- By Region
Jeff Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, revived the debate about the cost of nuclear power this week when he said building reactors was so expensive compared with other forms of energy it had become “really hard” to justify.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Immelt predicted investment was instead moving towards renewable energy and gas-fired power stations.
“When I talk to the guys who run the oil companies they say look, they’re finding more gas all the time. It’s just hard to justify nuclear, really hard.
“Gas is so cheap and at some point, really, economics rule,” Mr Immelt said. “So I think some combination of gas, and either wind or solar … that’s where we see most countries around the world going.”
While GE is one of the world’s largest suppliers of atomic reactors, it also sells gas turbines, wind turbines and solar panels, as well as oil and gas drilling equipment.
Nuclear industry executives hit back, saying that Mr Immelt’s comments only applied to the US, where a glut of shale gas production has pushed down prices, making nuclear power uneconomic.
But while gas prices remain high in Europe and Asia, the cost of renewable energy technology shows signs of falling, prompting questions about whether nuclear can compete.
Although nuclear power is relatively reliable and produces little carbon dioxide, big cost overruns at the first two new reactors being built in Europe and safety concerns following last year’s Fukushima crisis have led to a cooling of private sector interest in funding nuclear.
EDF said this week it was seeking partners to share the financial burden of its project to build four reactors in the UK.