I have been accused of being a conspiracy theorist for pointing out the blindlingly obvious fact that nuclear energy competes for markets against fossil fuels.
There is abundant evidence showing how hydrocarbon interests have worked to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about nuclear power. Since the stories are spread over the 80 year period since atomic fission was discovered to be an incredibly dense source of heat, they can be overlooked or forgotten. For obvious reasons, there has been some effort to obscure the truth so researchers have to dig and keep working to get attention for their findings.
It’s completely logical to believe that at least some of the people whose jobs, wealth and power stem from one of the world’s largest enterprises recognize and respond to the competitive threat from nuclear energy.
It doesn’t take much of an exercise in deductive thinking to recognize that some of the people who have financial reasons to discourage nuclear energy will build support for their cause by making financial contributions to respected charities. Buying friends among groups that campaign for wildlife or for environmental protection is an investment that can provide major returns when it protects hydrocarbon markets from nuclear energy competition.
It’s not difficult to obscure sources of cash, especially when recipients have policies of confidentiality designed to protect donors from constant appeals from others.
Some ask why hydrocarbon interests haven’t just extended their businesses to include nuclear energy rather than engaging in the kind of discouragement I have discovered.
The answer is that commodity businesses usually suffer when there is too much supply of their primary products.
Even though industrial civilization depends on energy and fuel supply enterprises are enormous, PROFITS from the business are elusive. It is well known to be a “boom and bust” business. Busts nearly always occur as a result of an overabundance (glut). When supplies exceed demand by just a few percentage points, it doesn’t take long for storage systems to fill up.
When that happens, prices fall precipitously. (See, for example: Oil price crashes into negative territory for the first time in history amid pandemic)
Anticipation of a glut from new sources of supply can be enough to cause a substantial market price reduction. Conversely, anticipation of future shortages can produce almost unbelievable cash flows as prices rise when customers build inventories in fear of insufficient supplies.
Nuclear energy continues to pose the threat of making enormous capital investments worth less. When a entire countries like France or Sweden can shift almost all electricity production from coal and oil to nuclear over a 15 year period, it makes bankers, fossil fuel CEOs, sheiks, oligarchs, prime ministers, and others take action to prevent the possibility that others will “get it.”
I’m not sure how to overcome this obstacle to developing clean, abundant, reliable and affordable power, but I am hoping that increased recognition will help.
Note: I composed this as a comment in response to Zion Light’s excellent, heartfelt Medium post titled “Nuclear and nature: the love story no one wants to tell“. I published it as a comment there, but decided to share it here as well.
Update: Post updated on Mar 26, 2022 to add a link to an oil price story and to add links to related post below.