The Fourth Industrial Revolution And The ‘Energy Transition’ Hoax: II – Nuclear Energy

dabaa nuclear power plant


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the current programme of capitalism to restructure production, distribution and consumption in the face of the multiple crises it has been facing since 2008. While all major changes in history have multiple causes, some are more central to it than others; in the case of this restructuring, these central causes are 1) the shrinking of essential resources from over extraction and overconsumption (i.e., the ‘Source problem’), and 2) growing problems caused by hazards, toxicity and pollution resulting from the industrial capitalist mode of production and consumption, including climate change, pesticide contamination, waste crisis and ocean and soil acidification. (i.e., the ‘Sink problem’)

One common and crucially important factor that drives both these problems is energy; specifically, the depletion of conventional energy sources like fossil fuels and phenomena like climate change that result from its use. It has been freely admitted, including by official sources, that the current sources of energy – fossil fuels (coal, petrol and gas) and large dams generating hydroelectricity – will be depleted in the near future, say by 2030. Capitalism’s response to this crunch has been to electrify everything using the so-called alternative sources of energy and top it with Artificial Intelligence. This the process labeled by its advocates as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

When it comes to energy, they have three answers: Solar, Nuclear Energy (Fission and Fusion) and Hydrogen. This, according to its champions in the capitalist world’s elite institutions, will solve the two crucial problems the capitalist world is facing – that is, it will solve the crisis of capitalism itself arising from energy depletion, but also, global warming and climate change.

For them, it’s a relatively simple matter of substituting diminishing conventional energy sources like oil with new ones like solar, which will in turn reduce emissions and increase efficiency. This is the celebrated ‘energy transition’, that has been propagated by some of the capitalist world’s leading mainstream media outlets, think tanks and academic institutions, and uncritically accepted by sections of the public, including many environmentalists. One of the chief outlets for the propaganda surrounding the energy transition is contemporary capitalism’s leading mouthpiece and lobbying agent – the Davos-based ‘World Economic Forum.’ Not coincidentally, this club of the world’s leading plutocrats and corporate executives has also been the most ardent cheerleader and enabler of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In an earlier article, we had exposed the hype around the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Similarly, in this series, we will critically examine the claims about the ‘energy transition’. We will show that, at the heart of the issue are some vital questions its advocates cannot credibly answer: ‘How and where to get the large quantities of energy required to put in place a new energy infrastructure and distribution system in place of the existing one, given that current energy sources are shrinking? And how to account for the massive emissions this will create, which directly contradicts the stated purpose of the energy transition?

Below we will take up each of these alternative sources of energy one by one and show how they cannot produce the kind of energy capitalism claims they will produce. We will avoid technical jargon and keep the technical data to a minimum. All dates/years given are approximate and rounded off. This is not a scientific paper, but a simple essay for beginners and for the education of activists. We will conclude by saying that not only will this project not be realized in the manner its champions claim, but capitalism itself will collapse by 2030 due to a combination of factors viz. – resource crunch, climate change, ecological degradation, and last but not the least, rising global people’s movements.

I have not covered wind or forms of alternative energy other than solar PV, nuclear and hydrogen. The reason is that they don’t have as much hype surrounding them unlike these three, which are touted as never-ending sources of energy. Also, wind, tidal and biomass energy are not significant factors in the Indian situation; for example, we don’t have significant amounts of wind available, tidal is yet to take off, while biomass takesup too much land etc.

Note: Since each part of the series will be published on a separate date, this introduction will be repeated for each of them.


The nuclear euphoria began in the 1950s. The fact that the U.S. government planned to build a 1000 plants within the U.S. and another 1000 outside, gives us an idea of its popularity back then. The hype was that there will be abundant power that will be too cheap to meter. Nearly 70 years later, we can see that these predictions proved to be completely wrong. Today, there are only 438 nuclear plants in the world – including 92 in the U.S. – generating a total of 395 GWe. Among the 192 U. N. members, only 32 countries have nuclear power and the six big ones – U.S., France, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Japan – generated 73% of the world’s nuclear power in 2011. This entire output amounted to a mere 10% of the world’s electricity generation. Today, about 57 nuclear plants are under construction. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, all 48 plants in Japan and all 22 plants in Germany were shut down, although some of the Japanese plants have been restarted lately.


Opposition to Nuclear Power

What happened? For one, nuclear power faced opposition right from the beginning owing to the inordinate and unacceptable risks it carried. Secondly, like solar PV, it is a feasible but not viable technology.

The anti-nuclear movement was launched when scientists, diplomats and others rose in protest against the horrifying nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 by the U. S. towards the end of World War II. It gained traction in 1954 when public protests started against extensive nuclear bomb testing by the U.S. in the Pacific. The movement is still very much alive because the threat of a nuclear war – MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) –is still very much present; and, in fact, have been revived since the Russia-Ukraine war.

The opposition to nuclear power began in the late 60s. It was centred on ‘unacceptable risk’- health hazards caused by Uranium, accidents in nuclear plants and the question of radioactive waste which can never be safely disposed.  In 1975, the German government had to cancel a proposed nuclear power plant in Wyhls, due to public opposition. The major groups active in this movement today are Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Friends of the Earth and Green Peace. Accidents – Three Miles Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) – have played a major part in slowing down the growth of the nuclear power. Increasingly, anti-nuclear protest marches are against both weapons and energy, and have drawn hundreds of thousands of people in many parts of the world.1

However, it is not just the ‘unacceptable risk’ that has retarded the growth of the nuclear power. The truth is that nuclear power is not a viable source of power, both economically and technically. The accidents, of course, contributed to its unpopularity in the public’s mind, but the real reason nuclear energy is doomed is its own inner weakness, or ‘Peak Nuclear Power’.

Peak Nuclear Power

What is Peak Nuclear Power? It is not like Peak Oil, where oil production declines because the amount of oil that can be extracted from the earth has sharp limits. Here the problem is that the average lifespan of a nuclear plant is 40 years – in fact, the average age of the 130 reactors that were actually shut down was only 22 years! Any attempt to increase plant lifespan will be resisted by the public because one of the reasons for the Fukushima accident was that the lifespan of the plant was increased beyond the acceptable 40 years for the sake of profits. So, old plants are getting shut down while the new plants are not coming on line fast enough. The costs and time taken to get a plant going keeps increasing (the cost has gone up 6 times and it takes 70 months to build a plant), while there are fewer and fewer orders for new plants with each year. In fact, new construction of nuclear plants peaked in 1970 at 225 plants (some of these were cancelled later). In 2015, it was 64 and it is expected that many of these will be cancelled too.

So a time comes in the life of total nuclear energy sources when the net production will start falling never to rise again. It is estimated that this happened in 2015 for nuclear power. That year, there were about 462 reactors generating 405 Gwe and thereafter production started declining rapidly.

Today, 438 nuclear reactors in 32 countries generating 395 GWe currently provide over 10 percent of global electricity. Some 408 reactors generating 100 GWe have been shut down, while only 58 new reactors generating 61 GWe are under construction. The U. S. has 92 nuclear reactors in operation, but only a single reactor was newly built in the last 20 years. In the U. S., nuclear power plants have generated almost 20 percent of electricity for the last 20 years. Most of the nuclear plants operating today were designed to last 25 to 40 years and with an average age of 35 years, a quarter of them in developed countries will likely be shut down by 2025.

After the Fukushima meltdown, a number of countries began to consider phasing out their nuclear programs, with Germany taking the lead by shutting down its nuclear industry completely by April, 2023. By 2055 there will be about 10 reactors generating insignificant or no power. It is likely that Peak Nuclear Power is already behind us. It is possible that the production peaked in 2015.

So, like other alternative sources of energy, nuclear power is feasible but not viable! If this is so, then why are so many countries still going on with their nuclear energy programme? It is a weapons programme, stupid! The science and the infrastructure required for both are similar. So, not surprisingly, the majority of the reactors (277 out of 438) are located in the 7 countries that possess nuclear weapons, where they continue to produce weapon-grade radioactive material. (The data does not include North Korea).3

Our conclusion is stark: Nuclear energy today is largely a cover for nuclear arms. The entire nuclear programme – energy and weapons – is extremely dangerous for the survival of mankind and should be shut down forthwith!


Note: Recently, there has been some fresh hype about Nuclear Fusion. I won’t deal with it in this series because has already carried an excellent article by Joshua Frank on the subject.


  1. Anti-nuclear movement
  2. Nuclear Power in the World Today (Updated February 2023)
  3. Nuclear power by country,

About the Author

T Vijayendra (1943 – ) was born in Mysore, grew up in Indore and went to IIT Kharagpur to get a B. Tech. in Electronics (1966). After a year’s stint at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, he got drawn into the whirlwind times of the late 60s.

Since then, he has always been some kind of political-social activist. His brief for himself is the education of Left-wing cadres and so he almost exclusively publishes in the Left-wing journal Frontier, published from Kolkata. For the last ten years, he has been active in the field of ‘Peak Oil’ and is a founder member of Peak Oil India and Ecologise. Since 2015 he has been involved in Ecologise! Camps and in 2016 he initiated Ecologise Hyderabad. In 2017 he spent a year celebrating the Bicentenary of the Bicycle. Vijayendra has been a ‘dedicated’ cyclist all his life, meaning, he neither took a driving license nor did he ever drive a fossil fuel-based vehicle.

He divides his time between Hyderabad and organic farms at several places in India, watching birds and writing fiction. He has published a book dealing with resource depletion, three books of essays, two collections of short stories, a novella, an autobiography and a children’s science fiction story on the history of the bicycle, apart from booklets on several topics. His booklet, Kabira Khada Bazar Mein: Call for Local Action in the Wake of Global Emergency (2019, has been translated into Kannada, Bengali and Marathi and is the basic text for the emerging Transition Networks in these language regions. His last book ‘Vijutopias’, which has 12 short stories, is an entertaining book full of hope and energy in these dismal times.

Email: [email protected]

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