By Lindsay Potter
In 2021 domestic renewable energy — wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal — outproduced nuclear power for the second year running, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found. Clean sources were responsible for 795 million megawatt-hours (MWh), 21% of energy production, while nuclear totaled 778 million MWh, or 20%. Solar Industry Mag reported April 26, 2022, that wind, the largest producer of renewable energy in the U.S., increased outputs by 12% in 2021 (14% in 2020), and utility-scale solar produced 28% more in 2021 (26% in 2020). The EIA predicts an additional 10% hike in renewable production for 2022. Globally, hydro-electric together with solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal produce more than twice as much energy (24.2%) as nuclear (10.3%), according to world-nuclear.org.
The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 (WNISR) found that nuclear power production fell by more than 100 terawatt-hours (TWh), the greatest drop aside from the standstill following the Fukushima disaster. Although hydro-electric steadily outproduced nuclear over the last 30 years, other renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biomass have now globally surpassed nuclear. Proof possible: for the first time this year, hydro, wind, and solar together generated more than all fossil fuels in the European Union — though France still relies on nuclear for 71% of its energy.
Competitive clean energy casts shade on the need for nuclear, as the industry flounders to innovate expedient and economic technology. Given the minimum of 10-15 years needed to bring new Small Modular Reactors online, trials in Argentina, China, and Russia have been unimpressive. Furthermore, WNISR announced “net capacity addition” fell for nuclear to 0.4 gigawatts (GW) and rose by more than 250 GW in the renewable sector last year, leading the report to conclude “nuclear is irrelevant in today’s electricity capacity newbuild market.” The WNISR also cites cost, health effects, climate change effects, the global impact of COVID-19, and “bribery, corruption, and counterfeiting” in the nuclear industry as additional evidence that nuclear power is dying.
By 2050, the EIA predicts that wind and solar technologies will become as affordable as natural gas, as nuclear and coal continue to fall out of use. To make way for clean energy Congress must severe ties with dying industries, promote carbon fees and sunset credits, shut down pipelines and drilling leases, and halt initiatives to develop new poisoned nuclear theories or bailouts that keep dangerous reactors running past their licensed closure dates.