Can We Just Get Over Nuclear?

Energy Aware

Why do so many otherwise intelligent people believe that nuclear power is the solution to the world’s energy and climate crises?

“There is no way, absolutely none, that the world’s energy transition away from fossil fuels can be achieved without a massive increase globally of nuclear power.”

—Suriya Jayanti, Time Magazine (December 2023)

It’s just not going to happen.

In his recent post “Why Nuclear Is the Best Energy,” Tomas Pueyo thoroughly addressed most of the myths and fears that people have about nuclear energy including price, safety, environment, dependability, and reliability.

“Nuclear is the best source of electricity across all the factors that matter.”

—Tomas Pueyo

And that’s the problem—nuclear’s only practical use today is to generate electric power.

Electricity is only 20% of global energy consumption so nuclear has very little effect on total energy use or its emissions. Its greatest potential benefit is to reduce coal use.

IEA’s recently published World Energy Outlook 2023 indicates that electric power will increase over the next few decades but only to about 30% of total world energy consumption (Figure 1). Nuclear’s contribution is expected to remain flat at about 2% of total energy use through 2050.

Electric power and nuclear
Figure 1. Electric power expected to increase from 20% of world energy use to 30% in 2050. Nuclear to remain flat at 2% of global final energy consumption through 2050. IEA Stated Policies Scenario. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Looking only at electric power, nuclear is expected to decrease from 9% in 2022 to 8% of world electric power generation by 2050 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. nuclear is expected to decrease from 9% in 2022 to 8% of world electric power generation by 2050. IEA Stated Policies Scenario. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Percentages, however, can be misleading. The percent nuclear is basically flat because renewables, solar and wind are projected to increase so much. Total nuclear generation will increase 62% from 2,682 TWh (Terrawatt hours) in 2022 to 4,353 TWh in 2050 in IEA’s Stated Policies scenario shown in Figure 2. Still, that’s a drop in bucket for the 54,000 TWh of projected electric power generation in 2050.

What does the ultra-green IEA know that nuclear enthusiasts do not? That nuclear plants cannot be scaled fast enough to move the needle.

Eight new nuclear plants were completed worldwide in 2022. An average of nine new plants must be built every year to reach IEA’s estimate of 4,353 terawatt hours of nuclear generation in 2050 shown in Figure 2.

In order to double that, an additional 24 plants must be added each year for a total annual addition of 33 new plants per year. Building four times the number of plants completed in 2022 every year for the next 27 years would move nuclear to only 4% of total energy supply. That’s not going to happen. And even if it did, 4% is not going to make much difference.

Some may argue that Gen III+ reactors and small modular reactors (SMR) may make the doubling of nuclear output more feasible. Perhaps but those are frontier technologies that are unlikely to make an appreciable difference in the energy landscape over the next few decades. Nor do they change the hard truth that an awful lot of capacity has to be built just to double nuclear generation to 4%.

Tomas Pueyo may be right that all the arguments against nuclear power are wrong but it won’t change the fact that nuclear just can’t scale fast enough to make much of a difference. Can we just get over nuclear and move on?

Art Berman is anything but your run-of-the-mill energy consultant. With a résumé boasting over 40 years as a petroleum geologist, he’s here to annihilate your preconceived notions and rearm you with unfiltered, data-backed takes on energy and its colossal role in the world's economic pulse. Learn more about Art here.

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  1. Peter Carney on February 12, 2024 at 6:08 pm

    I miss hearing you Art on macro voices . Good to read about your thoughts on energy . I fear our society is in peril if we cannot have a meaningful dialogue of ideas .

    • Art Berman on February 15, 2024 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks Peter.

      Eric and I had an unfortunate disagreement. I apologized for my part but he was more stubborn.

      All the best,


  2. Nick Marshall on January 18, 2024 at 12:22 am

    Move on to what?

    • Art Berman on January 18, 2024 at 3:18 am


      Move on FROM something that isn’t going to happen no matter how much hot air is expended discussing it…mostly by people with no clue about the reality of energy.

      All the best,


  3. Jeff G on January 17, 2024 at 6:45 pm

    Thank you, great article

    • Art Berman on January 18, 2024 at 3:31 am

      Thanks Jeff.

      All the best,


  4. Phil Harris on January 17, 2024 at 2:40 pm

    Yes, time is short, I won’t be here and our oldest grandchild will barely be in her 40s.
    If we assume IEA numbers are best described as ‘aspirational’ – i.e. continuing industrial economic growth and greater annual energy use, including more fossil fuels, I wonder about an alternative world of shrinking industrial output, possibly with less food as well, (in the face of various blowback, from overshoot, war, pandemics etc…).
    A question I can’t see an answer to: will locations with installed nuclear have a more secure backbone of collective utility than many others, especially for the next iteration to 2100? Perhaps nuclear could be equivalent to long-lived hydropower if elecctric grids can be maintained also as a baseline?

    • Art Berman on January 17, 2024 at 4:26 pm


      IEA projections assume a continuation of “stated policies” by world governments in a business-as-usual world without the kind of potential dislocations that you mention. This case is not especially aspirational IMO.

      All power plants require abundant, cheap energy for maintenance and overhead. On a point-forward basis, nuclear plants may be more stable but then there’s the debt.

      On some level, this discussion is superfluous because financial overshoot and geopolitical disruptions will probably dominate the next decade more than purely energy-related problems despite the longer-term implications of increasing energy scarcity and higher cost. Many of the financial and geopolitical crises arguably may have partly resulted from higher energy costs.

      All the best,


      • Bill Slikkerveer on January 17, 2024 at 7:32 pm

        The policy landscape is changing -1. COP 28 commitment to 3x Nuclear by 2050. 2. China alone commitment to increase reactors by 150 plus reactors already underway 10+- 3. IRA commitment to nuclear by Congress 4. Realization that solar/wind do not mesh well with current grid systems while nuclear replacement of old/ existing coal plants do. 5. Public acceptance of nuclear as part of not the solution to reach 2050 goals. Without nuclear it is a certainty 2050 net zero cannot be met and this would include fossil where policy integrates it or is necessary for industry such as chemicals.

        • Art Berman on January 18, 2024 at 3:41 am


          If you read what I write, you would know that substituting renewables or nuclear for fossil fuels is not a serious approach to climate change. It is, rather, a doomsday scenario to perpetuate the status quo of ecological destruction that includes climate change as a subset.

          Energy substitution and all of its flavors of green new deal and net zero are part of a massive Ponzi scheme that transfers public wealth to the same corporations that have always taken public money. Now they are making green crap instead of the old crap. Please wake up.

          All the best,


  5. EnergyAndEntropy on January 16, 2024 at 11:25 pm

    Turkish strikes hit water, power infrastructure in Syria…” Reuters January 15, 2024

    Nuclear is not the best suitable option for a world that’s systemically pushed into self-destruction – as our Western Civilisation likes to play a Peak Energy Musical Chairs Game.

    The list of nations lost the minimum of meaningful grid power systems – is becoming longer and longer – Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, West Russia, Sudan, South Africa, Gaza, Lebanon – and tomorrow likely Iran and Saudi Arabia – before all others follow.

    Retired US Col Douglas Macgregor is worried a nuclear exchange is likely to happen between Turkey and Iran, soon.

    Local observers fear that the expected Turkish/Iranian nuclear choreography would likely happen inside Iraq – to depopulate as much as possible of that nation in the process – so more oil will be saved from being consumed locally – dedicating it instead for export – exclusively.

    Nuclear, whether in weapons or power – is a black hole in fossil fuels energy – that will never be paid back off – ever

    And it is this that stops Nuclear from scaling up – not safety, not investments, not nuclear waste or any of other concerns – the fact that our social engineer is really keen to mask from public knowledge.

    No system of energy can deliver sum useful energy in excess of the total energy put into constructing it” (2017).

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