Wind vs. Nuclear Energy

Kyle Murphy
December 14, 2014

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2014


Fig. 1: Nuclear Power Plant in France. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

With the large amount of fossil fuels that have been used throughout human existence, many have expressed the need to rely on different fuel sources. The reason for this change is two-fold: 1) fossil fuels are constantly being consumed and only exist in a finite amount throughout the planet, and 2) the burning of these fossil fuels is slowly but surely effecting all living things on Earth. Considering this, it is important to look at alternative fuel sources such as wind power and nuclear energy in helping to determine which fuel source will eventually become the primary source of energy for people around the world.

Nuclear Power Today

Many people today like the idea of nuclear power because of how clean it is relative to other fuel sources. It is virtually a renewable energy source that emits no greenhouse gasses, but only supplies about 20 percent of all the energy used in the U.S. [1] One may ask,why we don't use nuclear power more if it seems to be flawless, however many incidences today are making it seem like the world may be moving away from nuclear energy. This can be seen in Germany, one of the largest economies and energy producers in the world. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan where there was a meltdown of three of the plant's nuclear reactors, the German government decided to shutdown all of the countries power plants by the year 2022. [2] Considering the fact that Germany was a huge supplier of nuclear energy, this may be a preview of what other countries will eventually do.

Fig. 2: Modern Wind Turbines. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Wind Power Today

While it seems as though we may be moving away from nuclear power, wind energy may be one of the futuristic forms of energy that humanity will grasp. While wind may be inconsistent and unpredictable, it may now have become the most affordable and efficient way to get energy. While the previous decades made it so wind and solar power were too expensive to be a large producer of energy, the lowering of cost may prove it to become the primary energy source. According to a study done by the investment banking firm Lazard, wind only costs about 1.4 cents kilowatt-hour of energy while natural gas and coal are 6.1 and 6.6 cents respectively. [3]

The Future

While nuclear power is a very clean and efficient way to produce energy, the risk of potential catastrophic accidents like the one in Fukushima are making it so many countries want to find a risk-free way to make large amounts of energy. This is no more evident than in Areva, the French Nuclear technological giant who is contemplating whether to sell-off their company because there is so little investing support for nuclear power following the fatal accident in Japan. [4] Instead, investors are likely to put their money in other energy sources like wind, which is steadily becoming cheaper and may very well eventually become a main source of energy for the world.

© Kyle Murphy. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] K. Ferries, "Nuclear Power Is Our Future," Albany Times Union, 22 May 14.

[2] "Germany to Shut Down Nuclear Plants by 2022," CBC News, 30 May 11.

[3] D. Cardwell, "Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels," New York Times, 23 Nov 14.

[4] D. Jolly and S. Reed, "French Nuclear Giant Areva Says Future is Uncertain, Prompting a sell-off," New York Times, 19 Nov 14.