When the biggest nuclear operator in the US says that the nuclear power industry in the US is, to all intents and purposes, DEAD, then we should probably take notice.

Here are the relevant quotes from William von Hoene, Senior Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer at Exelon, addressing the US Energy Association’s Annual Meeting in Washington a couple of weeks ago.

“The fact is – and I don’t want my message to be misconstrued in this regard – I don’t think we’re building any more nuclear plants in the United States. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. They’re too expensive to construct, relative to the world in which we now live.”

“I think it’s very unlikely that, absent some extraordinary change in environmental technology, any nuclear plans beyond the Vogtle plant in Georgia will be built in my lifetime, by any company. At this point [nuclear power] is really a bridge to a different kind of carbon-free world.”

And for all those who’ve given up on big reactors but still pin their diminishing faith on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), von Hoene offers no relief: “Right now the costs of the SMRs, in part because of the size and in part because of the security that’s associated with any nuclear plant, are prohibitive.”

So that’s that. Another country (once the undisputed global leader in nuclear energy) sees the light, and cuts its losses.

Sadly, there’s still no indication of that light dawning within the nuclear-besotted brains of UK Government Ministers. Or, at least, not in public.

Not even the revelation (issued on the same day as the Exelon commentary) that EdF has recently discovered further serious defects in the EPR reactor it is building at Flamanville (same reactor design as at Hinkley Point) prompted any kind of response from Ministers. Yet this further embarrassment strongly reinforces comments from a number of eminent nuclear experts that the EPR is essentially ‘unbuildable’.

The admirable Stop Hinkley C campaigners summed it up as follows:

“The European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) proposed for Hinkley Point C is like watching a car crash in slow motion. Twenty-five years after French engineers began working on the EPR, EdF has yet to get one up and running. Flamanville is seven years late, the one in Finland is ten years late, and even the two being built in China will be at least five years late. But we can still stop this before it gets even worse.”

We can indeed, although not until these home truths are revealed to energy bill payers here in the UK, with all their nightmarish consequences.


And here’s a truly inspiring postscript that has just come into my inbox – about another country rescued from the scourge of nuclear power – South Africa!:

Goldman Prize Awarded to South African women who stopped Rosatom

Jonathan Watts in Cape Town, Mon 23 Apr 2018

“Two grassroots women activists – one black, one white – stand together against two of the world’s most powerful men – one black, one white – over a secret, undemocratic, multibillion dollar nuclear deal.

If this was the plot of a Netflix series, it might be dismissed as too neat, too perfectly symbolic and symmetrical.

But this is the true story of the two South African winners of this year’s environment prize who tapped their roots in the anti-apartheid struggle to take on and beat an agreement by their nation’s recently deposed leader Jacob Zuma and Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid were the sole signatories of a successful legal challenge against the plan for South Africa to buy up to 10 nuclear power stations from Russia at an estimated cost of 1tn rand ($76bn).

After a five-year legal battle, a high court outlawed the deal last April and accepted the plaintiffs’ claims that it had been arranged without proper consultation with parliament.

Aside from the immense geopolitical ramifications, the ruling was a vindication for the civil society movement that aims to expand public participation, especially by woman, in energy decision-making.

There were risks in confronting the president, the electricity utility and the interests of a foreign power. The two women were warned they could face violence and attacks on their reputation, but they signed the legal papers regardless.”