Friday, February 12, 2010


Nuclear Power: Good Money after Bad

A article, “Nuclear Power and the Bottomless Bank,” describes how the US is working hard to spend gobs of taxpayer money on propping up the moribund nuclear power industry. Let’s consider parts of the article here.
If enacted, the legislation would create a special “bank” affiliated with the Department of Energy (DOE) called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), which could potentially provide underwriting for 187 new nuclear power projects—at an estimated cost of $10 to $14 billion each—and assume responsibility for cost overruns and delays.
This is rich. The Clean Energy Deployment Administration will fund projects to generate lots more deadly nuclear waste. You call that clean? Oh, and did I mention that there’s no place to dump this “clean” waste? The CEDA would underwrite these multi-billion-dollar projects and cost overruns, which are virtually assured.
If the Senate version is approved, there would be unlimited funding for nuclear power projects throughout the country, instead of just in the three states (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) that allow utilities to bill consumers in advance for the cost of constructing nuclear power plants. Federal investment in nuclear energy would replace that from the Wall Street investment community, which has been loathe to invest in these expensive capital projects.
That’s real smart. Even Wall Street won’t touch nuclear power with a ten-foot pole, so we’ll solve the problem by letting the taxpayer subsidize this boondoggle. Speaking of subsidizing, the history of commercial nuclear power started in 1956 at Calder Hall in Britain, and about a year later the first commercial reactor in the US, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, went online. So this technology has been around a good half century, which you’d think would be enough time for a viable technology to stand on its own. But instead we still hear that giant sucking sound — the sound of the nuclear power industry vacuuming up tax dollars, and this new bill shows that the situation has gotten even worse.

But that’s not all. Read the whole article for more disgust and shock.

Meanwhile, as I said a couple of posts back, money is disappearing fast. Even if the US government budgets money to subsidize nukes, that doesn’t mean the money will actually materialize. I could budget a summer vacation in Europe this year, but ultimately there will be other, more pressing uses for my cash, or perhaps because the world economy is rapidly deteriorating, that cash simply won’t be there. In truth, the US government is flat broke and on the way to bankruptcy. Further, we face the burning question of how much longer US debt will sell.

As I’ve pointed out a number of times, money is just a means of mobilizing and accessing energy, so all these massive subsidies are pumping colossal amounts of energy into a system that is supposed to be delivering it. I have yet to see a convincing EROEI analysis of nuclear power (admittedly it is very difficult), but considering the sheer scale of nuclear power’s energy subsidy, you’ve got to wonder if we are really coming out ahead. Nuclear power was supposed to supply electricity that would be “too cheap to meter.” Instead, it’s turned out to be disastrously expensive, and this proposed subsidy budget confirms that still more emphatically. There is no doubt about it — the nuclear power industry is on the ropes, and the need for this massive subsidy proves it.

There will be no nuclear renaissance, and if this bill becomes law, it will just throw more good money after bad.

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