Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bush: Nuclear Energy Can Help in Fight Against GHG

President Bush made a strong pitch for an expansion of nuclear energy (registration required) in his speech yesterday at Limerick Generating Station. Click here for the transcript. Here's an excerpt:

People in our country are rightly concerned about greenhouse gases and the environment, and I can understand why -- I am, too. As a matter of fact, I try to tell people, let's quit the debate about whether greenhouse gases are caused by mankind or by natural causes; let's just focus on technologies that deal with the issue. Nuclear power will help us deal with the issue of greenhouse gases. Without nuclear energy, carbon dioxide emissions would have been 28 percent greater in the electricity industry in 2004. Without nuclear power, we would have had an additional 700 million tons a year of carbon dioxide, and that's nearly equal to the annual emissions from 136 million passenger cars. Nuclear power helps us protect the environment. (Applause.)
And as our friend Pat Cleary would note, it also provides the abundant, affordable and reliable electricity America needs to support a manufacturing base that is continually under fire.

For more on the President's Advanced Energy Initiative, click here. For the entire wavefront of coverage, click here for Google News. We'll have more later throughout the day, as reaction to the speech comes in from the Blogosphere.

UPDATE: More from Pat:
[Y]ou'll see from this chart that France gets almost 80% of its power from nuclear. Yet the last nuclear plant was ordered in the US in 1973. The enviros can't just keep saying no to everything. Time to unleash all fuel sources, including nuclear.
Pat also reminds us that there's another ANWR vote today. Norris McDonald also took note of yesterday's speech.

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10 comments:

gunter said...

Nuclear Follies Revisited...

FORBES.com carries an interesting article today (May 25, 2006)by Jessica Holzer, "The Joys of Going Nuclear?" worth noting on the blog.

Citing Bush's recent visit to Limerick station as his second visit to a nuclear power station since last June, Forbes wrote;

"Utilities famously backed away from nuclear power in the decades after that 1979 accident (TMI). But their cold feet weren't caused so much by environmental concerns as financial ones: Once massive construction costs are factored in, nuclear plants simply aren't as profitable as their competitors, coal and gas fired plants."

"The specter of caps on carbon emissions--which many in the power industry believe are inevitable-- certainly increases the appeal for nuclear power, which is emission free. But even with the run-up in natural gas and coal prices, nuclear is not profitable without a raft of government subsidies. Still, with the largess its extracted from the government last year, the nuclear industry may have put even the ethanol lobby to shame.

"These new subsidizes were lavished on top of the old ones, including the biggest one of all: the government's shouldering the problem of nuclear waste. It is little wonder that nuclear is getting a second look.

"But even with all this corporate welfare, thsoe generating electric power are timid about diving in. 'We've not made a decision to build, but we are very interested,' said Sandy Robinson, a spokesperson from Southern Company.

"All this makes one wonder why the Bush Administration is plugging so hard for nuclear."

Anonymous said...

"These new subsidizes were lavished on top of the old ones, including the biggest one of all: the government's shouldering the problem of nuclear waste.

Lousy, stinking liar. The utilities pay for the cost of waste disposal through the millage levied on KWHRs generated by nuclear sources, that goes into the waste disposal program mandated by the NWPA. Which means it is factored into the overall cost structure. There is no "massive subsidy". These scumbags can't even tell decent lies anymore.

Paul Primavera said...

Anonymous is correct. The nuclear utility industry has already paid the Federal govt 24 billion dollars for a national geologic repository and it is the liberal Democrat senators (whom the anti-nukes support) that are holding out on the deal, starting with Harry Reid. What Paul Gunter states is blatantly false.

Anti-nukes like Mr. Gunter don't want a repository, don't want interim dry cask storage, don't want reprocessing - in a word, don't want.

In the meantime, it's perfectly OK for the coal industry that supplies 52% of US electricity to mindlessly dump its waste into the environment with no cost accurals, to kill 30000 people annually in the US while the anti-nukes castigate NEI, NRC, INPO, etc. ad nauseam for a safety record of neither hurting nor killing a single member of the US public.

At some point in time the disinformation from WISE / NIRS has to be recognized for what it is.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am very, very tired of these lying slimemolds trotting out these same old lies time and time again. Whenever the lousy, lying anti-nukes pull this kind of crap, they need to be called on it. That especially applies to WISE-a$$ and NDRS. We can't let this kind of lying go unchallenged.

gunter said...

Howdy,

Seem to be stricking nerves these days... oh well, settle down there "anonymous" or your editor is going to have to clamp down on you.

The quote's from Forbes.com so write a letter-to-the-editor calling them names, but I doubt they would print your trash.

The lame insults aside, the facts speak for themselves.

The industry has spent a paltry $8 to $9 billion since 1983 on the repository concept (about $6 B at Yucca, with TX and WA money just down the rat hole) and there's less than $20 billion in the fund now.

DOE lowballs the cost of Yucca to be $58 billion compared to Nevada's estimate of $100 billion plus. The current railroad transportation scheme/fiasco is a good indicator of how repository costs are going to continually trend upward with DOE's lastest revision from $880 million to $2 billion, that's double.

The repository is going to follow the same trends as the cost of construction of your nukes and we already know the time-to-completion is shot...

So who's getting stuck with all these sunk costs and cost overruns? Who is getting stuck with the take title penalities being lavishly paid out to nuclear industry?

ANSWER:
US Treasury (aka the US taxpayer)

Forbes got it right by seeing through the industry's ruse.

Besides, anybody who thinks the the nuclear industry's current piddly rate of contribution into the nuclear waste is going to cover the ultimate long term costs of nuclear waste management and mitigation over millions of year is blind and biased.

Jim Hopf said...

So it might cost $100 billion instead of ~$50 billion? Gosh, so the contribution really should be 0.2 cents, instead of 0.1 cents. What an enormous subsidy! And remember, the longer the delay, the more the interest accrues.

Meanwhile, coal and oil's external costs are on the order of 5 cents/kW-hr (vs. a fraction of a cent for nuclear), accoring to the European Commission. Virtually every scientific study shows that nuclear's external costs, including subsidies, are a tiny fraction of those recieved by fossil fuels.

As far as the long term costs of waste, once Yucca is built, there are none. No different than the final disposal of any of our other types of waste. As far as long term health risk goes, those of nuclear waste will be far smaller than any of our other major waste streams. So the industry's contribution is more than sufficient.

The Forbes article's statement on how the govt's handling of nuclear waste is a large subsidy is hilarious. Even more hilarious since they ignore the infinitely larger externalities fossil fuels get for free. The suggestion that nuclear is more subsidized than fossil is also absurd. What existing subsidies? Until the 2005 Energy act, nuclear was the one major energy source that got almost no subsidies. With the bill, the subsidies are merely about equal to those of fossil fuels.

It is no longer true that nuclear is more expensive than gas, even with no subsidies, and coal is only cheaper if you don't care about public health or the environment (i.e., if external costs are not counted).

Let's have a level playing field. no more pollution allowed. All sources that generate toxic materials or other pollutants must completely contain them, for as long as they remain dangerous. Then get rid of all subsidies or mandates (i.e., RPSs), and let all source compete in an open and fair market. The nuclear industry would relish such a policy.

gunter said...

Jim,

Fine, if its an "open and fair market" you're looking for then let the n-industry finds its own investment money, cover its own financial risks of construction, find full liabitliy insurance, cover the full costs for cleanup of mine tailings and pollluted water tables around those uranium mines to long-term management and security for all its production related nuclear waste. At the same it can take both of its hands out of taxpayers' pocket, something its never been able to do.

You are wrong about the real costs of nuclear externalities, seen and hidden, particularly when factoring a polluting uranium fuel chain, emergency planning and accidents (including Chernobyl) and enough site security to keep one or more of these reactors and their nuclear waste storage ponds/casks from being used against us. Etc. etc.

It doesn't compete. It's delusionary to go there. MIT says it, Wall St. says it, Congress knows it and is being led to the US Treasury to bilk the taxpayer again and again. The nose ring must be getting a little sore these days.

The Ottinger study factors in most of these costs, but it was pre-911.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of hearing our leaders blame environmentalists of why they can't take action. I dont' like the environmentalist movement today.. its mainly agrarian collectivists believing in the ideology of Chairman Mao..

But our leaders are allegedly our leaders.. why do they need to ask the permission of a small minority of the population? Its time for people on power to start taking action. Simply start building the plants..

Until I see plants getting built, I must assume that our leaders are strongly against nuclear power.

Jim Hopf said...

Paul,

There is complete concensus within the scientific community that the external costs of nuclear power are very small compared to those of fossil fuels, and represent a very small fraction of the cost of nuclear electricity.

There have been many rigorous scientific studies compiling and quantifying all of the external costs of various energy sources, including all of the one's you list for nuclear (e.g., accident risk/liability, uranium mining and mill tailings, long-term waste risks, etc...). All such studies showed fossil fuel externalities to be much greater than nuclear's, with almost all studies showing nuclear's externalities to be more than an order of magnitude lower than fossil fuels'.

The latest and most rigorous such study is the following one performed by the European Commission:

http://externe.jrc.es/All-EU+Aggregation.htm

Another study specifically for nuclear is at:

http://www.nea.fr/html/ndd/reports/2003/nea4372-generation.pdf

As far as Price Anderson is concerned, even groups that are trying to make a case against nuclear power give data which shows that the associated subsidy would be only ~0.04-0.4 cents/kW-hr, as shown in the case below:

http://www.taxpayer.net/energy/priceanderson.htm

(divide their annual industry "subsidy" of 355 million to 3.4 billion by nuclear's annual generation of 780 billion kW-hrs).

Meanwhile, as shown in the ExternE study (linked above), coal and oil's external costs are more than an order of magnitude higher, at ~5 cents/kW-hr. Once again, the external costs calculated for nuclear include these effects (i.e., accident liability). The low values obtained from the Price Anderson "subsidy" analyses seem to jibe with the low numbers given by ExternE.

It is also intuitively obvious that any accident liability subsidy for nuclear is tiny compared to the "pollute for free" subsidy given to fossil fuels. Even conservative (high) estimates of the premature deaths and economic costs of a worst case nuclear accident are merely roughly equal to those inflicted every year by routine coal plant emissions. Thus, if nuclear is expected to inflict, every ~1000 years, the same amount of damage coal inflicts every year, wouldn't nuclear's "liability" subsidy be only ~0.1% that given to coal?

You see, coal doesn't need insurance at all, because it knows that it is simply not held liable (i.e., asked to pay anything) for any deaths it causes or economic costs it inflicts. There just ain't no insurance as good as not being held at all liable!

If nuclear were treated like fossil fuels, the policy would simply be that the industry will not be held liable for any damages (financial or health/personal) that result from any accident. If an accident occurs, tough. If you get cancer, you're covered through you're normal health insurance, period, and nobody's responsible for any deaths. That's the policy right now concerning fossil fuel pollution effects. The industry doesn't pay a dime, for anything, ever.

As far as subsidies in general, no energy industry has ever had its hands out of the govts. pocket, and no, nuclear is not one of the worst one's in that regard. The only thing Wall St. has been "saying" is that yes, under current policy, where fossil fuels don't have to pay any of their huge external costs, coal would be somewhat (a cent or so) cheaper.

Under ANY CO2 limiting policy (which is coming), or any policy where coal is made to seriously reign in (or at least pay a penalty for) its other pollution, nuclear would win out, and investors would change their tune accordingly.

Anonymous said...

No "stricking" nerves here. I just don't suffer fools and liars lightly. I really don't understand why you whackos hammer the nuclear industry so much for taking take of its waste. It isn't like the fossil fuel plants that "dispose" of their waste by letting it blow to the four winds or wash away into rivers and oceans. It isn't like the chemical industry that dumps waste into the ground and walks away (ever heard of Love Canal?). At least with "spent" fuel, everything is contained and isolated from the environment. Plans are made ahead of time and money set aside for eventual retirement of facilities. Other industries don't do even a fraction of that, yet I never hear you complain about them, all you do is bad-mouth nukes, the very ones who are being responsible and planning (and paying) ahead and managing their waste in a responsible manner.

In my town alone there is an abandoned aircraft manufacturing plant. Just closed down, the doors welded shut, and walked away from. Likewise a steel processing plant, simply abandoned in place. There is a closed plastics manufacturing facility just sitting there, leeching who knows what into the ground. There is an abandoned bearings plant that the owner just walked away from that the city had to take over, and now can't give away because no one knows what was left there after manufaturing ceased. No records of any kind exist. There are dozens of shuttered service stations with leaking underground tanks. There are miles of abandoned railway right-of-way. There is a huge shopping mall whose owner went bankrupt, and he just locked the doors and walked away from it and there it sits, a blight on the landscape. Yet I hear nothing of the hammering on these businesses that I do the nuclear industry.

In a town just south of my town there is an entire steel mill abandoned in place and just rotting. Blast furnaces, coke ovens, conveyor systems, storage tanks all just rusting away. A few miles over from that there is an entire small town that had to be bought out because it is next to a coal-burning plant whose "pollution controls" emitted more noxious airborne effluents than those there were supposedly removing. Where is your bad-mouthing about that? Just 75 miles east of me there is an entire region whose mountaintops were stipped off by surface coal mining operations. Just open pits in the ground, eroding away. Just a few hundred miles to the east of me there is a coal mine that caught fire back in the 1960s and is still burning today, forcing the evacuation of the town that sits above it. Why aren't you whining about and deploring the costs of that? Why don't you make an issue of those "external costs", and who is going to pay them?

Seems to me that you goofballs are going after the wrong people. You're bad-mouthing the people who are at least doing something about managing their legacy, and giving everyone else a free pass. Lousy bunch of hypocrites...