatically by the hour. Once the hydrogen recombiners lost power, it was only a matter of time until the hydrogen formed an explosive mixture and found an ignition source. These explosion wreaked an immense amount of damage and compounded the plant’s problems many fold.

  5. Chicken says:

    Nuclear power itself doesn’t worry me, it’s all about how well it’s managed safely. If this isn’t done and done well, lookout!

    Based on my direct experience, Japan has an abominable respect for safety protocol in just about every aspect. It’s as if safety is counterculture, and primarily for the purpose of appearances.

    For instance, we were the US representative for a Japanese capital equipment manufacturer intending to import production equipment but in order to comply with standard US established safety practices we discovered the equipment was out of compliance in numerous ways, thus we insisted modifications were necessary to meet commonly accepted US industry standards and wound up in an intense battle attempting to convince our Japanese partner of the need.

    One of their minor objections for instance, was if we affixed safety warning labels to comply with established OSHA standard, someone might become alarmed and conclude their equipment was unsafe.

    Talk about a knockdown drawn-out battle, kicking and screaming all the way….

    So Hiroshima really wasn’t much of a surprise when I first heard of it, the big question in my mind is where were the regulators we and they pay for, out drinking Asahi Super Dry and partying late into the night?

  6. CENTURION says:

    First, I have a degree in Chemistry, which means I know a little about Nuclear Power since Physics and Chemistry are related. So, my point?

    If you are for, or against, nuclear power why would you let accidents or events change your mind? Either you really understand the issue or you don’t. What happened in Japan was the result of STUPID decisions to build a nuclear reactor ON THE COAST without seriously thinking about earthquakes. That is not a defect of nuclear power but of HUMAN stupidity. The Science of Nuclear generated power is clear and simple. It is the pathetic Human element that causes the problems. Once we start building them according to know Science, we can stop these disasters which are caused by HUMANS and not the Nuclear Science.

    Nuclear Power plants can easily be designed to handle this very event. Built them AWAY from the coast, Build them with a “infinite” supply of cooling water from an upstream water source (gravity feed) and have them designed to shut down IMMEDIATELY upon an earthquake shock. Add to this their own independent electrical power supply,etc.

    The Japanese simply ignored simple precautions. That is stupid. The technology is there to create SAFE nuclear power plants.

    • CrazyCooter says:

      Modern nuclear tech (i.e. the deployed stuff in production today) exists because it subsidizes nuclear weapons, public energy infrastructure was never the goal. To be very clear, the military needed fuel infrastructure they could use for weapons that they could also market as public energy to defer costs. There are many aspects that make it otherwise undesirable and solutions like LFTR more desirable – and these are not minor differences as they are fairly significant (at least one order of magnitude if not more by my reckoning).

      I think E.O. Wilson nailed it best when he said “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”

      Coming to a head in the next decade or two, one way or the other … going to be a hell of ride. But, you know what? The Earth is billions of years old and we are never leaving here. I moved to Alaska and I have yet to regret it. I have learned how amazing this mudball in space can be if there isn’t enough people to screw it up. And after we are gone – and we will go at some point – things will go right back to the way they were. And I suspect the next millenium’s grazers won’t care much, nor the waterfowl, nor will the sunrise, nor the tides.



    • cg says:

      And it’s safe to build nuclear bombs. It’s human stupidity to use them, of course, but it’s safe to build thousands of them. Maybe we could work out safe disposal of spent fuel before building safe plants that no idiot will ever compromise the building of.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        cg, unfortunately, it’s not “safe” to build nuclear weapons.

        There are dozens of highly contaminated sites around the US that used to be involved in the production of nuclear weapons. They’re all over the place. One of them is the Hanford Site, in the State of Washington. It was established in 1943 and continued operating through much of the Cold War. Today, it is a gigantic mess with enormous costs and hazards for generations to come.


  7. Fred Hayek says:

    No worries, Wolf. The Obama administration will just shut down all our coal fired power generation.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      They don’t need to. Natural gas – at these prices – is already accomplishing that.

      • CrazyCooter says:

        With the caveat – and please I would love to see detailed breakouts – that when all this “OPM Nat Gas” (can I coin that phrase?) finally shuts down and the supply slams off; what will consumers do? Coal was the plow mule that ran the farm. Obama took it out back behind the barn, shot it, and sold it for dogfood. To be clear, how much MW or GW has been permanently closed in coal and how much MW or GW has been brought on in “OPM Nat Gas” (i.e. not conventional NatGas). Variances here are conventional gas vs “OPM Nat Gas” and growth/shrinkage with the emphasis on coal displaced by “OPM Nat Gas”.

        More importantly, what it has been replaced with is a malinvestment – “OPM Nat Gas” only exists because of Ben Bernanke and zero interest money looking for a grave. There is a saying in the oil path which goes, “if you sell royalties for profit, they highroll on your money.” The point is you take a cut a revenue and let the business figure out how to make a profit. OPM Nat Gas is just a sink where cash goes to die – so insiders can skim fees in the mean time, high roll on “revenues”, and eventually unload on bagholders (and maybe buy up the coal rights with the proceeds – pay attention willing investors).

        And one day that free money is going to dry up – and not too long after the “OPM Nat Gas” is going get starved for cash to kite their bills. Oh, wait … And while the assets may get acquired in BK, the wells will deplete fairly rapidly without new “OPM”. This is easily predicted if one is honest, competent at math, and looks at real data. Art Berman is probably ones best proxy if one is lazy. But it isn’t hard if one is reasonably professional and honest and has access to accurate data.

        When things finally correct to true market value based on real market interest rates … and so help me god, RATES WILL … just don’t ask me when, there will be an unholy rebellion when the costs go to the moon … and COSTS WILL. All these coal plants (new investment) are being pushed aside for gas plants (new investment). Infrastructure is being distorted, as a second derivative knock on effect of free money looking to die, and it will have to correct in the end.

        Lesson: If you marry a man with a pick in his pocket,
        You’ll be a poor man’s wife.




      • Paulo says:

        Most folks forget that the US is still a NET IMPORTER of NG. Sure, the price has dropped but the US still does not produce enough of what it needs, even now. The 100 or 200 year supply hype is just that.

        Just like the price of oil, the US still imports 40+% of what it uses. They just don’t buy enough offshore so the world price has dropped. We’re talking maybe a 1-1.5 million bbl/day surplus. Less than 2%. Nothing to get complacent about.

        Right now, the world is consuming oil at 8X the new reserve discovery rate. There just isn’t any legacy sources that have not been tapped into or consumed. Shale production is the sound of the spatula scrapping the barrel sides.


  8. LG says:

    Musk will save us all! Oh wait, where do Tesla’s get their power?

    My brain surgeon friend believes Musk will solve the clean energy problem!

    No I’m not making this up hes a brain surgeon! Me I’m just a stupid busines owner.

  9. roddy6667 says:

    LG-You are right. Electric vehicles have “long tailpipes” that lead back to the coal-fired electrical generating plant.
    Currently 65-70% of all electricity generated in the US is from fossil fuels.
    “A vast majority of those fossil fuel electric power plants are about 35-38% thermal efficient. The balance of the fuel’s energy is wasted.
    Electricity is wasted during the distribution in the power lines, charging the battery, vampire battery losses, and discharge losses when operating the vehicle.
    The net result is that a Tesla uses about 20-23% of the energy value in the fuel.
    On the other hand, a Prius hybrid vehicle uses about 40% of the energy in the fuel.
    So, a hybrid is almost twice as energy efficient as a pure EV. PLUS, the EV is much heavier which further decreases energy efficiency.
    Yes, an electric motor is about 95-98% energy efficient, but that is the smallest part of the equation.
    When you can assure me that all EV’s will not use electric grid power and will only use self generated non-fossil fuel I will start listening to your biased nonsense which, at this time, is not supported by any back of the envelope scientific analysis.”

    • Tom Belstler says:

      I have owned several Prius’. Bought my first one about 2 years after they first came out. I just bought another one. I fill up the tank about every 3 weeks with around 10 gallons of fuel. I keep track of every gallon of fuel I put in it and my app says that I am averaging 44.8 mpg. Great cars!!!

      For more insight into the world’s energy usage I highly recommend books by Vaclav Smil. BTW – he says that even if a technology is widely accepted, it will take a minimum of 20 years to work its way into common usage and I don’t think that electric vehicles are all that widely accepted. They have too many drawbacks compared to fossil fueled ones.

      • CrazyCooter says:

        My major concern with EVs, all along, is a totally different take. Let’s take a simple question (two forms) and go from there.

        How many moving parts does an EV have?
        How many moving parts does an ICE have?

        Now, keeping those two questions in mind, consider the patent portfolios required and who holds them and how long they are good for and how many of them exist because of regulation (e.g. EPA, emissions, etc).

        Please post if you think you get where I am going.

        WolfStreet readers are smart enough to realize that EVs, if widely adopted, would concentrate all the high value IP in the battery IP owners, not the manufacturers (if they don’t have the battery IP), and all the emission madness that provides the high barriers to entry into the auto markets would cease to exist.

        The huge capital bases of all the US auto manufacturers would rapidly tank – and the capital bases of the battery IP owners would suck up the gains.

        The EVs will be detonated at some point – just a game of screwing stockholders/investors and finding bagholders.

        EVs are DOA.



        • Nicko says:

          You sound like the IBM guy who said the world only needs 10 supercomputers. :)

          The future is electric, get used to it.

        • CrazyCooter says:

          If you read my comments, you will understand that I am actually long plow mules (and they won’t be electric).



        • Jerry Bear says:

          It is always a bit dangerous to speculate concerning the future based on current technology. In the case of battery powered ev’s I agree with Cooter, but a new technology is creeping up that could change everything. these are the new super-capacitors. They are much lighter than any battery and use inexpensive materials. They store electricity directly and do not require chemical reactions. As a result, they can be recharged very quickly and can last much longer. If they can be made better than batteries, they may make ev’s much more feasible.

    • Dan Romig says:

      2016 Formula 1 cars are head and shoulders more efficient than anything else. They are also more complex, but the technology will eventually work down the chain to the masses.

      Haas F1 is now in the show, and they’re from North Carolina with operations in England and Italy.

      CENTURION has a great point regarding location and cooling. Look where Duke Energy has its two reactors at the south side of Lake Norman NC. The lake was created by man for generating hydro electricity, and now it is used to cool the fission plants.

      Some of the places where we have nuclear plants in California may be at risk to fault lines???

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Of the two nukes in California, one of them (San Onofre) was shut down in 2012, and rate payers of Southern California Edison and/or taxpayers get to pay for the cost of decommissioning it, which is a huge complex task that will take decades.

        The costs of getting rid of these plants are never included in the cost of electricity. So the final costs of nuclear power can only be established after the plant has been disposed of properly.

        • Tom Belstler says:

          All nuclear plants, as part of their NRC license to construct are required to set up a decommissioning fund which will be used to take care of the end of life costs of the plant. The costs are incorporated into the rate base. Whether one sees them depends on the transparency of the rate structure.

          See the following article:


        • Petunia says:

          There was news out of Miami last week that their nuclear plant had some sort of leak. FPL is the power company down there and they do whatever they please, thanks to Jeb.

        • Tom Belstler says:

          I have read some of the articles concerning the elevated levels of Tritium from the Turkey Point plant in Miami. None of the ones I read contain any scientifically based data. They are just anti nuclear hysteria. The public has been conditioned to think about nuclear plants as if they were a bomb that’s just barely under control and can explode any minute if a mistake is made.

          Here is a link to the NRC site that explains what Tritium is and the permissible exposure levels in layman’s terms:


  10. Jonathan says:

    See statistics about cause of deaths and every other seemingly common everyday tasks that nobody blinks an eye about like climbing stairs are infinitely more deadly than nucular radiation. Don’t gimme bullshit excuses about long term potential damage because alternatives exist when the same also applies to almost everything non-nuclear too.

    I think that is pretty damn conclusive about how irrational the average person is with regards to nuclear power.

  11. Ethan says:

    I think the US is in process of getting some of our first nuclear reactors added in many years. I have a friend that works for NRC or something, I’ll have to confirm. But we’re back on track for new ones.

    Also, I too work in the datacenter world. The building I work in — we’re at 35MW of generator capacity and there is similar buildings next door. And many more being built. If anything Northern Virginia is going to need more nuke plants to feed Loudon County alone.

  12. Mike R. says:

    I worked in various engineering and management roles in commercial nuclear power plants for 25 years.

    They are complex behemoths to manage.

    More importantly, it is not clear that they provide a ‘net energy’ gain when factoring massive construction costs, large maintenance bills and ongoing fuel fabrication. This was studied by one Howard Odum of the University of Florida back in the 70’s.

    We would be whole lot smarter to move directly to the end game of a sustainable economy and bypass the temptation to add to the complexity and risk in our society.

    • Paulo says:

      Well said, Mike. The problem is that you get those folks who say things like, “I don’t like that lifestyle”. They will be kicking and screaming all the way to the woodpile. Plus, they are voters, and most likely with money and influence.

      It is an interesting drive to head west above Olympia WA and see the cooling towers….never used. It must be what a Chinese ghost city looks like, only more ominous.


    • Tom Belstler says:

      I agree with you that there is a real and valid question about the net energy advantage of a nuker compared to a fossil fueled plant when measured over the total – construction, operation and decommissioning life of the plant. Of course, as in all things like this, the answer one gets depends on how one counts their gazintas and gazatas.

  13. Epeen says:

    If our governments were not so interested in building nuclear weapons this world would be a very different place. Look up Thorium.

    It is everywhere. Theer is masses of the stuff. The US had a working Thorium plant for many years but you cannot create weapons of mass destruction with it.

    Rather than trying to stop the reaction from running out of control you are trying to keep the reaction going so the safety measures are already there for you. The plant will simply stop running if you do not give it attention.

    We would be in a situation with limitless energy with massive amounts of resources available but this is obviously no good for big oil, coal or gas or even the conventional nuclear industry.

    This world truly sickens me sometimes.

    • Tom Belstler says:

      I agree that Thorium would be the fuel to use but isn’t because the burnup process does not produce enough Plutonium to be useful to the defense industry. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article that has the pertinent data:


      Due to the buildup of a significant amounts of neutron poisons that cannot be removed from the fuel in certain types of solid fuel reactors there are still wrinkles to be ironed out before Thorium can be used as a commercially viable fuel. However, a concerted effort to get over the remaining hurdles would surely result in a working reactor in a reasonable amount of time. Here is a link to reasonably recent experiments with Thorium reactors:


      Designs in which the used fuel can be removed and new fuel added while the reactor is operating appear to have the edge over other designs.

  14. Dan Romig says:

    This (assuming I type correctly the web link) is in today’s MPLS Strib:


  15. Thomas Malthus says:

    Replacement of oil by alternative sources

    While oil has many other important uses (lubrication, plastics, roadways, roofing) this section considers only its use as an energy source. The CMO is a powerful means of understanding the difficulty of replacing oil energy by other sources. SRI International chemist Ripudaman Malhotra, working with Crane and colleague Ed Kinderman, used it to describe the looming energy crisis in sobering terms.[13] Malhotra illustrates the problem of producing one CMO energy that we currently derive from oil each year from five different alternative sources. Installing capacity to produce 1 CMO per year requires long and significant development.

    Allowing fifty years to develop the requisite capacity, 1 CMO of energy per year could be produced by any one of these developments:

    4 Three Gorges Dams,[14] developed each year for 50 years, or
    52 nuclear power plants,[15] developed each year for 50 years, or
    104 coal-fired power plants,[16] developed each year for 50 years, or
    32,850 wind turbines,[17][18] developed each year for 50 years, or
    91,250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels[19] developed each year for 50 years



    • Dan Romig says:

      Thomas, thank you for a very illuminating wikipedia link. 1 cubic mile of oil has the equivalent energy of 45.54 trillion kilowatts per hour according to the link, but it is unfortunately is not quite that simple, as that would (as far as I can deduce) require a 100% efficient conversion from total energy of oil into electric energy. Am I missing something?

      The link to the Star Tribune article I posted above your comment does mention what Wolf highlighted regarding San Onofre California. It was shattered in 2013 due to a new steam generator which failed.

      There are currently 57 nuclear power plants operating in the USA. Four are at risk of closing, and new reactors are being built at three existing plants.

      As a BBQ aficionado who uses only Stubb’s brand all natural charcoal and hardwood smoking chunks when I grill, oil has another use. Kingsford, for example, uses the same parts of the dregs of oil refining that yields asphalt and roofing shingles for the binding agent for their charcoal. “Burns faster and longer”? Hell yeah, that’s because you’re cooking your food with the same sh#t that’s on your roof and driveway.

      I’m just saying …

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