Nuclear power versus renewables: a scale perspective

Low carbon power technologies are needed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Will major candidates nuclear, wind and solar power be able to scale-up multiple times? Our contribution to this inquiry focuses on the size of a typical generation plant to compare candidates across the criteria of physical scalability, building experience and financial lumpiness; the relative successes and failures of industries in recent decades are assessed. Because unit size differs by three orders of magnitude between each of these technologies, marked findings obtain. Smaller devices (power units) allow for more innovation, more financing and thus a faster uptake. Henceforth, solar photovoltaic displays the greatest ability to replace aging fossil fuel power stations, followed by wind power at some distance because its recent evolution is going contrariwise. Conversely, the outlook for nuclear power in the developed global north is somber and only mildly positive in the fast developing global south; we make a modest case for the novel nuclear modular concept. Looking ahead, alternative renewable sources, such as bioenergy, should also be actively pursued as they may provide much needed backup to intermittent wind and solar ​
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