Elon Musk: Shutting down nuclear plants is “total madness”

March 31, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe


In a wide-ranging interview published by Business Insider on March 26, Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla and SpaceX, repeatedly referred to efforts to shut down nuclear power plants as “crazy” and “madness.” Musk spoke with Mathias Döpfner, chief executive officer of Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer. Musk also discussed his views on the war in Ukraine, climate change, space travel, self-driving cars, humanoid robots, artificial intelligence, religion, and philanthropy.

Germany's mistakes: In discussing the Ukraine conflict and Western Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies, Döpfner referred to “strategic mistakes that Europe, particularly Germany, has made [such as] the dropout of nuclear energy in 2011.”

Musk responded, “It is very important that Germany will not shut down its nuclear power stations. I think this is extremely crazy.”

Reopen closed plants: Döpfner then asked, “Is more nuclear energy the key to free ourselves from dictators and autocrats like Putin?”

Musk answered, “I want to be super clear. You should not only not shut down the nuclear power plants, but you should also reopen the ones that have already shut down. Those are the fastest to produce energy. It is crazy to shut down nuclear power plants now, especially if you are in a place where there are no natural disasters. If you are somewhere where severe earthquakes or tsunamis occur, it is more of a question mark. If there is no massive natural disaster risk—which Germany does not have—then there is really no danger with the nuclear power plants.”

Waiting for solar: Döpfner followed up that exchange by asking Musk, “Aren't there any safer alternatives that could have a similar effect?”

Musk replied, “I think long term, most of civilization's energy is going to come from solar, and then you need to store it with battery because, obviously, the sun only shines during the day, and sometimes it is very cloudy. So you need solar batteries. That will be the main long-term way that civilization is powered. But between now and then, we need to maintain nuclear. I can't emphasize that enough. This is total madness to shut them down. I want to be clear, total madness.”

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