What do they know Nuclear power? Little…

Posted on July 28, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

VIA – “Nuclear Bomb“.

No nuclear power plants have been ordered in this country for three decades. Once touted as “too cheap to meter,” nuclear power simply became “too costly to matter,” as the Economist put it back in May 2001.

Yet growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel plants has created a surge of new interest in nuclear. Wired magazine just proclaimed “Go nuclear” on its cover. Environmentalists like Stewart Brand and James Lovelock have begun embracing nukes as a core climate solution. And GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who has called for building hundreds of new nuclear plants in this country, recently announced he won’t bother showing up to vote on his friend Joe Lieberman’s climate bill because of insufficient subsidies (read “pork”) for nuclear power.

What do they know that scores of utility executives and the Economist don’t? Nothing, actually. Nuclear power still has so many problems that unless the federal government shovels tens of billions of dollars more in subsidies to the industry, and then shoves it down the throat of U.S. utilities and the public with mandates, it is unlikely to see a significant renaissance in this country. Nor is nuclear power likely to make up even 10 percent of the solution to the climate problem globally.

Why? In a word, cost. Many other technologies can deliver more low-carbon power at far less cost. As a 2003 MIT study, “The Future of Nuclear Energy,” concluded: “The prospects for nuclear energy as an option are limited” by many “unresolved problems,” of which “high relative cost” is only one. Others include environment, safety and health issues, nuclear proliferation concerns, and the challenge of long-term waste management.

Since new nuclear power now costs more than double what the MIT report assumed — three times what the Economist called “too costly to matter” — let me focus solely on the unresolved problem of cost. While safety, proliferation and waste issues get most of the publicity, nuclear plants have become so expensive that cost overwhelms the other problems.

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