What’s Elon Musk’s view on nuclear power? We compiled a list of quotes / transcripts of Elon on nuclear energy to find out what he thinks and concluded the following:
Generally speaking, Elon Musk seems to be in favor of nuclear power plants under the condition that they must be located in an area not subject to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. He thinks nuclear energy generation is the better option vs. coal or natural gas powered energy generation and supports the idea of building more nuclear power plants. His main reason seems to be the fact that nuclear power does not emit carbon into the atmosphere and thus is a valid part of the zero-CO2 energy generation mix in humanity’s fight against global warming. However, even though he has repeatedly confirmed that he has nothing against nuclear energy, he seems to hold the position that solar power is the superior option. Apart from the nuclear hazard risk and nuclear waste problem, he argues that nuclear power plants require huge amounts of lands as stay out zones, and if you planted solar panels on such area, usually the solar panels would generate more electricity than the nuclear power plant itself. So also from an energy generation per square kilometer perspective, he argues solar power is still the better option than nuclear.
Below is a compilation of Elon Musk quotes on the topic of nuclear power / nuclear energy sorted by date:
December 2, 2015 – Conversation avec Elon Musk à Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Musk: The new goal is to move to a sustainable energy future and we want to use things like hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear is also a good option in places like France which are not subject to natural disasters, and we want to use energy sources that will be good for a billion years.
Musk: I actually think that nuclear fission, if it’s in a location that is not subject to natural disasters, like in the case of France, there’s a very high percentage of nuclear, I think that’s actually a good thing. Obviously you don’t want to have nuclear fission power plants in places that are subject to natural disasters because that obviously can go wrong.
June 8, 2015 – Edison Electric Institute annual convention
Musk: It’s crazy to think that every square kilometer receives a gigawatt of solar energy. I mean it’s one square kilometer a gigawatt. It’s crazy. In fact for a lot of nuclear power stations – and I’m not against nuclear unless it’s sort of in a natural disaster zone. Like, question mark?
Interviewer: Maybe we’ll get you working on our storage of nuclear waste issue
Musk: Yeah, this is a challenging item but if you take a nuclear power station and the whole clear area that’s around it, it ends up being quite a big clear area around most nuclear power stations. And it ends up being quite a bit of land. And if you calculate, if you carpeted that land with solar panels, which would generate more: the nuclear power station? Or the solar panels? And usually it’s the solar panels.
November 14, 2012 – The Future of Energy and Transport
Musk: I’m quite confident that solar power will be the single largest source of energy of electrical energy for Humanity in the future. And you know, combined with other things, of course, such as hydro hydro power and geothermal, and actually I think nuclear is not a terrible option as long as you’re not located in a place that’s susceptible to natural disasters. That’s also I think devises common sense. But so as long as that there aren’t huge earthquakes or sort of weather systems that have names coming at you, then I think nuclear can be can be a sensible option. And there are much safer and better ways to generate nuclear energy and poking fission here than existed in in the past when reactors first came out I think.
Musk: A good outcome is: we do carbon tax, we minimize carbon reduction, we move to sustainable transportation and energy production which likely is gonna be sort of solar wind geothermal, hydro and some nuclear. I think we have to actually let sort of accept that nuclear is a good option in certain places.
Musk: If humanity had to get all of its energy from the Sun it could do so. It’s really this truly astounding amount of energy that comes at us from the Sun. I mean it’s interesting that if you took the land area used by nuclear plants including the stay out zones and everything and said okay what generates more power, the nuclear power plant or just covering it with solar panels, in most cases it’s solar panels. Just the area used by the nuclear power plant in solar panels generate more energy because you actually have to have a big stay out zone. You can’t just put a nuclear power plant out in the suburbs with a bunch of people around it. So you have this big clear zone and so they use a lot of area. But just to give you just a sense of how much power can come from the Sun. This is literally true what I just said.
December 13, 2007 – Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg – Elon Musk and the frontier of Technology.
Interviewer: Do you think we ought to be doing more to encourage the use of nuclear power in the United States? My understanding is that we have not built a new nuclear plant in about 25 years here.
Musk: Right. It’s true we’ve not built new nuclear plants in a couple decades. Although what most people don’t realize is that the existing nuclear plants have been massively upgraded. So, our percentage of nuclear power has actually not declined as much.-
Interviewer: About 20 percent total.
Musk: Yeah, we should build more nuclear power plants. I think that’s a better way to generate energy than certainly a coal power plant or a natural gas power plant. Burning hydrocarbons, I think people now recognize is a pretty bad thing. You know, over time there’s a certain limit to the CO2 capacity of the atmosphere and the oceans.