The Economics of Nuclear Energy

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This video is based on, and inspired on the amazing Illnois Energy Professors video of the same title: I highly recommend you subscribe and watch his collection of videos.

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Dylan Hennessy (
Animator: Mike Ridolfi (
Sound: Graham Haerther (
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster


Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

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Z L says:

Well made video. Would be interesting to do a follow up on how the economics has changed with current Gas Prices, Ukraine war etc.

I wonder if the economics would change if the price of electricity was calculated at the point of consumption rather than at the at the point of generation. LCOE doesn't seem to factor in grid cost. The difference being that Nuclear is part of a centralised grid and Renewables are much more widely distributed. They require much more wires and transmission lines. Where I live the cost of grid maintenance alone is 45% of my electricity cost. If you build more grid you basically guarantee me a higher price. Decentralised grids seem to be attractive to the public but consumption is not decentralised the way renewable grids are. It should also be stated that rooftop solar is double the price of utility scale solar (although again grid cost often seems to be omitted).

svwtsvfcb says:


Syed Hassan says:

still better to have a consistent supply over a variable one

Cristiano Marinelli says:

If somebody has enough money and patience then nuclear will create more profit. Hopefully as time goes by the cost of nuclear is reduced and efficiency is improved.

foilist1 says:

How efficient is a solar cell? How often does a solar cell wear out and is replaced?

Clown Clown says:

Tldr: it’s Mat Groening’s fault

kyle flahardy says:

This is why government is important, they don’t have to turn a profit. As more are built, it will become cheaper as well and take on a more standardized form. Look at NASA, it costs billions until SpaceX did it for a fraction of the price. Processes will improve and it is essential for the survival of our planet

Toby W says:

Excellent Points from some quarters, but what will be the P/L graphs of Fusion power plants, and advanced fission plants? It might be cheaper to support our rapidly growing electrical vehicle needs (perhaps half as much power as being replaced ) with cheap, quick NG power generation, then start adding various new designs of fission/fusion as they are developed. SMRs added to existing power plants appear to be the fastest way to get nuclear power into production since the grid connections already exist.. Elon Musk may be the man to develop advanced nuclear power since he will need it for rapid space travel.

General Sirc says:

Nuclear could be way better and way cheaper, it isn’t because it’s insane to invest money into R and D when there is a good chance the state or city you want to build a new reactor in probably will say no. Nuclear reactor tech is out dated and no one is willing to take the risk of investing in new reactor tech.

Stephen Brickwood says:

If the external costs of CO2 is the point.
The external costs of nuclear power, in a world with 90% of the world's population is in dictatorships, is extra military costs.
The USA is the biggest target in the world.
Dictatorships with nuclear industries is stupid, stupid, stupid. And expensive.

Robin Debreuil says:

Much of the cost of nuclear is a direct consequence of the anti-nuclear lobbying. An example from the video, needing to retrofit the cooling because it uses sea water isn’t saving anything, it is just a cost that can be pinned to nuclear to make it less profitable. As for safety, if other forms of energy were required to be as safe as nuclear, they would be as expensive as nuclear. The storage problem is realm, but slowly improving as more electric batteries are on the road and in the grid.

Perhaps in the near future we will be forced to look at the ‘true cost’ of different forms of energy, including geopolitical risk, and famine risk. In that case, nuclear will look good again, especially if we can remove the special interest tax. We forget, but the modern world can not exist without abundant energy.

Carl Woods says:

One year later we find California has delayed shutting down the Diablo plant.

Walter Heenan says:

While mostly a good overview, this was fundamentally a bait-and-switch argument. You start out discussing the drive to achieve a carbon-free grid comparing nuclear to wind and solar asking the question "why not nuclear?", then proceed to compare nuclear to natural gas on its economic basis!?!?! All because wind/solar are intermittent and require a backup which is often NG. What is going on here? A better approach would have been to stick with comparing nuclear to W/S while adding in the added cost of a peaking NG plant along with the carbon footprint impact of that plant. Also, there was no discussion of the fact that nuclear plants last 60-80 years perhaps longer, while NG, solar, and wind are more on the order of 25. Most ROI calculations are only looking at a 20 year horizon, seriously stacking the cards against nuclear. So what's going on here? Are you trying to evaluate competing low carbon energy solutions, or just trying to compare nuclear with NG on a short-term ROI basis? The first would be an interesting exercise, but it's not what you did. The second seems pointless unless we plan on fossil fuels as our long-term energy solution.

legend7 says:

Easy solution.
Make nuclear power strictly no profit and funded by the country.
Reduce natural gas For electricity, it could be a multi million market For cheap gas For cooking and indirectly heating.
Cannibalize the current oil barons.
Prívate funded, low tax with good access to loans clean energies and some spice of accelerationism.

Stephen Hall says:

Returning to this excellent episode after a couple of years is interesting.
The small, cheaper and faster to build modular reactors developed mainly by Rolls Royce from its maritime designs will be installed in the UK far sooner than was anticipated.
RR and other companies have also come a long way on even more compact modular reactors specifically designed to share sites with electricity storage facilities connected with the success of renewables. Old coal mines are being researched for these dual purpose hubs.
Because lithium batteries have a cycle limit advances in molten metal, TPV, pumped hydro towers underground, hot graphite and magnesium appear to be gaining speed in tackling the abiding smooth base load problem.
Further, as molten salt reactors overcome 'plumbing issues' some have expressed the idea of SMR sites possibly being used to replace the SMR modules with molten salt cores as the original SMR components wear out.
The goal is to always to have enough stored energy (not necessarily as current electricity) to ensure consistent base load and fast top-up technologies can be location appropriate.

The Aleons says:

It is May 2022. The war in Ukraine has doubled the price of natural gas. The United States is sending 40 billion dollars of Aid to Ukraine. The United States spends 750 billion dollars every year on our military. I don't understand why we don't have state-owned nuclear power plants like the French do. Building more nuclear power plants then would greatly reduce electricity cost and greatly reduce our carbon footprint. That sure seems like a no-brainer. But hey, we really need to spend more money on Wars with assholes like Putin

Oscar Iglesias says:

LCOE is ABSOLUTELY NOT comparable between intermittent and baseload sources. Said by the creators of the metric.
The value of the energy created is another thing not understood by most.

HJOperative says:

You didn’t mention the land cost required for renewables vice nuclear. The sheer amount of land required for renewables compared to nuclear is astounding.

Eddy Alamo says:

You didn't factor the labor costs. Politicians in the US don't have term limits except the president. You didn't factor new developments like thorium and small modular. Also didn't factor in subsidization of costs. The fact that climate change is a natural security threat and this would be a real solution.

Stanley Tolle says:

Levelized Cost of Production of electricity misses several factors in comparing power plants. The biggest one is when the electricity can be produced. Like electricity that can be produced, like in winter, when there is a shortage of electricity is more valuable than electricity that can't be produced during these times. Electricity that is not subjected to commodity fuel price fluctuations is also more valuable. Newer designs of nuclear power plants are also incorporating storage and on demand power production which have value over generation systems that do not have this ability. Of course the cost and the time it takes to build a nuclear plant needs to come down. I do think this is possible and should be worked on. As to the value of a nuclear plant I think the other values these plants provide should also be considered.

A dude with a Betsy Ross Flag says:

The question is why are we being taught that nuclear is a dangerous fuel source?

GDR Riley says:

The only reason Diablo power plant can't compete is because of how California sets up their grid. The state does not put baseline nuclear first which means there are periods where with excess solar and wind energy. During those times power becomes almost free.
Battery storage isn't the solution, its expensive materials wise and we've got limited resources to make them.

you conclusion is so fundamentally flawed, nuclear is baseline, over a lifetime they generate 95+% of their rated output. peaking should be done with mass based storage (pumped hydro ect)

E _ says:

The energy industry is subsidized and regulated 20 times over. What is truly profitable and efficient should be questioned. On the whole for energy grids gas and coal is the cheapest, but by how much and for how long who knows

gooniesnever saydie says:

LCOE fails to account for safety, environmental impact, waste remediation/storage, subsidy, etc.

Merritt Cluff says:

Nice and useful. But please put carbon taxes into these calculations.

Tomo Budimir says:

I think this video showing the graphs are a copy of Illinois EnergyProf, video and channel, not bad but not original. 🙂

Michael Duffy says:

There is an increasing amount of attention being put towards LFTRs (Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors), a molten salt design that uses Thorium-232; as opposed to current PWRs that use Uranium-235.

I hope it gets enough attention so that the distinction is made in the global discussion.

Kasimir says:

You omitted the factor of regulatory agencies forcing longer construction times by manipulating approval process.That's the lever fossil fuel and "green" energy advocates use to destroy Nuclear.
You also for some reason decided to include a false narrative about Solar Energy – we do NOT have an efficient way to capture it, if you consider the life-span of solar panels, the cost of maintenance, and the cost of pollution involved from end of life.

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