Two recent news items should be enough for serious investors to short sell nuclear power stocks.
The first piece is a cheery story from Germany. Germany produced 22 gigawatts of solar power that were fed into the national grid on Saturday that met 50% of the nation’s midday electricity needs. This is more electricity than 20 nuclear reactors at full production. Germany only has 17 reactors total, 8 of which were closed after Fukushima, the rest of which will be shuttered by 2022.
Please remember that according to Whole Earth Catalog editor and heretic green guru Steward Brand there are 4 reasons why renewables sources can not replace nuclear power:
- Baseload: Wind and photovoltaics can’t keep the lights on because they can’t run 24/7.
- Footprint: Photovoltaics need 150 times, and wind farms over 600 times, more land than nuclear power to produce the same electricity.
- Portfolio: We need every tool for combating climate change, including nuclear power.
- Government role: The climate imperative trumps economics, so governments everywhere must and will do what France did — ensure that nuclear power gets built, regardless of economics or dissent.
Germany is proving these all wrong. Clever Germans have optimized their power grid so it can handle up to 50% feed in from a completely intermittent source. I’ve read several articles by critics of the German renewables strategy, none even mention footprint, this is a non-issue. At these levels Germany can look seriously at wind and solar as dominant players in their energy portfolio. And clearly the governments role by legislating the highest electricity prices in the world, including Feed In Tarrifs (FIT) to level the playing field for solar, is having the desired climate change effect. Even with nuclear rapidly declining.
Also remember that despite the dismal colors on the above map:
- Germany has nearly as much installed solar power as all the rest of the world.
- Over half of Germany’s renewable power generation is owned by individuals.
- Last year Germany produced over 20% of its total electricity from renewables
- FIT are vanishing quicker than originally planned, because PV prices have dropped.
It is worth talking about FIT a bit, because it is the strongest argument against solar. German power users pay about $6 billion a year in solar subsidies. The Japanese are looking at easily $250 billion for the cost of Fukushima. That is all we really need to say about Feed In Tarrifs.
The other piece of news is far less cheery, but possibly more important, despite being hidden away on the technology pages of most newspapers.
The Japan’s #3 cell phone maker, Softbank, has announced a mobile phone which detects and maps radiation.
What the articles about these phones does not say, but is the clearly blaring future technological reality, is that this type of phone will spawn a social network. In this new network there will be a tremendous independent shared data set about nuclear hot spots. These phones, with casual and dedicated users will map millions of hot spots and long term uninhabitable locations.
Imagine yourself as an affluent retired Fukushima refugee. Someone who can never go home, but still has money and anger. What might you do? You might start scowering the country side for hot spots. You might even think “i will sacrifice my own long term health so my grandchildren know where this invisible poison is” The more lethal locations show up, and there are already some mapped, the less likely it will be that the 50 closed reactors in Japan will ever re-open.
Imagine yourself the mom of a young child, you will network with your other mothers to find safe spaces for your kids to play and go to school. And one day a bad storm blows in a bunch of radioactive debris and you have to leave your town which has been safe before. Because it turns out fallout is just that fickle, only we did not watch it before.
Simply put, these devices combined with social networking will begin to map the real effect of Fukushima and when the world sees it, it will be very hard to build more reactors.
Japan just instituted their own renewable feed in tarrifs, they are twice as lucrative as Germany’s