Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power?

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk

It would be almost three hours until Tesla’s big announcement, but inside a Northwestern University classroom near Chicago Thursday night, the famed nuclear critic Arnie Gundersen had the inside scoop: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk was about to announce an industrial-scale battery, Gundersen said, that would cost about 2¢ per kilowatt hour to use, putting the final nail in the coffin of nuclear power. Thus Tesla’s big news broke first not amongst the throng of reporters gathered under swirling colored lights at the carmaker’s Hawthorne, Calif. headquarters, but in the middle of a debate on the future of nuclear power sponsored by students agitating for a “Fossil Free NU.”

It was Gundersen vs. Jordi Roglans-Ribas, the director of the Nuclear Engineering Division of Argonne National Laboratory. Roglans-Ribas had just finished arguing that any future free of fossil fuels would need nuclear power, which provides carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, supplying the reliability lacking in renewables like solar and wind. Gundersen called that claim a “marketing ploy.” “We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”

Then Gundersen told the audience of about 80 students and visitors that it was a momentous day in history—because of something that was about to happen in California. He evoked Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, chairman of SpaceX and SolarCity, and the product architect for Tesla Motors: At about ten ‘o’clock tonight he’s going to hold a press conference and he’s going to announce that he’s going to build industrial scale storage batteries. While the announcement is still two hours away, it appears that they’ll be able to produce these large batteries for about 2¢ per kilowatt hour. That’s an enormous breakthrough,” Gundersen said. “So the nuclear argument that they’re the only 24-7 source is off the table now because  Elon Musk has convinced me that industrial scale storage is in fact possible, and it’s here.” And a few hours later Musk announced the launch of Tesla Energy, ”a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels.” Many had anticipated the batteries—but not the price. Tesla will sell the home battery, the Tesla Powerall, for $3,500, a fraction of the $13,000 price observers had expected, and perhaps more importantly, a fraction of the cost of the $10,000 battery announced earlier this week by European competitors Sungevity and Sonnenbatterie. Source: Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power? – Forbes

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