- Elon Musk on Tuesday said he was "surprised" by the public backlash against nuclear power.
- Musk opposes building new nuclear power plants but said safe ones should keep operating.
- Musk cited Germany's denuclearization effort, which caused a rise in dirtier coal plants.
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"I'm not saying we should go build a whole bunch of nuclear plants, but I don't think we should shut down ones that are operating safely," Musk said at the Code Conference in Los Angeles.
Musk pointed to Germany's push to decommission its nuclear power plants, which he said forced the country to rely more heavily on coal-fired power plants. Research published last year concluded that Germany's nuclear energy was being replaced primarily by sources such as coal plants and estimated that the increased pollution most likely led to 1,100 deaths a year.
"I don't think that was the right decision," Musk said of Germany's approach.
Musk's comments came in response to a question about rising energy demands that might come with a shift to electric vehicles. Despite his support for nuclear power, Musk said meeting this increased demand would depend on "large sustainable power-generation developments, primarily wind and solar."
While utilities will need to boost their production capacity, they can do only so much because power lines also have a limited capacity to distribute electricity to homes and businesses, he added.
"This is why I think it's actually very important that a necessary part of the solution is local power generation," Musk said, plugging Tesla Energy's solar roof and battery products.
Customers have complained, however, about those solar panels' cost and have told stories of nightmarish customer service.