Friday, March 25, 2005

sloppy nuclear industry kisses

On nuclear power, ASPO gave us some suggestive numbers, indicating nuclear is a poor post peak energy source, excepting current infrastructure. I haven't verified this to my satisfaction yet. Nuclear energy is a black hole when it comes to research. There is conflicting information out there.

Even so, lending strong support to the notion that nuclear sucks are the massive subsidies proposed by BushCo. Suggesting that, as usual, petrol is the stick holding up the box, and depletion is the string.

Bush plan for new nuclear reactors maps out monstrous subsidies
According to the program’s blueprint documents, Nuclear Power 2010 aims to advance and expand the nuclear industry’s Vision 2020 policy, which has as its goal the addition of 50,000 megawatts of atomic power generation (i.e. 50 new reactors) by the year 2020. The DOE’s web site describes the program as, “a joint government / industry cost-shared effort to identify sites for new nuclear power plants, develop advanced nuclear plant technologies, and demonstrate new regulatory processes leading to a private sector decision by 2005 to order new nuclear power plants for deployment in the United States in the 2010 timeframe.”

This sets a high bar, even if the US economy were not a pile of imaginary money, and even if oil were not depleting. It takes real energy to build a nuclear plant. Materials must be shipped in from around the globe using liquid fuels.

It determined that total capital costs for a new nuclear reactor could be in excess of $1.6 billion and assessed strategies the federal government might use to promote the construction of new nuclear plants by mitigating key market risks that make nuclear power noncompetitive.

Ok. In a previous post I guessed 10 billion for a new plant based on real world costs for the most recent nuclear plants. So let's put the range between $4 and $10 billion, to be friendly, since saying "in excess of $1.6" indicates there are weasels afoot. So 250 billion dollars to maybe 500 billion to build these plants before they start producing "noncompetitive" energy.

Federal power purchase agreements at above-market rates. To further mitigate nuclear power’s high capital costs, the report brazenly recommends that the federal government commit up-front to 10-year power purchase agreements with nuclear companies. Under this scheme, the government would purchase a specified volume of power from participating operators at guaranteed prices, as much as 50% above market rates.

That's fine for the government. They can just print more money. They can't print oil.

Fiscally, environmentally and in terms of public health and safety, these taxpayer handouts to the mature nuclear industry cannot be justified. (...) The Business Case report is unambiguous about the lack of investor interest in the Bush administration’s nuclear revival scheme: “Lenders are not yet ready to accept exposure to risks that have a nuclear element as their central focus.”

Given the array of problems facing us, nuclear energy is a poor choice for new infrastructure. If we spent 500 billion on cleanup and safety systems for our present systems, as well as massively funding proven solar energy techniques (read local, organic farming) we could save lives for thousands of years.

More likely is that great concrete edifices will be half built, and never started.

Monumental folly.


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