Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Democrats and Nuclear Energy

Earlier this week, Richard Simon of the LA Times wrote about how more and more Democratic officials are speaking positively about nuclear energy.

Terra Rossa has some thoughts.

5 comments:

pgunter said...

Greetings,

More cotton candy stories; all fluff with no substance.

The LA Times story gets it wrong on a number of accounts---particularly with middle of the road politicians who are looking for votes without providing leadership for a 21st Century energy policy beyond the "same as it ever was" coal, oil and nuclear rut.

Its helpful however that the candidates are starting to distinguish themselves from one another at least by clumps on their energy platforms.

Merely "giving nuclear power another look" still leaves you with the same unanswered questions.

Why hasn't the industry been able to deal with its growing nuclear waste problem over the past 50 years?

How does a global expansion of nuclear power contain the simultaneous spread of nuclear weapons proliferation?

And if more nukes was really so safe and affordable, why does this supposedly "mature" and "inherently safe" industry seek the federal shelter of limited liability with an extension of Price-Anderson or a hook-up to a federal taxpayer funded life support system for new construction?

Contrary to the LA Time's mistaken hypothesis, the last nuclear power plant order in 1978 was more a product of an industry economic meltdown of the industry that occurred between 1973 and 1978 ultimately resulting in more than $150 billion in unrecoverable cost overuns and as many cancellations as completed projects. This economic meltdown began before the TMI and Chernobyl accidents. While the accidents represented significant final nails in the coffin, the industry was already dead in the water.

Though a little faded by age, the same "BEWARE" signs are still posted around this tar pit. Don't think that Wall Street is going to easily take the bait of federal monies only to get stuck and sink out in the middle once again.

gunter, nirs

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

I am very, very sick and tired of the lie that the industry doesn't deal with it's waste. It is really the only industry that actively manages it's waste and plans ahead for it's disposal, as well as retirement of existing facilities.

The industry has for decades safely stored and managed it's waste on plant sites. When space in storage pools ran short it developed on it's own dime methods for dry storage of used fuel. It has regularly paid over the years into a fund for development of a geologic repository. The fact that this facility is not operating yet is more a testament to the inefficiency of the government bureaucracy entrusted with its development and the obstructionist tactics of intervenors and political demagogues than any failure of the industry.

The nuclear industry pays for it's own regulation, something that other industries are not required to do. It is required to maintain and demonstrate adequacy of finances to eventually decommission it's plants, something that other industries aren't required to do.

Why don't the anti-nuclear kooks go after these other industries whose idea of waste management is to dump their materials onto the ground and walk away, or let them blow away on the four winds to who knows where? Why don't they go after businesses whose idea of decommissioning facilities is to weld the doors shut and walk away, leaving entire city blocks, or square miles of territory, covered by unused and unusable, decaying, rotting factories and buildings?

In my state alone there are abandoned coal mines that routinely collapse, leaving homeowners to bear the risks and losses. In my town a paint factory blew up last year and damaged some surrounding homes. The homeowners policies wouldn't cover the damage and the plant didn't have insurance (unlike the nuclear industry), so the homeowners bore the risks and losses. They sued in court and lost because the jury decided that the people who lived there knew the risks posed by the plant and so voluntarily took them on by deciding to live in that area. There are shuttered steel mills just left in the open to rust away, leeching untold poisons into the environment. There are entire city blocks taken up by closed manufacturing facilities that no one is willing to even take over for no cost because of the liability they would incur in cleaning up whataver legacy pollution might be left by the former occupants. Who pays for all of this? Not the industries. The taxpayers pick up the tab.

In light of all this, you've got the gall to come in here and claim the nuclear industry doesn't manage it's waste? What a bunch of crap.

Brian Mays said...

But, Mr. Gunter, Wall Street is taking a serious look at new nuclear. This industry -- which you describe as "already dead in the water" 30 years ago -- today produces nearly 1/5 of the US's electricity and often produces sizable operating income for the plant owners, thanks of the high price of fossil fuels. Don't you read the papers? Or do you only read the parts that you like and ignore the rest?

I know that you have been an anti-nuclear crusader for a long time, but don't you ever update your material? It's always the same old BS -- stuff that has been rehashed over and over -- same as it ever was.

In case you haven't noticed, it's no longer the 70s. Throw away your leisure suits and mood rings and antiquated notions. You didn't type up your comment on an Apple II, did you? Then why do you talk about new nuclear technology in 1970s terms?

Sorry, but the only ones in the "tar pit" are old fossils like you, who are unable to adapt and evolve for modern times. The rest of us realize where the future is.

Jim Hopf said...

zepcakpIt is quite clear that Wall St. has already decided that it will finance the next generation of plants.

We have over 30 license applications. These applications cost the utilities a lot of money (tens of millions per reactor), whether or not there is govt. cost sharing. The utilities would not be spending this amount of money unless they were confident that the projects would go forward. And they've been meeting often with Wall St. investors.

Would they be throwing away tens of millions of dollars if Wall St. told them it would be unlikely that they would ever finance a project? Wall St. has clearly already tacitly indicated (to the utilities) that they will finance the projects.

The only reason why utilities still do not formally commit to building/ordering the plants is that they do not absolutely have to yet, and this gives them an off-ramp if some major, but very unlikely event occurs, such as a dramatic drop in gas/oil prices or a major nuclear accident. Most of the proposed applications should be viewed as being 80-90% likely to go forward.

Anonymous said...

Gunter is a fine one to talk about fluff, as he whips up piles of it every chance he can get.

The issue of waste has been dealt with quite nicely by a couple of the other commentators, so I'll take a look at the other questions.

The global expansion of nuclear power has nothing to do with proliferation. Of all the silly arguments against nuclear power, the proliferation issue is perhaps the most senseless drivel. There is no correlation between the use of nuclear power and the possession of nuclear weapons. Regimes coveting nuclear weapons do so for geopolitical reasons having nothing to do with how we in the U.S. generate our electricity.

Rest assured Gunter that the PA act annually generates billions more than it costs, and that the nuclear power industry pays back far more than the piddling subsidies it takes in. That's the thing about cost-benefit analysis: you have to include the benefits to come to any rational conclusion.

For many an equity analyst, TMI-2 was a lifetime ago, never mind 1973. And in 2007 anyone who can spell Chernobyl knows that the accident is no more relevant to building a nuclear power plant than, say, the crash of the Hindenburg is relevant to building an airport.