CEO of GE says nuclear power “really hard” to defend financially — “At some point, really, economics rule”

Published: August 3rd, 2012 at 5:10 pm ET


(Subscription Only) Title: Nuclear winter
Source: Financial Times
Date: August 3, 2012 7:17 pm

Not so long ago, it used to be the opponents of nuclear generation who argued that the economics did not add up. Nowadays, at least one of the industry’s more influential proponents seems to agree.

In a Financial Times interview this week, Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE, said nuclear power was “really hard” to defend financially, when compared both with gas-fired generation and certain renewables. “At some point, really, economics rule,” he added. Mr Immelt is not some disinterested bystander. GE, one of the pioneers of civil nuclear power in the 1950s, still produces reactors through a joint venture with Hitachi of Japan.


Since Japan’s Fukushima disaster last year, understandably tighter safety regulations have increased the costs of reactor construction. Meanwhile, those of rival technologies are lower than expected. Gas-fired generation has become cheaper as shale gas has come on stream. Meanwhile, new technology has cut solar panel prices.


This may rule out a nuclear renaissance, as Mr Immelt’s words suggest: costs remain simply too high. For any renaissance to happen, the industry must reduce them – without sacrificing the need for safety so starkly illustrated by the Fukushima disaster.

Published: August 3rd, 2012 at 5:10 pm ET


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78 comments to CEO of GE says nuclear power “really hard” to defend financially — “At some point, really, economics rule”

  • aigeezer aigeezer

    Admin, the link you show does not seem to show the right story, at least when I try it. I found one that does by searching (ft immelt nuclear).

    I wonder if it is an area policy issue with ft. I am in Canada.

  • aigeezer aigeezer

    I must add this snippet from the ft editors:


    The best thing governments can do to keep nuclear in the game is to set a proper floor price for carbon, and then to let the market decide which technologies to back.

    end snip.

    My paraphrase: Hey governments, to keep nuclear alive just meddle with the price of carbon (the way you meddle with LIBOR rates) then pretend that the marketplace is deciding to choose nukes.

    Stay vigilant, folks.


      @aigeezer: you are one sharp dude…

    • dharmasyd dharmasyd

      You've got that right, aig. Thanks also to AShock & TIS. And don't forget who Immelt is, and what he has done. Most notably, he gets the Gold Medal for off-shoring jobs to China. Many noticed the irony of this when Obummer appointed him to be "Jobs Tzar." He, like the others, is only thinking of the status quo of the bottom line, not life, death, nor health. Just money, the bottom line.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Nuclear is uncontrollable, as proven by the past and present meltdowns.

  • Dogleg Dogleg

    Given the criminal investigations in Japan, could this be a CYA move?


      interesting thought Dogleg. But this 'revelation' is in line with what we've been saying here, over the last year; that if the true cost of this technology were factored into our electric bill, we'd be forced to live in caves. Unfortunately, if we don't face this issue in an honest fashion, we may ultimately be forcing future generations to take refuge in caves…

      • Radio VicFromOregon

        In the Pacific Northwest, we were able to shut down one operating reactor and three partially built reactors, not on their dangers, but on their costs to the rate payer. That was nearly 30 years ago. It can be done again.

    • farawayfan farawayfan

      Nope, just an article designed to convince the PTB to supplement nuke power more by "tariffing" any other form of power generation. Despicable bastards.

    • Time Is Short Time Is Short

      Could be. All the Wall Street big boys have hired criminal defense lawyers some time ago, on the 'very remote' chance that someone, somewhere 'may' decide to enforce securities law. They're all dirty, and GE is in it up to their eyeballs.

      I wouldn't want to be the CEO of the corporation that will be blamed for the extermination of all life on Earth. And that's exactly where this is headed.


        @TIS: GE will simply install a wind generator on the roof of their international headquarters and they'll be forgiven…

  • arclight arclight

    1 August 2012
    Fukushima plant operator Tepco suffers massive loss

    "..Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, has posted a massive quarterly loss as it struggles to recover from last year's nuclear crisis.

    The group made a loss of 288.4bn yen ($3.68bn; £2.35bn) in the first three months of 2012, compared with a 572bn-yen loss in the same period last year.

    The losses are due to higher fuel costs and compensation payments to those affected by the Fukushima disaster.

    It was the worst since Chernobyl…"

    note that we reported tepco share at zero months ago on enenews..

    and they had a tax payer bailout of 19 billion yen and very little compensation has gone into non corporate hands…

    and that last statement meant "the losses were the worst since chernobyl"? didnt that help to break the soviet union according to the gorbachov interview?

    heres the "MINISTRY OF TRUTH" link

    • arclight arclight

      Gorbachev weighs Chernobyl legacy
      the bbc before the upgrade to "MINISTRY OF TRUTH" 2006

      "The explosion at Chernobyl showed that we are capable of contaminating the planet for the long term, and of leaving a terrible legacy for future generations.

      Today, mankind faces a challenge so huge that, by comparison, the Cold War appears like an incongruous vestige from the past.

      Chernobyl clearly demonstrated that each disaster is unique and that no country can be prepared for every eventuality.

      That is why we must deploy the maximum amount of effort to prevent disasters.

      One must not compromise on nuclear safety. The social, ecological and economic consequences of these kind of disasters are much too heavy in every sense of the word.

      We can therefore see what enormous responsibility is placed not only on politicians, but on scientists, engineers and designers – their mistakes could cost the life and health of millions of people.

      The victims of Chernobyl continue to suffer both physically and mentally. It is our moral duty to help them while continuing to limit the ecological consequences of this disaster.

      Mikhail Gorbachev was interviewed by Green Cross International, a non-governmental organisation he founded in the wake of Chernobyl. A fuller version is appearing in the latest issue of the Optimist magazine…."

      • Time Is Short Time Is Short

        Gorby clearly wasn't looking for a job with GE.

        Most likely the last of his breed.

        • arclight arclight

          hi time is short
          a historical figure and a man of compassion… his lates video here… short message of hope!

          "..Published on Jun 19, 2012 by GreenCrossInt

          President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was invited at the 1992 Earth Summit to create a "Red Cross for the environment" and did so the next year, provided this video statement that was shown 16 June 2012 at the Green Cross Returns to Rio event held in Rio de Janeiro on the sidelines of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development…"


          For more information, go to:

  • "… without sacrificing the need for safety so starkly illustrated by the Fukushima disaster."

    This sentence should read:
    … without sacrificing the 'lives of children and future generations yet unborn' so starkly illustrated by the Fukushima disaster.

  • arclight arclight

    how do you cost adjust this?

    Up to 9.9 million people living in contaminated zones


    "..According to a review of reports and sources about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, up to 9.9 million people live in contaminated areas. Million in Belarus, the figures ranged from 1.6 to 3.7 people, in Russia between 1.8 and 2.7 million people and 1.1 million in Ukraine between people and 3.5. These figures come from a Green Cross Study Carried out under the direction of Professor Jonathan M. Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California (USC), in cooperation with local partners in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova and accompanied by Professor Theodor Abelin in Bern. review of reports and sources about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, up to 9.9 million people live in contaminated areas. Million in Belarus, the figures ranged from 1.6 to 3.7 people, in Russia between 1.8 and 2.7 million people and 1.1 million in Ukraine between people and 3.5. These figures come from a Green Cross Study Carried out under the direction of Professor Jonathan M. Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California (USC), in cooperation with local partners in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova and accompanied by Professor Theodor Abelin in Bern.."

    • arclight arclight

      bit more than the 5 million figure we have been using on enenews!

      • dharmasyd dharmasyd

        The 9.9 million figure seems low to me. But then how can we judge? How do we evaluate? How do we calculate? We really have no substantial information we can trust. So all I can ~~think~~ is the whole world is contaminated. And I wish the whole world were watching before it gets any later.

  • Jebus Jebus

    Nuclear power has no defense, no matter how you look at it.
    Plants are too costly to build, period. With added costs after the revenue dries up.
    Their only option is to ask the irradiated public to support them.
    And thats drying up too..
    They can talk all the hype they want to now, no ones buying it.
    True renewables will continue to grow, off setting the load.
    The only unknown in this current history of nuclear power, is when…

    Mainstream Rhetoric on Nuclear Power Far From Reality

    The catastrophe following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactor in March 2011 has turned the old debate on nuclear power into a war of words between international agencies and independent experts with diametrically opposed views.

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      And, Jebus, the "When" depends on us. Buy green energy, donate, volunteer, flaunt a bumpersticker, a bike decal, a lapel pin. Anything towards green energy WILL be a step away from nuclear. You are correct.

  • Jebus Jebus

    It's time, way past time…
    Nuclear Power is over…
    It's just a matter of, when?
    It's time to speed things up…

    3-Day DC Rally for Nuclear Free Future Seeks to Mobilize Election Year Policy Shifts on Nuclear Issues

    Thousands of anti-nuclear activists from across the U.S. will converge on Washington, D.C. this September 20-22, 2012 for a Rally for a Nuclear-Free Future. The three-day event, brought together by the grassroots network Coalition Against Nukes (CAN –, will feature a Congressional briefing on nuclear dangers organized by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a peaceful demonstration at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), presentation of petitions at the embassies of Japan and India, and a demonstration at the Capitol to increase awareness of the dangers of nuclear power plants and spread of global radiation.

  • arclight arclight

    looks like the contagion is spreading ;o

    Investment expert agrees on poor economic outlook for nuclear power
    by Christina MacPherson

    “..Fundamentally, [Mr] Immelt is right. In the end it’s going to be a combination of gas, wind and solar,” says Samer Salty, chief executive of Zouk Capital, a London private equity investor in clean energy projects..

    Because of the vast investment needed and the construction risks involved, it is unlikely that the private sector will be willing to fund new nuclear plants without subsidies and incentives from cash-strapped governments.

    Mr Atherton says: “There are few companies in the world that can take a loss of that size [the €2bn Olkiluoto cost overruns] and remain solvent…”

    looks like nuclear is going down the toilet pan?

  • dodge

    Many people choose to pay more. Their focus in on quality, durability, sustainability. Nuclear energy is more expensive, and earlier was that new technology that we supposed to serve our needs both more environmentally friendly, but also in the long run cheaper, once the start up costs were paid. We now know without question that nuclear power is not more environmentally friendly, is not more reliable, and while startup and operating costs can be cash flowed, the costs of long term nuclear storage, shutdown, and God forbid, disaster strikes, the costs of damages, shutdown and cleanup and absolutely beyond the scope of the industry's ability to pay. The only hope for the industry is to quickly shutdown as many units as possible, as quickly as possible, while developing better alternatives. To wait to close plants after major malfunction, and/or meltdown is simply unacceptable. Much work needs to be done, not just anti-nuke work, but much more important, post-nuke work, the development of alternative plans, but more importantly the actual construction and conversion to those alternative energies. Wind, solar, tidal, renewable energy sources, and perhaps most important of all, conservation, and renewal of the energy grid, with small more diversified generation and a multitude of distribution grids. Energy creation, distribution, and conservation need to be global agenda's.

  • patb2009

    I wonder what's more destructive, the bad reactors GE sold or the
    strange interest derivates GE Capital bought.

    • Time Is Short Time Is Short

      The financial crisis has only returned poverty rates in the US to 1965 levels. The rest of the world? Probably back to the '30's or earlier.

      You could say GE is 'wiping out world poverty, by wiping out the world'.

  • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

    Germany Installs 1 Nuclear Plant Worth Of Wind Energy In First Half Of 2012

    More than 400 turbines with a combined capacity of some 1,000 megawatts — roughly equivalent to one nuclear power plant — were installed, up from about 800 megawatt in same period last year, the Wind Energy Association said.

    Before Fukushima, nuclear power in Germany produced a little more than 20 percent of the country's electricity needs — about the same share it had in the U.S. and in Japan. It has since fallen well below 20 percent.

    • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

      Hey MaidenHeaven, solar works even better 🙂
      "Germany installs record 4,300 MW solar in first half of 2012:
      DUESSELDORF, Germany Aug 2 (Reuters) – Germany installed a record of around 4,300 megawatts of solar power capacity in the first half of 2012, raising the total in the world's largest market to more than 28,000 MW, the federal network agency (Bundesnetzagentur) reported on Thursday.

      Nearly half of that amount, or about 1,800 MW, came in June in a building frenzy just before a 30 to 40 percent cut in government-mandated incentives took effect in July."

  • BeniJax

    This headline is really some of the best news I've heard in a while. Maybe the tide really is turning, but I still think it will take another meltdown or two before it is recognized that nuclear industry is a crime against humanity and a violation of our stewardship of Earth.

    • BeniJax

      “At some point, really, economics rule” Isn't this really the greater truth, vs. pollution or extinction?


        @BeniJax: economics is a term that's generally applied to financial systems, and as such, appears separate from the 'real world'. The principles of 'economics' can be applied to all systems; from the biological to higher-order-social.

        Due to the ongoing Fukushima and Chernobyl fiascoes (yes, Chernobyl is ongoing and will be for tens-of-thousands of years) the 'economics' (in terms of the overall impact on the quality of our lives) becomes prevalent.

        In the past, the purveyors of nuclear technologies were able to hide the 'costs' of this deadly technology within nuanced financial 'instruments'; Price-Anderson being one such vehicle. But if you follow the trail of broken bottles and crushed cans, you eventually arrive at the scene of debauchery. Around the entire planet, we're discovering one horror after another. When you tally the costs – which should range from environmental remediation to medical intervention – nuclear power becomes the least-cost-effective means of generating power for any modern society.

        Reality is far-less inclined to tolerate the stupidity of those who deny its presence. Nuclear technologies may have offered unprecedented control over this planet; now it threatens every facet of that control…

  • andagi andagi

    Dear Folks.
    'King Arthur: Old woman.
    Dennis: Man.
    King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
    Dennis: I'm 37.
    King Arthur: What?
    Dennis: I'm 37. I'm not old.
    King Arthur: Well I can't just call you "man".
    Dennis: Well you could say "Dennis".
    King Arthur: I didn't know you were called Dennis.
    Dennis: Well you didn't bother to find out did you?
    King Arthur: I did say sorry about the "old woman", but from behind you looked…
    Dennis: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.
    King Arthur: Well I am king.
    Dennis: Oh, king eh? Very nice. And how'd you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.' -Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
    Aloha 🙂

  • razzz razzz

    GE is not stupid and is well connected in the US Congress. From Wikipedai…

    "…In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized General Electric for spending $84.35 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008–2010, instead getting $4.7 billion in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $10.4 billion, laying off 4,168 workers since 2008, and increasing executive pay by 27% to $75.9 million in 2010 for the top 5 executives.[46]…"

    Remember, Immelt the CEO of GE is some kind of appointed czar in the current administration to advise on job creation.

    • Time Is Short Time Is Short

      Well said, razzz. This needed to be said.

      Good job. It's important to know who's killing us, and what the monetary incentives are.

  • Radio VicFromOregon

    I think that the era of cheap energy is over. And, subsidizing expensive energy is getting harder to justify politically. So, that places sustainable green energy at an advantage to surpass all others if people decide to choose it. It doesn't come down to what energy companies offer, but to what we all choose. If we consumers choose green, the companies will provide green.

    • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

      Hi Vic, I agree, but I think the era of cheap energy just begins….if we start seriously to produce energy where we need it.

  • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

    I just HATE how the industry folks continue to link "new energy" to shale gas. Poisoned aquifers are not a solution! Mr Immelt is just jumping off the dying nuclear horse. Is GE involved in fracking?

    • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

      Yes GE is involved with Fracking. General Electric Co. is launching a mobile device aimed at helping natural gas drillers recycle water used in a controversial gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. 09/30/10

      The General Electric Economic Stake in the Bakken Shale

      On February 10, the Associated Press reported that GE Energy Financial Services formed a partnership with Sequel Energy LLC, whose headquarters are in Denver, Colorado.

      CNBC is a subdivision of NBC, which is owned by General Electric (GE)

      In Pennsylvania, produced water has been discharged into streams and rivers from the state’s 71,000 wells after conventional wastewater treatment but without radiation testing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The New York Times, which drew attention to the radioactive contamination earlier this year after studying internal EPA documents:

      The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle. via The New York Times

      The Department of Energy and General Electric will spend $2 million over the…

      • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

        The Department of Energy and General Electric will spend $2 million over the next two years to remove naturally occurring radioactive materials from the fracking fluids produced by America’s booming shale-gas industry.

        • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

          Again we see the EPA knowing that radiation levels well above allowable levels are simply permitted. After being exposed they come up with a solution with a company that is known to always put profits before people.

          • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

            GE is also involved in

            The biotechnology industry has genetically engineered a fish that grows at twice the normal rate, so it can get to market sooner and make more money, faster.

            The FDA doesn’t even do its own testing of genetically engineered animals: it relies on information provided by the company that wants approval.

            In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration began paving the way for approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The first transgenic animal approved for human consumption, GE salmon would open the floodgates for GE cows and pigs, which biotech companies are waiting in the wings to finally commercialize after years of research and development.

            In 1996, only 7 percent of soybean and 1 percent of corn acres in the United States were planted with GE seeds; by 2007 GE cultivation had grown to 91 percent of soybean and 73 percent of corn acres. In 2010, 93 percent of soybean and 86 percent of corn acres have adopted GE varieties.

            Link has a list of GM foods

        • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

          HA! Thanks MaidenHeaven! That's what I expected. They won't leave nuclear before having the next markets ready…TY for the feedback!

          • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

            YW. However I do not believe that they intend to leave nuclear in the near future. Too much money to be made now with chemotherapy for all the newly diagnosed cancers worldwide. There is also the money they make using nuclear waste to irradiate our food. With a new market opening up in South America. Governments are helping to force more countries to irradiate our food..under the auspicious of protecting our food supply. 😛

            • MaidenHeaven MaidenHeaven

              I should add that the statement from GE is simply a way to redirect subsidies from Renewable Energy to Gas & Fracking.

          • arclight arclight

            @bnb you have mail ! 🙂

        • Time Is Short Time Is Short

          $2 million in two years?

          Oh, that'll work well. Sure it will.

          Ever see someone light their tapwater on fire?


  • Flapdoodle Flapdoodle

    I smell fear. The lawyers will be circling.

    • ML

      My thoughts too: the litigation costs of nuclear may become hard to defend.

      • Time Is Short Time Is Short

        And this is where the truth comes out.

        They'll probably kill a few lawyers, too, but the money will be so good – and easy – that it won't make a dent. Lawyers are some tough bas$#%ds when it comes to easy money. And we're talking hundreds of billions, into the trillions of dollars in damages and lawyer fees.

        This is going to be quite the show.

  • bleep_hits_blades

    These guys knew from the get-go that nuke power was never gonna get to square one w/out digging deep into the taxpayer's pocket. THAT WAS THE WHOLE EFFING POINT OF THE WHOLE BIG SCAM!

    Now, with the planet going down for the third time and the nuclear fat cats awash in bucks, it's Well, gotta be honest and humble here – guess it's a no-go financially…

    Makes you want to barf.

    • bleep_hits_blades

      Again, I recommend NUCLEAR WITNESSES – a fantastically good and informative book. You can get it from the library or buy used from Amazon for a penny plus $5 shipping!

  • Jebus Jebus

    It is time and this is timely…
    How the first step in all things nuclear, rapes this planet…
    How the industry plays the human game…
    The result always equals the sum of the parts…
    After the Dust Settles…
    by David Bradbury

  • arclight arclight


    Hiroshima Day – time to end the suicidal nuclear age

    "..As the mayor of Hiroshima said last August on the anniversary of the bombings, “Nuclear energy and humankind cannot coexist.”

    the nuclear age is a suicidal age. We’ve had several near misses

    Fukushima highlighted the dangers of accidents, and nuclear waste can never be truly safely stored.
    This Aug. 6th, let us remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and let us finally get out from under the nuclear shadow…"

    "..Every Aug. 6 in Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning, a memorial protest
    is held. But such protests also take place in the United States. One
    will occur this week at Los Alamos, N.M., home of the Manhattan
    Project, which produced the first atomic bomb and is still producing
    parts for nuclear weapons. Demonstrators plan to draw attention to the
    hazards not only of the weapons themselves but also of nuclear waste
    and of the involvement of private companies in the nuclear weapons

    "..But the nuclear age is a suicidal age. We’ve had several near misses, the Cuban Missile Crisis being the most obvious. And we’ve almost had
    accidental nuclear war when our radar systems (and Russia’s) have
    thought they were seeing incoming nuclear weapons and have prepared to
    launch nuclear weapons in response.."

  • Ron

    If GE wants to do the right thing while making a difference they should divest from nuclear, decommission their NPPs and invest in clean alternatives.

    Now's the time.

    Just do it.

  • Jebus Jebus

    Medical Isotopes are no reason to keep nuclear anymore…
    That seemed like a cat chasing it's tail anyways…

    Alberta researchers make medical-isotopes breakthrough

    Researchers in Alberta are proclaiming that they’ve made a breakthrough in finding an alternative to medical isotopes produced by Ontario’s problem plagued Chalk River nuclear reactor.

    A University of Alberta team says it has proven the isotopes can also be created in a device known as a cyclotron.