Forbes Flips

By Sue Prent

In case you missed the May Day bulletin, the financial world just tipped on its axis a bit more toward clean energy.

In Forbes, that bastion of conventional wisdom on Wall Street, Jeff McMahon posed the following question in a bold headline:

“Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power?”

The gist of the story is that, at a divestiture debate held at Northwestern University in Chicago on Thursday, “famed nuclear critic” (McMahon’s characterization, not mine) Arnie Gundersen (aka: a member of the Board of Directors of Fairewinds Energy Education), stopped Argonne Laboratories director Dr. Jordi Roglans-Ribas dead in his tracks when he based his case for nuclear energy on that tired old saw with which we are all so familiar:

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.”

I love it.

…And Arnie Gundersen had the inside story to back-up his position. He broke the news to the assembly of earnest young minds that at 10:00 p.m. they could expect an historic announcement from entrepreneur, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, that an industrial scale storage battery was about to enter the market, ushering in an era in which the cost of energy storage (and therefore truly clean alternatives) would ultimately be driven down to rock bottom.

And so it was.

The details are laid out on Tesla’s own site, but Arnie summed up its implications for nuclear:

 “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.

It’s just a matter of time before the cost of energy storage drops as precipitously as has the cost of computer memory over recent years.

That’s the top line news, but here’s where we dive into a little speculation…something with which investors are not unfamiliar.

Overnight, nuclear has been transformed for the ‘smart money” from a prince to a toad.

This could well be one of those infamous “tipping pointswhich Malcolm Gladwell wrote about years ago; the signature moment when Wall Street finally gets off the nuclear merry-go-round and on with the move to clean renewables.

Maintaining that nuclear energy is a clean, sustainable option is like having closets and an attic filled to the rafters with trash while you keep the front room clean for guests and simply pray that the whole place doesn’t collapse on your head.

It’s a losing bet.

At last, Wall Street, that Supreme High Roller of Loaded Dice, seems to be coming around to recognizing that it isn’t even worthy of the gamble.