Tesla CEO Elon Musk with a hardhat.JPG
Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Germany.
Michele Tantussi/Reuters
  • Elon Musk said he's a proponent of nuclear power and is "surprised" by public backlash against it.
  • 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.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday he's a proponent of nuclear power and that he's "surprised by some of the public sentiment against nuclear."

"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 showed Germany's coal plants ultimately led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions and increased pollution that likely killed an additional 1,100 people.

"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 may come with a shift to electric vehicles. Despite his support for nuclear power, Musk said meeting this increased demand will depend on "large sustainable power generation developments, primarily wind and solar."

While utilities will need to boost their production capacity, they can only do 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, referencing Tesla Energy's solar roof and battery products.

However, customers have complained about the expensive solar panels and nightmarish customer service, suggesting Tesla's solution to the problem still has a long way to go.

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