GE’s strategy “You dont have to be smart about anything”
General Electric is one of the largest electricity technology companies in the world. They are involved in renewables (especially wind), the myth of clean coal, all manner of fossil fuel generation technology and with their Japanese partner Hitachi, they do nuclear. So for nuclear industry boosters is was something of a set back when GE CEO Jeff Immelt said to the Financial Times the other day
“They’re finding more gas all the time. It’s just hard to justify nuclear. Gas is so cheap and at some point, economics rule,”
But he did not stop there
“It’s really a gas and wind world today,” said Immelt, referring to two sources of electricity he said most countries were shifting towards as natural gas became “permanently cheap”.
This combined with the withdraw from nuclear of a number of leading countries like Germany and lesser important Switzerland and Belgium has cast something of a pail on future reactor prospects.
And Japan is delaying its big decision about how much nuclear power will be used in the future. There are three options being considered by the government. 0%, 15% and 20 to 25% – the last of which is basically turning back on the 49 functioning reactors in the country. [In 2010, Japan got 26% of its electricity from nuclear, less than the oft incorrectly quoted 30% or 1/3. 4 Fukushima reactors are destroyed and another reactor took in tons of sea water in the reactor core two months after the tsunami and probably cant be safely restarted.] The Noda government would like to turn all these reactors back on, but proposed these different levels assuming they would have to settle on the (intentionally high) middle ground of 15%. Unfortunately for the Japanese nuke boosters, the demonstrations continue to grow and 70% of the attendants of the public hearings on nuclear power want to shut it down completely. In consensus based Japan, PM Noda likely endangers his job if he continues to ignore this majority view.
Despite the tremendous opportunities for graft or corruption with nuclear power, if the business climate is too hostile, capitalist entities will step out. As GE Immelt concluded:
“We’ve got them all, so in some ways when you have them all you don’t have to be so smart about anything,”