En-ROADS User Guide


Encourage or discourage building nuclear power plants. Nuclear power production does not release carbon dioxide, but it produces harmful nuclear waste.


Discouraging nuclear:

  • Public information campaigns to raise public concerns about the risks of nuclear power.
  • Policies to retire existing nuclear power plants.

Encouraging nuclear:

  • Government policies aimed at handling nuclear waste and reducing costs of nuclear power.
  • Corporate efforts to promote public acceptance of nuclear power plants.

Big Messages🔗

  • Nuclear has not benefited from the significant cost reductions that wind and solar energy have experienced in the last decade, so it remains a relatively expensive option. Nuclear energy expansion continues, however, and can become more competitive with renewables and new zero-carbon technology through subsidies and/or a technological breakthrough. See the “Marginal Cost of Electricity Production” graph to examine this further.

  • It could be part of a suite of climate actions if one is willing to accept the environmental costs – e.g., handling waste materials and the risk of radiation damage near the plants.

Key Dynamics🔗

  • Impact. As you subsidize nuclear, watch Nuclear (light blue) grow, and Coal (brown) and Natural Gas (dark blue) decrease in the “Global Sources of Primary Energy” graph. Nuclear displaces some fossil fuel sources, which keeps more carbon in the ground and helps reduce temperature modestly.

  • “Crowding Out.” Nuclear competes with all sources of electricity available, so notice also what happens to Renewables (green) when nuclear is incentivized—it decreases. Learn more.

  • Delays. It takes time for the subsidies and encouragement of nuclear to show up in installed capacity. Subsidies are phased in over 10 years and nuclear plants take a while to plan and construct, so note in the “Nuclear Primary Energy Demand” graph that the Current Scenario does not immediately differ from the Baseline.

  • Electrification to increase impact. Incentivizing electrification of buildings & industry and transport enables electricity from nuclear to replace fuel (such as oil). Learn more.

Potential Co-Benefits of Discouraging Nuclear🔗

  • Risk of exposure to radiation from a nuclear meltdown or hazardous waste is reduced.
  • Nuclear energy can use more water than coal for electricity production, so discouraging nuclear power can increase water security and help protect wildlife habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.1
  • Nuclear energy is fueled by uranium which can be harmful to mine, so discouraging nuclear energy can reduce risks to miners.

Equity Considerations🔗

  • Nuclear power plants, uranium mines (which provide the fuel for nuclear power), and waste sites are often located in low-income, marginalized communities that often lack resources to advocate for stricter environmental regulations and oversight.2
  • Mining uranium poses significant health risks to miners as well as surrounding communities due to water contamination and toxic waste.



Slider Settings🔗

The Nuclear slider is divided into 5 input levels: highly taxed, taxed, status quo, subsidized, and highly subsidized. Each of the energy supply sliders (Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Bioenergy, Nuclear, and Renewables) is set to reflect a similar percentage cost increase or decrease for each input level. The following table displays the numerical ranges for each input level of the Nuclear slider:

highly taxed taxed status quo subsidized highly subsidized
Change in price per kilowatt hour (kWh) +$0.07 to +$0.04 +$0.04 to +$0.01 +$0.01 to -$0.01 -$0.01 to -$0.04 -$0.04 to -$0.07
Cost increase or decrease +60% to +30% +30% to +10% +10% to -10% -10% to -30% -30% to -60%

Model Structure🔗

This sector tracks several stages of nuclear power plants, or energy supply capacity: capacity under development, under construction, and actually producing energy, including delays between each stage.

Please visit support.climateinteractive.org for additional inquiries and support.


[1]: Union of Concerned Scientists. (2013, July). How it Works: Water for Nuclear.

[2]: Kyne, D., & Bolin, B. (2016). Emerging Environmental Justice Issues in Nuclear Power and Radioactive Contamination. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(7), 700.

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